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ICYMI: Nunavut Collection

In addition to the WAG Inuit art collection, we are honoured to be entrusted with the Government of Nunavut’s Fine Art Collection on a long-term loan. This summer and fall at the WAG, view a new exhibition of Inuit sculptures from the Nunavut collection, curated by Jocelyn Piirainen. 

Nunavut wants their art to be celebrated and experienced. The WAG is honoured to provide a temporary home for the Nunavut collection while the territory establishes a Heritage Centre, and we work with Nunavut to ensure the collection is showcased, preserved, and shared. 

Many emerging and master artists, Elders, and educators from Nunavut have made the trip to the WAG. These visits are often emotional, with people encountering works created by relatives and friends that may not have been seen in a while. There are small exhibition spaces across many Nunavut communities. The WAG is in the process of digitizing all the works in the collection. A central online repository will ensure all Nunavummiut can experience every piece and search for art created by their relatives or in their community. 

Digitization includes photographing of each piece from multiple angles, researching artists, and obtaining copyright clearance to post the images and information in an online database. The three-dimensional works, such as carvings, tools, and toys, have already been photographed, with a few exceptions such as pieces made of narwhal tusk that are too large for the photography spaces currently available. It’s also critical that each piece is credited to the correct artist. As with many collections, a number of pieces in the Nunavut collection were unattributed when it was transferred to the WAG in 2016. Thanks to the work of Krista Ulujuk Zawadski, Government of Nunavut Curator of Art, more than 600 pieces have been identified and attributed since the collection’s arrival through the comparison of works and materials, and referencing signatures. 

This means recognition for the artists, their legacies, and their families, as well as a greater knowledge of Inuit art history. It also provides the possibility for artists or their estates to receive royalties and other fees. 

“It has been a privilege to work with the WAG to oversee, protect the Government of Nunavut (GN) Fine Art Collection. Preserving and promoting the integrity of Inuit art and Inuit artists is very important to me and is exemplified by the work the GN and the WAG have been able to do together. I am excited to see the art being digitized so that we can take our partnership even further and provide access to the art for as many Inuit and other people as we can.” — Krista Ulujuk Zawadski 


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WAG-Qaumajuq recognizes that land acknowledgements are part of an ongoing dialogue with Indigenous Nations, and we are grateful to live and work on these lands and waters. Institutionally, WAG-Qaumajuq is committed to acknowledging our colonial history and we are actively working to interrogate the Gallery’s colonial ways of being.

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Winnipeg Art Gallery—Qaumajuq
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