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Humble Beginnings: The Origins of a Collection


  • Penticton Art Gallery 199 Marina Way Penticton Canada (map)

I always love the opportunity to dig into our permanent collection and explore the works we have and the richness of the stories they hold. Over the years we have had a number of works come our way through donations. In considering each donation and its value to the gallery, I felt that many of these works could better serve the gallery as a base for expanding the focus of our collection. This exhibition is the culmination of this process, which owes its presence to the generosity of many, and now for the first time we are afforded the opportunity to explore the sum of the parts. This is our first real opportunity to look at our collection critically and ascertain its strengths.

We hope this exhibition will attract the interest of scholars and collectors who have an interest in the rise and development of contemporary indigenous art since the 1950s. It’s an amazing history that finds its roots passed through generations of oral histories, ceremony, dance and the tangible ephemeral art and objects left behind as a testament to the richness and sophistication of Indigenous culture.

One also needs to be reminded that the rise of contemporary Inuit art is the direct result of settler colonial management, after the government of Canada established communities and art co-operatives at Kinngait (Cape Dorset), Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), Pangnirtung in the1950s with the aim of further enforcing Canada's sovereignty over the arctic.

Like many new journeys, this collection may seem unfocussed, but as time marches on and opportunities present themselves I hope this collection will become much more refined and represent a unique window into the resurgence of indigenous cultures. Each nation has distinctive visual art whether it was collected from artists selling on the streets and bars, to the tourist shops and a rare few commercial galleries, to today where these works are becoming the valued objects of museum collections across the country and internationally.

It’s a complex and often sad history which has been condensed from millennia to a handful of decades, and while many of the stories and names have been lost, more and more of these artists are starting to come to light and their lives are becoming better known, as are their contributions to the resurgence and development of contemporary indigenous art. It’s nice to see these works finally being recognized for the amazing works they are. Shedding the weights of tourist art and craft to be finally recognized in the pantheon of Canadian Art History and the post war development of contemporary art.

Thank to all those who have contributed to the building of this collection and we look forward to your feedback.


Opening Reception | Friday, July 5th, 7:00-9:00 pm

Curator Talk + Tour | Saturday, July 6th, 2:00 pm