Perspectives: Collecting Inuit Art

April 27th, 2013 – June 2nd, 2013

To accompany Richard Harrington: Arctic Photographer, we have organized Perspectives: Collecting Inuit Art, an exhibition that provides a glimpse of the varying tastes of collectors seeking northern art. It includes prints donated by a collector to the RMG permanent collection, as well as the sculptural treasures from the RMG’s vault and from local residents Donald and Patricia Dodds’ and Elsie Tait’s collections.

Two suites of prints from the RMG collection will be exhibited for the first time: a portfolio of twelve by Kenojuak Ashevak and six by Jamasie Teevee. Kenojuak was born on the southern coast of Baffin Island in 1927 where, from an early age, she produced traditional dolls and beaded sealskin work. She was one of the first Inuit women to begin drawing at Cape Dorset (now more often referred to as Kinngait) after James Houston introduced print-making to the area in the 1950s. Her strong forms with vibrant colours come, as she says, “out of my thoughts and out of my imagination.”

The six prints by Jamasie Teevee, who was born in the Kimmirut area in 1910, depict life in traditional Inuit camps—stylistic renderings of Inuit beside summer encampments; dogsleds on the move and colourfully clothed young hunters. These stonecuts are based on personal experience of living on the land.

While printmaking techniques were introduced through Houston, carving among the Inuit has a rich history of over 4000 years and includes objects of both aesthetic and spiritual importance. In the later part of the twentieth century, with southern market demand for work by Inuit artists, the use of material began to expand from the more usual whale tusk to soapstone, argillite and serpentinite. The exhibition includes examples of early, small ivory carvings that the Hudson Bay Company purchased directly from the carvers and later work done in soapstone—at times larger sculpture that was a response to the tastes of the southern market. Artists include Tivi Ilisituk, Cain Irqqarqsaq, Moses Pov, Kenojuak Pudlat, and Timothy.