TORONTO — The Art Gallery of Ontario is set to reopen the J. S. McLean Centre for Indigenous & Canadian Art on Sunday after a months-long overhaul that curators say signals a creative cultural shift for the Toronto institution.
The co-curators of the centre say it will present works by contemporary Indigenous artists and Canadian legends in a way the gallery has never seen before: in conversation with one another.
According to numbers provided by the gallery, more than 40 per cent of the 132 works on display were created by Indigenous artists.
Indigenous art curator Wanda Nanibush says the collection has been arranged thematically rather than chronologically to foster a cross-cultural conversation between Indigenous and Canadian art across generations.
Curator of Canadian art Georgiana Uhlyarik says each work will be accompanied by texts in three languages – English, French and either Anishinaabemowin or Inuktitut – and will recognize the Indigenous names of treaty territories and disputed lands.
Nanibush says some spaces will exclusively display works by Indigenous artists, while one gallery will feature a rotation of solo exhibitions largely showcasing artists of colour.
Uhlyarik says some art buffs may notice that several Canadian “icons” are missing from the revamped McLean Centre, with some paintings by Group of Seven-adjacent artists Emily Carr and Tom Thomson having found a new home on another floor, while other pieces were tucked away into storage.
The Canadian Press