Qaumajuq is an innovative new museum, home of the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world. This first-of-its-kind centre connects to the WAG on all levels, creating a 185,000-square-foot cultural campus in the heart of downtown Winnipeg.
Qaumajuq bridges Canada’s North and South through exhibitions, research, education, and art making. A community of artists, Indigenous advisors, partners, and stakeholders have collaborated to envision and build a vibrant gathering place where all are welcome and where everyone’s stories are told and heard in a true spirit of reconciliation.

Watch the virtual celebration here.

Celebrating the North in the South

Michael Maltzan, the architect who designed Qaumajuq, was inspired by an expedition to Nunavut where the team visited Inuit communities and artists’ studios. The undulating white stone of Qaumajuq’s façade hovers above the ground, as if floating over the glass-filled lobby. It’s abstract quality recalls the vast scale of the North as well as the carved forms of the artwork within its walls. Discover the stunning Visible Vault, new gallery and learning spaces, the outdoor plaza, and main floor shop and café.

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Art is a Voice

WAG-Qaumajuq holds in trust close to 14,000 pieces of Inuit art, including carvings, drawing, prints, textiles, and new media. Each piece has its own story to tell. Sharing these stories with the world is at the core of Qaumajuq. This is an engaging, accessible space to experience art in new ways, where artists and technology offer direct connections to the lands, peoples, and cultures of the North.

Inuit-Led

Inuit have guided the creation of Qaumajuq and lead the development of programs that will connect you with others, such as the inaugural show INUA. The WAG partners with Inuit birthright organizations, governments, associations, and individuals across Inuit Nunangat and in urban and Southern communities to ensure Qaumajuq is a place where all Inuit feel welcome, engaged, and inspired to share their culture with the world. Creating spaces for Inuit elders to pass their teachings on to the broader community is critical to building bridges of understanding – between cultures, between North and South, and between generations. Together, we are developing programs that enrich the Qaumajuq experience for everyone. Read our FAQs below.

You are invited to join the visionary group of supporters whose commitment to the power of art and culture to connect people is building Qaumajuq. Right now, the Richardson Foundation is matching your donation to Qaumajuq!

You can also contribute by adopting a shelf in Qaumajuq’s Visible Vault! Purchase for $2,020, only 492 spots available. Be recognized on signage as an individual, group, or organization.

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FAQs

In the lead-up to the opening of this new cultural landmark, it is essential to the WAG that we acknowledge the colonial history of our permanent collection. We recognize that art galleries have historically been part of the colonial structure of perpetuating racism and oppression, and we are committed to dismantling these systems.

The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) has long been present in Winnipeg and was instrumental to the early development of the global Inuit art market. In the 1950s, carvings were purchased at fur trading posts in Inukjuak, Puvirnituq, Kinngait, and several other Inuit communities. Since the 1950s, Inuit have owned and operated artist co-operatives. Carving stone was locally quarried and distinctive to each community. The carvings came South by boat in the late summer or fall and were sold at the Handicrafts Guilds in Montreal (est. 1949) and Winnipeg (est. 1952), and in HBC stores across the country. Large private collections were formed in Winnipeg because of access to the bulk of the carvings that came to the HBC headquarters in the city. For more information on HBC’s history of collecting Inuit art, click here.

These private collections were formed, most notably, by Jerry Twomey, George Swinton, Bessie Bulman (head of the Guild), her sister Eileen Abbott, and HBC employees. Today, the WAG collection of Inuit art includes donations from these private collections. Our curators also maintain strong relationships with artists by visiting their homes, workspaces, and communities, and spending time with them on the land. We purchase works directly from the artists in their communities, from their cooperatives, or through the global art market. In addition, we collaborate with other museums, galleries, and arctic co-ops to exhibit artworks on loan.

Today, more than 2,000 Inuit artists from many of the communities of Inuit Nunangat are represented in our permanent collection, totalling close to 14,000 pieces. While several thousand of the artworks are sculptural, we recognize and celebrate the fact that Inuit art extends to an evolving array of media including prints, textiles, clothing, and digital media, all present in our collection. Inuit art encompasses any work created by an Inuk. While it is often studied and regarded in an ethnically-oriented context, Inuit art is very much part of the cannon of art history and the future of contemporary art. The WAG Indigenous art collection includes work by Inuit, First Nations, and Métis artists. Learn more here.

The WAG recognizes that the history of our Inuit art collection is tied to the ongoing history of colonialism in North America. Fur trading posts disrupted the traditional and sustainable nomadic lifestyle of Inuit communities, contributing to the permanent settlement of many Inuit. We hope to shed light on this history, and bring Inuit voices to the forefront through more storytelling.

