Toronto - The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is pleased to present Canada Collects: Treasures from Across the Nation, an integral component of the Museum’s Fall 2007 A Season of Canada. This original ROM exhibition is on display in the ROM’s Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall on Level B2 in the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal from Saturday, October 6, 2007 until Sunday, January 6, 2008.
Canada Collects celebrates the art of collecting in Canada as well as the inaugural year of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. Approximately 70 vital objects on loan from some 50 different Canadian institutional and private collections are featured in this eclectic exhibition, from contemporary paintings to original historical manuscripts, illustrating the depth and strength of collections across Canada.
William Thorsell, the ROM’s Director and CEO, said, “The ROM is pleased to bring together these highlights from the leading collections in the country--everything from important Canadian historic artifacts to internationally recognized works of fine art. Canada Collects’ variety and range of objects aptly demonstrate the diversity of Canada and its avid collectors, both individual and institutional.”
Kenneth Lister, Assistant Curator in the ROM’s World Cultures Department and the lead curator of Canada Collects, stated, “It may seem that a gold brooch created by Northwest Coast artist Bill Reid has little relation to the landing gear of the Avro Arrow. It may appear that The Kiss by Constantin Brancusi and a Métis wedding dress make curious companions. However, these juxtapositions form one of the compelling features of this exhibition, where objects chosen by individual collectors blend together in a composition that maps Canadian passions."
The exhibition’s unique structure underlines the fraternity among great museums and individual collectors as well as Canadians’ sophisticated interest in the cultures of other places. For the Museum’s many international and national visitors, it also highlights the diversity of Canadian collections, assembled at the ROM for the first and only time in this remarkable exhibition.
Assembling some of the most iconic historical Canadian artifacts in the country, Canada Collects is certain to strike a patriotic chord among many visitors. From an early 1709 Hudson’s Bay Company map of the Hudson’s Bay and Straits, to the 1982 Proclamation of the Canadian Constitution Act, the exhibit touches on many aspects of the country’s political and social history. Other notable Canadian items include Lucy Maud Montgomery’s original manuscript for Anne of Green Gables (1905), Walter S. Allward’s powerful maquette, Justice, for the Vimy Ridge Memorial (1936), the first Canadian maple leaf flag (1965) and Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s birchbark canoe (c. 1968). Canada Collects also illustrates how important works of fine and decorative arts from around the world have enriched private and public collections in this country. Notable artists represented in the exhibition include Francis Bacon, Constantin Brancusi, René Magritte, George Segal and James Tissot; with Canadian contributions from Lawren Harris, Joe Fafard and Jeff Wall, among others described below. With regard to decorative arts, Canada Collects includes textiles, ceramics, religious items, decorative sculptures, and furniture.
Introducing the exhibition to the visitor is the sculpture Chateau d’eau: lumière mythique, on loan from the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Comprised of cedar wood, metal, lights and a motor, this large-scale 1997 work by Irene F. Whittome, a Vancouver-born, internationally renowned and awarded multi-media artist, establishes the exhibition’s objective and position: connecting the art, artist and collector. For Whittome, this tower for collecting water evokes her childhood and the sources of energy of her youth: B.C.’s Fraser River, the St. Lawrence River and all the seas that affect her and her world to this day.
Objects in the exhibition are positioned in a largely chronological manner. Among the oldest pieces are a collection of carved caribou bone and antler pendants, made by the Beothuk, the now extinct aboriginal residents of the Island of Newfoundland. Dated to the 18th and 19th centuries, these small, thin pendants, some resembling human or bear digits, were created to be both decorative as well as spiritually or magically significant. The pendants are on loan to the ROM from The Rooms Provincial Museum of St. John’s, Newfoundland, a landmark facility whose collection of approximately 200 Beothuk pendants is the largest in the world.
The exhibition’s final objects originate in the 21st century. These include a Hiroshi Sugimoto black and white photograph of Mexican architect’s Luis Barragan’s buildings, Satellite Towers, considered to be among the world’s greatest sculptural monuments. On loan from a private collection, the photograph dates to 2000-2001 and is part of Sugimoto’s architectural series. It is the last object encountered by visitors in the exhibition.
Between the exhibition’s first and final objects are numerous highlights. Among them is a Cree dress, circa 1848, worn by Cun-ne-wa-bum, a woman of Plains Cree and British ancestry. On loan to the ROM from the Manitoba Museum, this dress was collected by pioneering Canadian artist Paul Kane and is one of a few of its kind in existence today. Kane’s painting (circa 1848-56) of the woman wearing the dress is owned by the ROM and will be on display near the dress.
Another notable object is the metallic Flush-Batten Wideboard canoe. On loan from the Canadian Canoe Museum, this craft was manufactured in 1900 by the Brown Boat Company and represents the superb craftsmanship of canoe builders in Ontario’s Lakefield and Peterborough areas. It also displays unique innovations in construction as the wood canoe developed.