New WAG Exhibition Features Donations of Inuit Sculpture from Winnipeg Collectors

Earlier this year, the Winnipeg Art Gallery received a significant donation of 121 Inuit sculptures, acquired over the past twenty years by Winnipeg collectors Bob and Marlene Stafford. A selection from the Stafford Collection will go on display in The Stafford Collection of Inuit Sculpture, opening on August 25 and running until January 2013. The WAG has the world’s largest collection of contemporary Inuit art, numbering over 11,000 pieces, and it has organized more exhibitions and published more books on Inuit art than any other museum in the world.

“Once he began collecting, Bob Stafford admits he got ‘carried away’ but the result is a very impressive collection,” says Darlene Coward Wight, Curator of Inuit Art. “It includes works by such established artists such as Osuitok Ipeelee, Davidee Atchealak, Kiugak Ashoona, Luke Anowtalik, Nuna Parr, and Abraham Anghik Ruben, as well as by younger artists who are becoming known for their original subjects and expressive means. It’s interesting to see how the younger artists have been influenced by their elders, such as Ashevak Adla, grandson of noted Cape Dorset sculptor Audla Pee.”

The works are mainly from the 1980s to the 200s and fill important gaps in the WAG’s collection. Some of the later sculptures are considered signature works for the artists. Elegant caribou by Osuitok Ipeelee are among his best-known carvings and two fine examples are in the Stafford Collection. Also included in the donation are two of Davidee Atchealak’s animated polar bears, Kiugak Ashoona’s Natturalik, and lyrical pieces by Abraham Anghik Ruben in his characteristic medium of Brazilian soapstone. The collection also includes work by younger artists such as Tukiki Manomie, Adla Ashevak, Joseph Suqslak, and Toonoo Sharky. Stafford also acquired earlier pieces from the 1960s and 1970s by such artists as Karoo Ashevak, John Tiktak, John Pangnark, and Vital Makpaaq.

“This extraordinary gift and exhibition is the perfect lead-up to the launching of the WAG’s Centennial Legacy project – the building of the Inuit Art and Learning Centre (IALC) says Executive Director Stephen Borys. “It is collections like the one assembled by Bob and Marlene Stafford that allows us to further explore and celebrate the beauty and power of Inuit sculpture – and it reconfirms exactly why we are building this Centre for the people of Canada and all visitors to Winnipeg. The IALC will be located adjacent to the WAG in what is now the Studio building, and will showcase the Gallery’s world-renowned collection of contemporary Inuit art as well as the Studio and Learning programs. In addition to providing a home for the over 11,000 Inuit artworks, the Centre will be a place for more specialized study and interpretation of the collection by artists, scholars and historians, and students of all ages.”

The Stafford Collection of Inuit Sculpture is sponsored by BMO Nesbitt Burns.

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