Message from the Director & CEO

Last year, a colleague shared with me a story about a museum director and gallery board. The director was touring the galleries with board members when he stopped in front of a painting by Rembrandt. He then removed a piece of paper from his pocket on which was written a poem by Emily Dickinson. He read the poem out loud, tore up the paper, throwing the pieces to the floor, and asked the members to recite the poem with him—from memory.

The director then posed a question: "What if I had taken the Rembrandt off the wall, torn the canvas to pieces, and discarded it in the trash?" The board shuddered, and the director attempted to explain the reason for their collective feeling of discomfort. Looking at the Rembrandt, he declared: “One of us made this—and somehow we still remain
connected to the work by its creator, who happens to be another human being.” 

What connects us to this painting isn’t just the paint on the canvas and the image portrayed, but the lingering presence of the artist in the work—call it the DNA connection. Someone also wrote the poem, but the words can be reproduced over and over, and we can continue to enjoy the poem, written years ago. This isn’t the case with the painting by Rembrandt. The painting is a unique object. There’s only one of them; and while you can make reproductions of the work, it can never take the place of the original object. If the painting is destroyed, the link to another life and another era is gone. This is the power and beauty, and the uniqueness of art: the way it keeps us connected to something greater, even from our past.

The story of the Rembrandt painting has stayed with me as we continue the conversation with our visitors, and
wherever the Gallery exists. Conversation is possible because of something we all have in common: the opportunity to consider things around us that have been made by someone, the things we call art.

The power of art can be seen and felt throughout the WAG, and in the hearts, minds, and communities where the Gallery’s presence extends and thrives. The Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery exhibition brings to Winnipeg some of the finest British paintings in the country, along with works by many other European artists spanning the last four centuries. Included in this exhibition is one of the greatest (and largest) paintings by Dalí in North America—his monumental Santiago El Grande. Dalí Up Close is just what its title suggests—giving viewers a closer look at this fascinating 20th-century artist. Like van Gogh and Picasso, Dalí’s reputation often precedes him, and we see exactly why in this exhibition of his paintings, watercolours, photographs, jewellery, and sculpture.

Bringing Shadow to Light celebrates the delightful exercise of collecting and connoisseurship (and philanthropy), as witnessed through the dedicated efforts of a Winnipeg couple. Seeing Rights and Liberties marks the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), while our partnership with the National Gallery of Canada continues with the presentation of Brian Jungen’s Vienna, installed just in time for the Gallery Ball on October 18.

Another national collaboration we enjoy is the Sobey Art Award exhibition, happening at the WAG for the first time in Western Canada. Looking east to Venice and north to the Arctic, we are pleased to present and tour Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15, Canada’s entry at the 2014 Venice Biennale in Architecture. On the theme of the Arctic, the WAG has lent a number of important Inuit sculptures to the new Journey to Churchill exhibit at the Assiniboine Park Conservancy. As we continue to develop plans for the Inuit Art Centre, our community of supporters across the city and country confirm again the important role the WAG is playing in building roads to the Arctic.

Speaking of supporters, this past summer I was delighted to appoint our distinguished colleague and friend, Patricia Bovey, to Director Emeritus at the WAG.

Finally, preparations are in full swing for the historic exhibition Olympus: The Greco-Roman Collections of Berlin, which opens at the WAG in April 2015. For the first time in over half a century, Winnipeggers (and all visitors to the WAG) will be given the opportunity to see a major exhibition of Greek and Roman antiquities from one of the most important museums in the world.

Powerful stuff: the influence of art in our lives and communities. Hopefully it empowers us all to see more, understand more, share more, and do more to help make the places where we live better for all.

Stephen Borys, PhD, MBA
Director & CEO

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