Inuit Art Auction Picks: Fall 2016

By November 14, 2016Choice

Every fall the Canadian art world ramps up for its premiere auction season, including major auctions of Inuit art. To celebrate, the IAQ team recently sat down to make our picks. Below you’ll find our personal favourites. Beyond the exciting highlights and sure bets, we’ve dug deeper in the catalogues to bring you some works that surprised and delighted us and left us wishing we had an unlimited acquisitions budget.


Judas Ullulaq, Shaman with Helping Spirits, with Inset Moveable Eyes, c. 1988

Lot 84 | Waddington’s

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Judas Ullulaq (1937-1999 Ugsuqtuuq/Gjoa Haven) Shaman with Helping Spirits with Inset Moveable Eyes c. 1988 Stone, musk ox horn and antler 52.7 x 47.6 x 17.8 cm

Judas Ullulaq is known for his imaginative and sometimes grotesque compositions and though this figure is somewhat blockier than usual, it all the more interesting for it. The thick, disproportionate limbs emphasize the transformational theme of the piece. The muskox horn figure burrowing into the shaman’s face contrasts the heaviness of the stone form with its delicacy, though this is humorously undercut by its parasitic form. The incised lines on the work are an unusual element, adding to the unique character of this piece, while the movable eyes allow the sculpture to remain fresh and different for years to come.  – Alysa Procida, Executive Director and Publisher


Janet Kigusiuq, Untitled (Caribou in a Landscape), 2003

Lot 80 | Walker’s

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Janet Kigusiuq (1926-2005 Qamani’tuaq/Baker Lake) Untitled (Caribou in a Landscape) 2003 Graphite and coloured pencil drawing 57.2 x 76.2 cm

Juicy hues of grape jelly purples and hot yellows drew me to this work on paper by the late Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake) artist. Kugisuk’s caribou are embued with an individuality and alertness all her own. Wide-eyed and glowing the herd traverses (or is it suspended above?) her psychedelic landscape. This dynamic piece, commanding for its scale, would be fitting alongside a work by Jessie Oonark, but would be equally wonderful paired with the hallucinatory paintings of Peter Doig or the colour experiments of photographer Jessica Eaton. – Britt Gallpen, Editor


John Kavik, Playful Mother and Child, n.d.

Lot 37 | Waddington’s

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John Kavik (1897-1993 Kangiqliniq/Rankin Inlet) Playful Mother and Child n.d. Stone 21.6 X 12.7 X 17.8 cm

John Kavik’s Playful Mother and Child is an incredibly dynamic and spirited representation of motherhood. This piece is particularly interesting as the mother’s arms and child are extended into space, atypical of Kavik’s work in which figures are often tightly contained. The extended, sinuous arms of the mother and the exuberant face of the child imbue the work with a playfulness that drew me back several times. I often interpret the work of Kavik as serious and stoic but this small sculpture has provided a lens for me to re-examine his work and find playfulness where I never saw it before. – John Geoghegan, Images Coordinator


Jessie Oonark, OC, RCA, Big Woman, 1977

Lot 145 | Walker’s  &  Lot 117 | Waddington’s

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Jessie Oonark, OC, RCA (1906- 1985 Baker Lake) Big Woman 1977 Stencil 87.6 x 66 cm Printmaker: Francis Kaluraq (1931-1990)

Big Woman is a classic print by Jessie Oonark that captures a woman caught in a moment of stillness. I appreciate Oonark’s use of bold colours in this work, as it points to a blend of reality and imagination, and makes the woman stand out against the backgroud. Big Woman conveys the strength and power of the figure as, according to Oonark, the woman is turning to stone for staying true to her values. – Ashley McLellan, Program Officer – Artist Biographical Database


Mariano Aupillardjuk, Shaman, c. 1980
Lot 189 | Walker’s

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Mariano Aupillardjuk (1923-2012) Shaman c. 1980 stone 29 x 11 x 9.5 cm

Shaman is a subtle, powerfully emotive sculpture. The upturned face looks simultaneously hopeful and plaintive, thanks to the minimal but expertly crafted facial features, while the outstretched arms seem to be captured in motion in contrast to the static lower body. This magnetic work draws a viewer’s eye from across the room and would make a spectacular addition to any space. – Alysa Procida, Executive Director and Publisher


Kenojuak Ashevak, CC, RCA, Dorset Birds, 1975

Lot 12 | Waddington’s

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Kenojuak Ashevak CC, RCA (1927-2013 Kinngait/Cape Dorset) Dorset Birds 1975 Stonecut 15/50 49.5 X 57.2 cm

This optically disarming print by Ashevak playfully and whimsically layers pattern, colour and symmetry. The result is a theatrical composition, where the artist’s signature owl, playing the role of court jester, commands our attention alongside two feathered companions. – Britt Gallpen, Editor


Miriam Qiyuk, Umiaq Migration, mid 1990s

Lot 76 | Walker’s

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Miriam Qiyuk (1933 Qamani’tuaq/Baker Lake) Umiaq Migration mid 1990s Stone 32 x 13.8 x 7.5 cm

Miriam Qiyuk’s Umiaq Migration is a variation of a scene made familiar and iconic by Joe Talirunili in the 1970s. Qiyuk has made the subject her own though, by stylizing the figures and removing the paddles and sails that Talirunili often includes. Qiyuk, a daughter of Jessie Oonark, and one of the most prolific women carvers of Qamani’tuaq ( Baker Lake) passed away earlier this year and one can only hope that works like this striking migration scene will call for a critical evaluation of her oeuvre in the years to come. – John Geoghegan, Images Coordinator


Unidentified (Spence Bay / Taloyoak), Transforming Shaman With Helper Spirit, c. 1960s

Lot 180 | Waddington’s

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Unidentified (Taloyoak/Spence Bay) Transforming Shaman With Helper Spirit c. 1960’s Whalebone 43.2 x 35.6 x 20.3 cm

Carved out of whalebone, Transforming Shaman with Helper Spirit captures a shaman caught in-between forms; the figure is in flux and its expression seems to me as if it is one of distress or anxiety. In contrast to this is the spirit’s calm expression, as it assists the shaman in finding a final form. The natural perforations of the whalebone add an element of fluidity to the transformation, which I find particularly compelling.  – Ashley McLellan, Program Officer – Artist Biographical Database


William Noah, The Skeletoned Caribou, 1973
Lot 147 | Walker’s

William Noah (b. 1943 Qamani’tuaq/Baker Lake) The Skeletoned Caribou 1973 (1974 #19) Stonecut and stencil A/P 63.5 x 94 cm

This brightly coloured print is one of my favourite Inuit graphics because of the way in which the bright, bold, almost cheerful colours contrast with the detailed anatomical rendering of the caribou. What could be gruesome is instead transformed into a celebration of the animal while not shying away from the reality of its inevitable death. The fact that the work is an artist’s proof makes it even more special. – Alysa Procida, Executive Director and Publisher


Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok, Mother and Two Children, 1971-74
Lot 185 | Walker’s

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Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok (1934-2012 Arviat) Mother and Two Children 1971-74 Stone 3.1 x 10 x 3.4 cm

This diminutive piece by Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok delicately captures the artist’s choice subject, family, in a beautiful jade green stone. Despite its unassuming size, this small work captured me in person and struck me so deeply I woke up with it still on my mind. – Britt Gallpen, Editor

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