World’s largest Inuit art collection on display in Winnipeg

World’s largest Inuit art collection on display in Winnipeg
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TORONTO —
The world’s largest collection of traditional and contemporary Inuit art is now open to the public in downtown Winnipeg.

The Qaumajuq Inuit art gallery, which virtually opened to the public Thursday, is a multi-level exhibit housing thousands of sculptures, carvings, and modern pieces of cultural items.

The gallery’s name was chosen by the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Indigenous Advisory Circle in response to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples.

“In Inuit it means bright,” Jocelyn Piirainen, assistant art curator, told CTV News.

Qaumajuq features the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world, with about 14,000 pieces and another 7,500 on long-term loan from the Government of Nunavut. The 40,000-square-foot facility serves not only as a place to showcase Inuit culture, but also as a gathering place to educate its visitors.

Additionally, the facility will also be used to conduct cultural research.

Instead of the building having flat walls, its interior has rounded sides that offer a contemporary design. The centre cost approximately $65 million and has been in the works since May 2018.

Inside, a glass vault housing roughly 5,000 carvings, sculptures and paintings from across Canada, towers four storeys from floor-to-ceiling in the centre of the facility.

“There’s actually 34 different communities represented in this vault, and it’s really interesting to see the style of stone types from one community to another,” said Piirainen.

The exhibit features a variety of work curated from Inuit artists in northern Canada and around the world.

The gallery aims to share deep-rooted messages while also welcoming new forms of art. The gallery exhibits many items that are most often associated with Inuit culture; however, the facility also embraces new forms of art.

“A lot of the younger artists, I’d say are taking up different contemporary mediums. They are turning to video and sound and audio installation pieces and mixing them together,” said Piirainen.

The in-person gallery is free to the public this weekend, and it is hosting free virtual tours for people to participate from home, which will include musical performances, such as throat-singing and hoop dancing.

“I’m hoping that people are inspired by what they see here and also that they want to learn more about Inuit history and culture,” said Piirainen.

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