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Songs of Experience: A Landmark National Exhibition

Geographically isolated from the art market and from the close-knit communities of artists, writers, curators and dealers that shape it—most notably those in Toronto and Montreal—the National Gallery of Canada is, for good or bad, uniquely equipped to pass judgment on the direction of contemporary art in this country. And this it does, every few years or so, selecting for temporary enshrinement a group of artists who, together or individually, represent important trends and achievements.

It is a difficult task, and for more than a year the movements of staff curators Jessica Bradley and Diana Nemiroff have been closely watched as anticipation about their show mounts. After months of preparation, their exhibition, Songs of Experience (May 2 to September 1, 1986, at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa), not only provides answers to those observers who’ve been engaged in a curatorial guessing-game, but also identifies a new mind-set at the NGC. The last special exhibition at the gallery before the new building opens in 1988, Songs of Experience is a weather-vane for institutional winds of change, a token of the cautious seriousness characteristic of museums here today.

So begins the cover story from the Spring 1986 issue of Canadian Art. To keep reading, view a PDF of the entire article.

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