Message from the Executive Director
Three years ago when we began planning our exhibitions for the WAG’s Centennial year, I asked for three things—a cutting edge contemporary exhibition that looks at the best art coming out of Winnipeg, the Inuit show of all Inuit shows, and a Masterworks exhibition that brings to the WAG the very finest in International and Canadian art from across the country. I am delighted to report that we’ve been able to deliver on all three fronts! And as an added bonus, we created a partnership with the National Gallery of Canada— NGC@WAG—which, for the next three years will allow us to showcase treasures from our national collection in a series of exhibitions.
Winnipeg Now, featuring newly commissioned work by thirteen of the hottest artists from Winnipeg, connected you to a local scene with international ties. The catalogue documenting this groundbreaking exhibition, curated by Meeka Walsh and Robert Enright, will be released in the spring. Opening in January is our second Centennial blockbuster, Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art, curated by Canada’s leading Inuit scholar (and Winnipeg’s own), Dr. Darlene Coward Wight. Accompanying the exhibition is a book that stands as one of the most significant publications documenting the development of contemporary Inuit art since the release of George Swinton’s Sculpture of the Eskimo, published in 1972.
Janet Cardiff: Forty-Part Motet, the first presentation in our NGC@WAG program, will open in February, offering Winnipeggers an opportunity to see this award-winning sound installation by Cardiff, who represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2001.
Completing our Centennial year exhibition triad is 100 Masterworks: Only in Canada—the largest and most ambitious exhibition the WAG has organized in its 100-year history. This show brings together 100 European, American and Canadian artworks from 28 museums and galleries across Canada, and two special American lenders. Never before in the history of the WAG have we gathered together a collection of masterworks like the ones you will see in May. One of the best perks of my job is that every once in awhile I return to curating. In this instance, I am delighted to work with staff and colleagues across Canada to oversee the production of this historic project.
Moving from exhibitions to buildings, we’ve begun plans to design the Inuit Art and Learning Centre (IALC), and finally give a home to the world’s largest collection of contemporary Inuit art. Our national Inuit Art Task Force convened in the fall to help define the vision and program for the new centre, and we will continue to dialogue with them as plans unfold. The next challenge was finding the best architect to design this building, which will house the Inuit collection and our Studio Art and Learning programs. A national Selection Committee, chaired by the distinguished architect, teacher, and author, George Baird, led the call for expressions of interest this past August, which drew 65 architectural submissions from 15 countries. From the shortlist of six international finalists, the committee was unanimous in selecting the award-winning architect Michael Maltzan for the IALC project. Los Angeles-based Maltzan will be partnering with George Cibinel, who will act as the associate architect in Winnipeg. Stay tuned for some very exciting designs in the spring!
We promised you that the Centennial would be a year like no other in the WAG’s history, and I believe we have delivered on this promise. We achieved new records with the Centennial Sponsorship campaign ($1.4 million raised), Birthday Party and Nuit Blanche (7500 guests), Centennial Ball ($330K raised— thanks Hazel Borys!)—and all this helps us bring you the very best in art from around the world and right next door. What can we say—Happy 100th WAG and many, many happy returns!
Stephen Borys, PhD, MBA