Inuit Sculpture

Selections from the Collection

Roger Aksadjuak and Laurent Aksadjuak, Rankin Inlet, Spring Celebration, 1996.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery has maintained a close association with Inuit art as a field of collection and research since the mid-1950s. The acquisition of the George Swinton collection in 1960 was the first of many important collections to come to the Gallery. The Gallery's Inuit art collection now numbers 10,900 artworks and 7,000 of these are sculptures.

The most usual material used by Inuit artists is stone, but the type of stone varies widely and is dependant upon what can be found locally. Some communities have only small deposits of stone, and carvers often resort to using organic materials from game animals. Netsilingmiut artists from the communities of Taloyoak, Kugaaruk, and Gjoa Haven have become known for their creative use of ancient whalebone left on the tundra by their predecessors. Antlers, shed each autumn by caribou, are a common material for carvers in the Kivalliq region. Ivory from walrus and narwhal tusks has been used in trade with southern visitors from the earliest instances of contact, and continues to a limited extent today. Clay was first used to create ceramics in Rankin Inlet in the period 1964 to 1977. Its use was revived by the Matchbox Gallery in 1990 and continues to the present day.

One of the fascinations of Inuit sculpture is to realize how the often scarce materials available have been shaped into unique artworks by taking advantage of the intrinsic qualities of the various media.

Unidentified artist, Inukjuak or Sanikiluaq, Mother and Child, c. 1952.

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