In the middle of April I received the following (in part) very sad e-mail:
It is with heavy hearts that we write to inform you that the Canadian Museum of Inuit Art (MIA) and the MIA Gift Shop will be closing its doors to the public beginning May 30th, 2016.
After nine years of fulfilling our mission to produce exceptional educational opportunities and innovative and immersive exhibitions of Inuit artistic expressions, the museum will sadly no longer be able to operate in a public-facing capacity. The difficult decision was made by the Board of Directors in March after accepting that current levels of funding and support has made the museum as it is currently structured, no longer sustainable.
I only discovered the MIA in Toronto a year or so ago when I was visiting a small exhibition of the work of Manasie Akpaliapik at the AGO. As well as introducing me to the incredible variety of Inuit art well beyond the ubiquitous soapstone carvings the Akapaliapik exhibition led me to explore other venues dedicated to the work of the Northern People of this continent. A search for the use of whalebone as a medium for carving led me to an article by one of the curators of the Museum of Inuit Art.
And two visits to the small but well laid out facility down at Queen’s Quay on the Toronto waterfront revealed Inuit art in many of its varied forms. Yes there were soapstone carvings but there was also scrimshaw, bead-work, miniatures, ceramics and works in media as varied as metal, glass, clay, stone, antler, ivory, hide and sinew.
Over the next few days I thought I’d share some photos I took of a few of the works on display during those two visits. Unfortunately it is often not possible to avoid the reflection of lights on the glass cases but I think both the beauty and the originality of the pieces still come through.
A left lick on a photo will enlarge it or lead to a slideshow where there are multiple pictures.
David Ruben Piqtoukun (b1950)
Musk-ox Man (left)
Brazilian steatite, antler
Fire Spirit Rising (right)
Stone, charcoal, unidentified medium
Women Preparing Food (left) c.1960s
Inuit Bible Class (right) c 1960s
Artists unknown – late 1800 early 1900s
Scrimshaw Cribbage Boards
This unique piece comes from an unknown source and is made of antler and stone. It is thought to be from the early 1900s and several of the birds depicted are not native to the North. Their presence is a bit of a mystery.