“Truly Canadian”: Inuit Art and National Identity

November 14, 2011 - January 29, 2012

The exhibition explores how Inuit art has come to be perceived as “ours,” and how the Canadian government has utilized it as a means of articulating Canadian identity at home and abroad.

Truly Canadian takes as its starting point a 1987 quotation by Virginia Watt in Inuit Art Quarterly: “If we discount hockey arenas and football and baseball stadia, Canadians are not ordinarily perceived as a passionate people, except, it appears, on the subject of Inuit art. Inuit art is ours; it is truly Canadian.”

Since the 1950s, the government has officially supported, promoted, and marketed Inuit art in a variety of ways, including circulating travelling exhibitions, presenting gifts to foreign dignitaries, distributing special print portfolios, and disseminating images on stamps and coins.

The exhibition featured original prints and sculptures as well as the consumer products – stamps and coins – they inspired. It also presents special projects, such as a portfolio of Kenojuak Ashevak engravings released in 1967 to mark Canada’s centennial.

Curated by

Michelle Bauldic

Artists in the exhibition

Kenojuak Ashevak, Parr, Helen Kalvak, Pudlo Pudlat, Jessie Oonark, Kananginak Pootoogook