As a non-profit art museum, we are taking part in national conversations around reconciliation, and have developed an artwork provenance policy to further collaborate with Indigenous artists and their families. If an artwork is found to be acquired in an unethical manner by the WAG or by the individual or institution who collected the work prior to it entering the Gallery’s collection, we would move forward with the necessary steps towards repatriation. Public access to provenance information on all artworks in our collection is available. More information can be found here.

We care for the artworks so that their stories and the stories of the artists can continue to be shared for generations to come. We recognize that each artwork has a Spirit. An Indigenous Elder has been asked to care for the artwork the WAG holds. Since Treaty 1 territory is not the original homeland of Inuit art, it is important that the Spirit of the art is honoured and cared for. Ceremony and prayer take place regularly in all of our vaults for all of the art.

For an overview of the WAG’s defining collection areas, click here.

Qaumajuq builds on the WAG’s long history of collecting and exhibiting Inuit art and working with the leadership of Inuit partners and stakeholders. By amplifying the voices of the artists and promoting cultural understanding, we aim to support reconciliation, bringing us all closer together. Qaumajuq will be a cornerstone for building capacity among emerging Inuit arts and heritage professionals, a place for mentorship, learning, and intercultural dialogue.

Qaumajuq is not only a building, it is a cultural venue for Inuit in Canada, and a beacon of Inuit agency. Inuit partners have been integral to Qaumajuq’s conception, and are leading the development of design, exhibitions, and educational programming. We strive to provide a platform for Inuit voices and ensure all Inuit are welcomed.

Qaumajuq will bring the North to the South to deepen the world’s understanding of Canada. The North covers over one third of Canada’s landmass, yet fewer than two per cent of Canadians will ever set foot in the North. Qaumajuq will be a place to build and understand our relationships.

Inuit stakeholders look forward to having a ‘capital’ in Canada in which their art, histories, and stories can be shared with each other and with the world. We are working closely with Northern partners, and our relationship with the Government of Nunavut is fundamental.

Due to space and resources, in 2015 the Government of Nunavut (GN) entrusted the WAG with its Fine Arts Collection, which includes over 7,385 objects. This loan involves care, storage, exhibition, mentorship, and development of public educational programming. Qaumajuq will provide a temporary new home for the GN collection.

Over the past five years, we have collaborated with the GN to host artist and Elder residencies and mentorship training, tour exhibitions in northern communities, digitize the collection, and open [email protected] Forks, a shop providing increased market access to Inuit artists.

We are honoured to continue to support the GN’s efforts in creating increased awareness and exposure to the rich collection until its return to Nunavut. We are dedicated to caring for the Spirit of the art with Ceremony, while Treaty 1 is its home. We are committed to supporting the development of a cultural heritage centre in Inuit Nunangat by offering resources and expertise, and creating space for a sister relationship between these institutions and Qaumajuq.

Qaumajuq will bridge Canada’s North and South through exhibitions, research, education, and art making with Inuit voices at the forefront. We will continue to honour the legacies of Inuit artists through exhibitions curated by Inuit, programs, and events at WAG-Qaumajuq.

The WAG’s Indigenous Advisory Circle is at the heart of all of our decolonization and Indigenization work. The Circle provides leadership and counsel in the development and planning of related WAG exhibitions, education, community outreach, partnerships, and programming

The Circle is made up of representatives from the four regions of Inuit Nunangat: Inuvialuit Nunangit Sannaiqtuaq, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut. Urban Inuit and circumpolar Inuit communities such as Alaska and Greenland are also represented, along with First Nations and Metis members from Manitoba and across the country.

Local community consultations have been essential in developing our mandate and purpose for Qaumajuq. Indigenous leaders in Winnipeg have been very generous with their time and sharing their knowledge. Leadership and Elders from all of the communities located on Treaty 1 have been engaged with our Indigenization journey. The Dakota Nation, whose unceded land on which the Gallery stands, has also been involved in conversations. The Metis Nation and the local Inuit community have been essential to Qaumajuq planning, from the project’s inception to the upcoming opening celebrations.

We acknowledge that without the input from the Anishinaabe, Ininawak, Dakota, Metis Nations, and the Manitoba Inuit community, the dream of Qaumajuq would not be a reality.

Indigenous Naming

Qaumajuq is the name that Indigenous language keepers gave to the Inuit art centre. Inspired by the light-filled spaces of the new building, Qaumajuq (pronounced KOW-ma-yourk and sometimes heard HOW-ma-yourk) means “it is bright, it is lit” in Inuktitut. This naming initiative is an important step on the WAG’s Indigenization journey, responding to the UNDRIP and the TRC’s Calls to Action, both of which reference the importance of Indigenous languages.

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Stories

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The Winnipeg Art Gallery is located on Treaty No. 1 the original lands and waters of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininiwak, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.
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