Sunday, May 07, 2006

Winnipeg: WAG

It pains me to report that Winnipeg Art Gallery has gone the way of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto (ROM) and the Denver Art Museum (DAM) and picked up the moniker WAG. I think that along with striking architecture, all museums in Canada feel the need to make their identity felt with a single syllable three letter nickname.

However, having been unable to get into DAM, and been disappointed with the direction of the new extension of ROM, I'm pleased to find myself in Winnipeg when the WAG is open. It opened in it's current form in 1971, in an attractive modern stone building designed by Gustavo da Roza. The skin of the building is more or less entirely sheethed in stone, but's a beautifully patterned skin of Manitoba Tyndell stone, which features a wafting patten that is a joy to get lost in.

$4 gets you student admission, and it was worth every penny. There was a forgetable exhibition of contemporary art by the young radicals of Winnipeg's art scene, but the main collection of principally Canadian art was impressive. There's also a stunning collection of Inuit art, including dozens of beautiful soapstone and ivory carvings. The collection here is one of the largest of it's kind, and is well worth exploring.

A temporary show of prints by the Aboriginal/Manitoban artists Daphne Oajig also caught my eye, with beautifully bright and flowing images representing Inuit scenes and family groupings. The 'love' sequence was particularly touching.

I find that even if I limit myself to one gallery a day, there comes a mid-point when I need to rest. This was amply catered for by the attractive side rooms that are furnished with comfy chairs facing large picture windows onto the street. This gallery is well worth an afternoon of your time, and on this peaceful Sunday I thoroughly enjoyed the collection that was display.

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