Bestial Encounters

Volker Seding , Lion, Jackson, Mississippi (from the series Captive), 1989

As children our first introduction to the alphabet is generally twinned with animals. “D is for dog” or “H is for Horse” become ingrained at an early age through the alphabestiary, an age old genre of children’s books. These memory tricks help us learn the cornerstone of language. Yet paradoxically what separates us from truly understanding animals is the ability to communicate through a shared language. In 2010 the WAG was fortunate to have had the opportunity to acquire The Winnipeg Alphabestiary, a special project conceived and executed by international arts publication Border Crossings to mark their 25th anniversary. The artists selected were 26 exceptional creators who call Winnipeg home, whether they currently live in the city or not. The end result is a very unique collection of paintings and drawings of animals (real, imagined, and truly inventive) by some of Winnipeg’s leading contemporary artists.

Highlighted against this distinct acquisition is another exceptional donation of works featuring animals whose form of communication is much different. For over 15 years acclaimed photographer Volker Seding visited zoos around the world capturing poignant and disturbing images of exotic animals in captivity. The result was a compelling portfolio of 58 images. Under the title Captive this series of works display a collection of living things in a harsh and unflinching light. Although these animals cannot speak, Seding captures moments where their eyes and body language offer a complicated tale of longing, pleading, and resignation.

Displayed alongside these two interconnected collections of works are a number of other pieces drawn from the WAG’s permanent collection that deal with concepts around communication, language, animals, and collecting.

Click here to read a review of the exhibition by Alison Gillmor, CBC Local Arts Reviewer.

Click here to read an article on the exhibition by Alison Mayes, Winnipeg Free Press Arts Reporter.





Melanie Rocan, Yogi Bear, (from the series The Winnipeg Alphabestiary), 2005.

Related Programs & Events

Past Programs & Events


Sign up for e-news

Gallery Hours

  • Tuesday 11am-5pm
  • Wednesday 11am-5pm
  • Thursday 11am-5pm
  • Friday 11am-9pm
  • Saturday 11am-5pm
  • Sunday 11am-5pm
  • Closed Monday

Holiday Hours


WAG Social Media

Share This

This should be hidden