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News in Brief: Museum-Repair Funding, Doig at Auction, Vancouver Mayor Joins Gallery & More

Our editors’ weekly roundup of Canadian art news.

Canadian Heritage officials are warning new minister Mélanie Joly that Ottawa will need to spend tens of millions more on museums because most are in old buildings that require urgent repairs,” the Globe and Mail reports. Apparently, “briefing notes provided to the minister show that 77 per cent of the more than 1,500 museums and galleries in Canada are in buildings that are more than 35 years old and are in need of upgrades. Meanwhile, the six national museums that fall directly under Ottawa’s responsibility”—including the National Gallery of Canada—”are underfunded by $20-million a year, which officials say is being covered by program-spending cuts.”

Peter Doig‘s paintings continued to grow in value at the Christie‘s auction in London on February 11, ArtInfo reports. In particular, Doig’s 1991 painting The Architect’s Home in the Ravine—which depicts Toronto architect Eberhard Zeidler‘s home on the city’s Rosedale Ravine—sold to a telephone bidder “in a brief two-bid duel for the top lot price of £11,282,500/$16,370,908 (est. £10-15 million).” As ArtInfo notes, “it had last sold at Christie’s London in February 2013 for £7,657,250 against a £4-6 million pre-sale estimate.” Another Doig, Island Painting from 2000-2001, “featuring a bearded figure poised in the middle of an impossibly long red canoe, sans paddle, sold to yet another telephone bidder for £3,442,500/$4,995,068 (est. £2-3 million).”

Saskatoon is looking at a new public art policy, and debate is continuing about it. The proposed policy would see projects with at least $5 million in city funding have a public art spending set at up to 1 per cent of its budget. Artist Douglas Bentham is questioning whether Saskatoon city staff have the expertise needed to successfully manage such a program. More details in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix.

The crash in oil prices is sparking conversation about whether (or how) Edmonton should deal with a pre-existing plan to develop the Galleria, a multi-faceted arts facility that would include the University of Alberta‘s music, art and design programs. Writing in the Edmonton Journal, commentator Paula Simons calls it “the zombie project that will not die,” contending that “many in the Edmonton arts community oppose the Galleria, which they see as a luxury venue they’ll never be able to afford, and one that is siphoning off their own traditional donors.”

Various career moves and shifts were announced on the Canadian art scene this week, including Gerald McMaster being named Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture & Curatorial Practice at OCAD University. McMaster, who is a member of the Order of Canada, has held curatorial positions at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. His research will examine how can Indigenous artists engage with the non-Indigenous world while maintaining their difference, as well as how Indigenous artists and cultures view their colonizers in the context of their art.

In Calgary, the Alberta College of Art and Design is celebrating the appointment of Lorenzo Fusi as the new academic curator of the Illingworth Kerr Gallery. In addition to his time as international curator at the Liverpool Biennial, Fusi’s previous tenures include being director of Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool and contemporary art curator of the Santa Maria della Scala Museum in Siena.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is now an honourary trustee of the Vancouver Art Gallery. ““The appointment of Mayor Robertson as Honorary Trustee reinforces the significant role of arts in our city under the leadership of Mayor Robertson. We will continue to work with our partners at the City of Vancouver towards the realization of a new purpose-built Vancouver Art Gallery for everyone,” said VAG director Kathleen Bartels in a press statement. Bartels also welcomed new board chair David Calabrigodeemed by the Straight as a longtime supporter of the VAG and its ongoing efforts to move and rebuild—and new board trustees Christian Chan, Amelia Gao and Gordon MacDougall.

The board of the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition announced that artist Anahita Azrahimi has joined as executive director. Azrahimi has previously worked in arts management with Creative Trust, Theatre Direct and Dancemakers. She sits on the advisory board of Theatre Direct’s International WeeFestival, and the Arts Management program at Centennial College. She has served on the steering committee of CPAMO (Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement) and juried for the Ontario Arts Council. TOAE is Canada’s largest and longest running outdoor art exhibition.

In sadder news, it became more widely known this week that Inuit artist Jutai Toonoo—known for his bold and sometimes rebellious works—had died on December 28, 2015. As the Globe and Mail reports, Toonoo was felled “by atherosclerotic hypertensive heart disease a little more than three weeks after his 56th birthday, reportedly as he worked on a portrait of his wife of almost 40 years.”

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