Just in time for Canada’s 150th birthday, the Kelowna Art Gallery is presenting an impressive exhibition of Canadian art with a unique Kelowna connection.
Seventy-eight works by some of the country’s best-known artists, including paintings, etchings, woodcuts, sculptures, carvings, stone work and even one of the country’s first flags will make up A Legacy Of Canadian Art From Kelowna Collections.
The exhibition will open at the Kelowna Art Gallery tomorrow, Canada Day, and run until Oct. 15.
“When considering how we might share in celebrating Canada’s sesquicentennial, we couldn’t think of a better way than to look at the past 150 years through the eyes of Canadian artists,” said KAG executive director Nataley Nagy.
As the name implies, all the pieces have been lent to the show by anonymous local private collectors who were contacted by an intermediary and asked if they would meet with gallery officials to discuss having their artworks included in the show.
“The lenders have been really generous,” said Nagy, adding when plans were made for the show it was decided to stick strictly with private collectors living in the city.
And the list of artists whose work is included reads like a Who’s Who of Canadian art—Arthur Lismer, Cornelius Krieghoff, A.Y. Jackson, Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, A.J. Casson, Jack Bush, Bill Reid, Gershon Iskowitz, Alex Janvier, Jack Shadbolt, Daphne Odjig and many others.
And putting it all together is well-known local curator Roger Boulet, who was pulled out of retirement to organize the show.
“After visiting a few of the (lenders), it became clear it would be possible to do a very credible show,” said Boulet.
While most of the art dates from 1867, Boulet said he wanted to include some pieces from further back to show that Canada’s indigenous people were here before contact with European settlers and they also created art work that should be seen.
He said the oldest pieces in the show are a pair of stone mortars that date back nearly 2,000 years.
“I wanted to make a statement that art has not only been around in Canada for 150 years,” said Boulet.
A veteran art director and curator who retired several years ago, Boulet said he was pleasantly surprised at the range and quality of the works in private collections in the city.
“I think we have put together an extremely varied show.”
He said some of the highlights include a 1922 painting of Bon Echo Rock by Arthur Lismer, a piece Boulet called a “knockout,” a large modern art piece by Alex Janvier, who recently had his works exhibited in a show at the National Gallery, a stunning white papier mâché impression of a carved wooden door by Bill Reid that resembles embossed art and the large Canadian Red Ensign flag.
Made of wool, linen and hemp, the flag dates back to 1868 and features the ensign and a crest showing the first four provinces in Confederation—Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The flag was used as Canada’s flag prior to the creation of today’s Maple Leaf in 1965. It predates the entry of Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia into Confederation.
Boulet said he feels the show has something for everyone and hailed the generosity of the private collectors for their willingness to share the works with the public.
While the show will, fittingly, open on Canada Day, a public reception to celebrate the opening is planned for July 15. The free event will be open to the public from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
To accompany the show, a 96-page full colour catalogue illustrating the works in the exhibition and including an essay by Boulet has also been produced.
A Legacy of Canadian Art From Kelowna Collections is sponsored by Pushor Mitchell LLP and KF Aerospace, along with financial assistance from the Rogers’ Family Charitable Trust.