Message from the Executive Director
As the WAG’s Centennial comes to
a close, the urge to look back over the last 16 months, recounting the succession of extraordinary exhibitions, programs and events, vies with the desire to look ahead as we move into our second century as Canada’s oldest civic art gallery. And while there is much to anticipate in the months and years before us as we plan for the Inuit Art Centre, there is the enjoyable task of reflecting on what was accomplished during our centenary year.
By the time 100 Masters: Only in Canada closed on Labour Day this past September, over 60,000 people had walked through the doors to see this historic exhibition, an all time attendance record for the WAG. Those numbers were enhanced by 170,000 visits to the microsite, 2150 new Gallery members, a fifty percent increase in Facebook and Twitter followers, sold-out School and Studio programs, and $750,000 in sponsorships. The extent and quality of outreach and programming confirmed we are fulfilling our mission, and at each front, remaining accessible, relevant—and vital to the health of the community. People wanted to see the real thing—the originals, the masters, the finest—and we delivered!
The success of 100 Masters would not have been possible without the groundswell of support that grew
from the launch of the first Centennial show, Winnipeg Now, followed by Creation & Transformation: Defining
Moments in Inuit Art, and now the final exhibition, Storm & Spirit: The Eckhardt-Gramatté Collection of
German Expressionist Art.
Looking ahead to 2014, there are some exciting exhibitions lined up including Off the Beaten Path:
Violence, Women and Art. This is a multimedia exhibition showcasing work by international artists such as Marina Abramovic, Louise Bourgeois, and Kiki Smith, that uses the power of art to tell stories that help us feel and understand the essence of the problem of violence against women around the world.
Another project, Looking Up: Contemporary Connections with Inuit Art, has a particular resonance with the WAG’s place and its future— chiefly its role as a world leader in the exploration, documentation, and presentation of Inuit art.
This past June we brought Paul Butler on board as the WAG’s new Curator of Contemporary Art. While I saw
Paul as a respected artist and curator, I also recognized his work as a cultural advocate and community activist, and believed he could make a difference in the bigger conversation we want to have with our public. The connection between Inuit art and contemporary Canadian and International art is a link that the WAG is championing through the
development of the Inuit Art Centre.
Paul Butler’s first exhibition at the WAG, Looking Up, explores the influence that the Inuit art collection has had on Winnipeg’s art community over the past twenty years. He has selected eight artists, and invited them to produce new work in response to the WAG’s collection. These artists spent time in the Inuit art vault selecting works that have inspired them, and will be shown alongside the new creations. The result is an exhibition of connections between two art communities whose histories mythologize, share stories, and document their respective landscapes through the common language of art. But Looking Up does more than look up to the North; it also is building bridges to the North. With a fifty-year history of collecting and exhibiting Inuit art, numbering almost 150 exhibitions and 50 catalogues, the WAG continues to explore pathways northward, strengthening the artistic and culturalties that have given the North a home in our Gallery. Looking Up is a fine example of the WAG’s aspirations to reach to the North and enable this enchanting world to penetrate our lives, our communities, and the very mission of this institution.
Stephen Borys, PhD, MBA
Director & CEO