The Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal in Montréal, QC has deepened its promotion of Inuit art and culture with a recent acquisition of work by Kuujjuaq-born, Montréal-based Niap (Nancy Saunders) as well as the announcement of a new partnership with the Avataq Cultural Institute.
Clearing an internal committee of museum representatives as well as an external committee comprised of established Montréal-based artists in early June, Saunder’s sculptural installation ᑲᑕᔾᔭᐅᓯᕙᓪᓛᑦ Katajjausivallaat, le rythme bercé (2018) was acquired by the museum this summer. The piece will be the first installation work by an Inuk artist to be included in the MBAM’s collection.
“We have this will at the institution to best represent the artists of Nunavik and their involvement with the contemporary scene,” explains MBAM curator of Quebec and Canadian Art Jacques Des Rochers, who led the acquisition.
“It’s huge for my practice, and also for my people,” Saunders says about the acquisition. “To be considered as an artist who just-so-happens to be Inuk, not just tagged as a folkloric artist or Inuit artist, and to have my work part of larger discussions of contemporary art, is surreal.”
The installation, comprised of suspended stone carvings inspired by natural elements with accompanying audio of throat-singing connected to the plinths below, was first exhibited at Oboro in the Spring of 2018. Saunders is currently a second year undergraduate student in Studio Arts at Concordia University and the 2018 recipient of the Inuit Art Foundation’s Virginia J. Watt Award, which funds a Canadian Inuk currently enrolled in a post-secondary institution, or equivalent, and who demonstrates an interest in Inuit art and cultural studies. ᑲᑕᔾᔭᐅᓯᕙᓪᓛᑦ Katajjausivallaat, le rythme bercé was created by Saunders during her studies, with support from this award.
“The piece just amazed me,” Des Rochers adds. “For me, it was the first time I had been shown this sensibility where Inuit sculpture didn’t work with pedestals while also questioning that reality. When you experience the installation with the soundtrack, it gives you a better understanding of where the artist comes from.”
On September 6, 2018, the MBAM and the Avataq Cultural Institute announced a new partnership to promote Inuit art and culture as well as increasing dialogues between both institutions and surrounding communities. The partnership will see Avataq aid the MBAM in establishing lasting relationships with Nunavik communities while relocating their offices and expansive collection to various buildings owned by and near the Museum.
“I am convinced that this partnership will foster an even wider awareness of Inuit art treasures among Montréal’s general public and visitors from around the world,” said Avataq Cultural Institute president Josepi Padlayat. “The heart of Montréal is set to be home to an Inuit cultural embassy. In tandem with our presence in this city, we will continue the important work of preserving and disseminating our culture in Nunavik, which will entail moving some of our services to the region.”