The Winnipeg Art Gallery embraces the North

Exterior view of the proposed Inuit Art Centre next to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Rendering by Michael Maltzan Architecture.
Exterior view of the proposed Inuit Art Centre next to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Rendering by Michael Maltzan Architecture.

New Centre will enable southern and northern peoples to learn and work together.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery houses the world’s largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art with over 13,000 carvings, drawings, prints, textiles and new media. The WAG began collecting Inuit art in the 1950s, when this art form was largely unknown in Canada’s south. Supported by an unparalleled record of exhibitions, publications, research and outreach, this collection represents Inuit identity, culture and history.

To celebrate the art and to honour the people who have created these works, the WAG is building an Inuit Art Centre, the first of its kind in the world. The IAC will be a centre for exhibitions and programs, research and learning, studio practice and artmaking. It will be a bridge, enabling peoples from the North and South to meet, learn and work together. It will be a gathering place—a community hub for exploration and advancement—with the art serving as a lens on Canada’s Arctic. It will also, over the years, attract gifts of some important art and craft pieces from private collectors, as the gallery’s collection continues to grow in stature.

Centre for creativity and innovation

Built on the strengths of the WAG’s Inuit art collection and its global reputation in the field, the Inuit Art Centre will embolden the Gallery’s critical role in presenting Indigenous art and culture. An architectural ideas competition for the new Centre attracted submissions by 65 architects from 13 countries.

Michael Maltzan Architecture of Los Angeles, in conjunction with Cibinel Architecture of Winnipeg, was the unanimous choice of the selection committee. An Arctic expedition in the summer of 2013 offered the architects a compelling vision for the IAC. The game-changing schematic design reflects the Arctic landscape—the natural materials, colours, light and the people.

Situated next to the existing WAG building, the IAC will celebrate the power and beauty of the North. Exhibition galleries, visible vaults, classrooms and studios, plus research and community spaces will offer visitors the opportunity to explore, learn and create.

A place for learning and transformation

Inspired by the landscape and people of the North, the four-level 40,000-square-foot Inuit Art Centre will be connected by glass bridges to the existing WAG building, and will feature:

  • A “visible vault”, a cylindrical glass-walled art storage and conservation facility, displaying thousands of artworks, situated within a 6,000-square-foot atrium.
  • Studios and classrooms for students, scholars and participants of all disciplines and ages to share in Inuit art, culture and history.
  • A two-level, interactive theatre for new media, presentations, performances and art installations, with a live link to the North.
  • The Inuit Gallery, the single largest gallery in North America dedicated to Indigenous art, featuring an 8,000-square-foot, 34-foot-high exhibition space.
  • The Contemporary Indigenous Gallery, a community gallery and ceremony space, showcasing new First Nations, Inuit and Métis art.
  • An artists- and curators-in-residence area, offering creative and educational spaces for artists, curators, teachers and students, focused on Indigenous art and artmaking.
View of gallery from south. Rendering by Michael Maltzan Architecture.
View of gallery from south. Rendering by Michael Maltzan Architecture.

The power of the art

Art is a living and dynamic force in the world. It is able to impart ideas and perspectives which shape public thought. In a similar way, the Inuit Art Centre will be a transformative place led by the images and stories from Inuit art, its people and its land. Linking northern and southern Canada is at the heart of the Centre’s mission.

Community supporters

Oct. 14: The Winnipeg Foundation announced their $950,000 contribution to the Inuit Art Centre project. It is the largest gift in the foundation’s history.

Nov. 19: The premiers of Manitoba and Nunavut signed a memorandum of understanding, which includes a partnership between Nunavut and the WAG. Nunavut’s fine art collections, numbering more than 7,000 works, will be transferred to the WAG for a five-year loan.

Nov. 20: Premier Greg Selinger announced the province will contribute $15 million to the IAC building project.

Dec. 8: BMO Financial Group committed $1 million to support the IAC.

Stephen Borys, director and CEO of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, received the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ’s award for leadership in the arts, receiving a tribute for his contribution to Winnipeg’s vitality through his work in spearheading WAG’s most successful exhibitions, including: 100 Masters: only in Canada, Dali Up Close and currently the year-long Olympus exhibit, as well as Winnipeg’s Nuit Blanche and other major events.

“We are pleased to honour Dr. Stephen Borys for his creativity and ingenuity in making WAG relevant to all Winnipeggers…,” Stefano Grande, the Downtown BIZ executive director said in delivering the achievement award.

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