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Shows to See over the Break: December 22, 2016, to January 4, 2017

As art openings events slow down over the holiday break, it’s actually a great chance to catch up on big museum shows one may have missed, especially in cities where one may be travelling. Here are some recommendations; for more, see our Exhibition Finder.


At the Art Gallery of Ontario, “Toronto: Tributes + Tributaries” is an essential exhibition surveying art in and around the city from 1978 to 1989. Curated by Wanda Nanibush and putting many works on display for the first time since the gallery’s 2008 renovation, the show includes works by Michael Snow, Joanne Tod, the Clichettes, Barbara Astman, Robert Houle, June Clarke and Lillian Allen. Fans of Van Gogh and Monet will also want to catch “Mystical Landscapes” at the gallery, and, though tiny, “Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures” packs a surprising punch.

Elsewhere, the Power Plant presents “Yto Barrada: Faux Guide,” in which the Marcel Duchamp Prize–nominated artist explores the Moroccan fossil and mineral trade; “Some weep, some blow flutes,” an exhibition by Berlin-based artist Maria Loboda; and “Latifa Echakhch: Cross Fade,” a wall painting of the sky appears to be falling apart.


“Vancouver Special: Ambivalent Pleaures” assembles works by some 40 Vancouver-connected artists at the Vancouver Art Gallery, including Derya Akay, Raymond Boisjoly, Jeneen Frei Njootli, Tamara Henderson and Garry Neill Kennedy. Also at the gallery: Sonnu Assu’s continuing interventions into the works of Emily Carr.

Elsewhere in the city, “Guillaume Leblon: Untangled Figures” at the Contemporary Art Gallery offers the first solo exhibition by French artist Leblon in a Canadian museum. It closes January 1, along with a show of works in the CAG’s windows by Dutch artist Mirjam Linschooten and Canadian artist Sameer Farooq.


The Biennale de Montréal continues at various venues in the city—including the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, where you can see works by Valérie Blass, Elaine Cameron Weir, Shannon Bool and Moyra Davey, among others. Also make sure to check out Kerry James Marshall’s contributions to the biennial, on view at the Musée des beaux-arts.

Beyond the biennial juggernaut, take in the thoughtful blockbusters “Focus Perfection: Robert Mapplethorpe” and “Elles Photographes”—the latter featuring photos by Janieta Eyre, Catherine Opie, Kiki Smith and Jacynthe Carrier—at the Musée des beaux-arts.


“Art truly is a universal language that can communicate any idea, any feeling, of anyone, regardless of their social standing, their religious beliefs or the language they speak.” So says Alex Janvier, the senior Denesuline/Saulteaux artist currently being honoured with a retrospective at the National Gallery of Canada. The show includes more than 150 paintings and drawings—including ones the Alberta-based artist made early on in residential school.

Also at the NGC: The 2016 Sobey Art Award exhibition—featuring work by winner Jeremy Shaw as well as finalists Hajra Waheed, Brenda Draney, Charles Stankievech and William Robinson—and “Cutline: The Photography Archives of the Globe and Mail,” one of the outstanding shows at Toronto’s Contact Photography Festival this past year.


“It’s in the Making” at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria shines a light on creators who “use the act of making as a process of thinking.” It features new works by artists with a connection to the west coast: Angela Teng, Shelley Penfold and Jess Willa Wheaton, and site-specific installations by Nicholas Galanin, Cedric, Nathan and Jim Bomford.

Also at the AGGV right now: Carol Sawyer’s “The Natalie Brettschneider Archive.” For more than 15 years, the Vancouver-based Sawyer has been collecting and recreating photographs, texts, video and music recitals reconstructing the life and work of genre-blurring, fictional artist Natalie Brettschneider (bringing real historic women artists back to attention). See some of them here.


The thoughtful travelling exhibition “1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group” makes visible an art history unknown to many Canadians. See it at the Glenbow over the holidays.

Also worth seeing at the museum: the third and final installment of the One New Work series, which focuses on senior Calgary artist M.N. Hutchinson and a project which began in 1999 with Hutchinson taking one photograph every minute of the day on the longest day of the millennium. Selecting from more than 900 photos taken over 19 hours, the exhibition draws on film negatives, contact sheets and new photographic prints made with traditional darkroom methods to depict the adventures of a photographer exploring time and place. And on a related note around time and space, Bill Viola’s Walking on the Edge closes at the Glenbow on January 8.

Elsewhere, “VSVSVS: at the same time” features collaborative works by the Toronto collective at Contemporary Calgary. Works by emerging artists Jayda Karsten and Lindsay Sorrell also promise to intrigue in the Contemporary Calgary series “NEXT2016.”


Steenbeckett (2002) is the result of an UK commission that saw Atom Egoyan transform space in the former Museum of Mankind in London. For the installation, Egoyan used excerpts of 35-mm footage from his film version of the Samuel Beckett play Krapp’s Last Tape, and ran them through a Steenbeck editing table, with a film loop filling the gallery space. The work finally had its North American premiere at the MacKenzie Art Gallery this fall, and it’s still on display through the holidays—but only till January 2, so hurry.

Elsewhere, at the Dunlop Art Gallery, there’s a chance to see films on migration by Mkrtich Tonoyan, as well as the German Expressionist–inflected Eyes of Sorrow Moon by Gerald Saul. And at the Dunlop’s Sherwood Gallery location, Bruce Montcombroux explores explores identity, geography, landscape, and place-making in the 21st century, with a show that wraps January 4.


“Boarder X” at the Winnipeg Art Gallery presents contemporary work by artists from Indigenous nations across Canada who surf, skate, and snowboard. See work by Jordan Bennett, Roger Crait, Steven Thomas Davies, Mark Igloliorte, Mason Mashon, Meghann O’Brien and Les Ramsay. Also at the gallery: Australian Vernon Ah Kee’s “cantchant,” consisting of surfboards that reflect traditional shield designs in the colours of the Australian Aboriginal flag, and on the flip side, beautifully drawn portraits of family.

Also not to be missed: “Superimposition: Sculpture and Image” at Plug In ICA, featuring work by Nadia Belerique, Valérie Blass, Ursula Johnson, Kelly Lycan, Ursula Mayer, Kristin Nelson, Dominique Rey and Andrea Roberts. That wraps up January 1.


The Art Gallery of Alberta has a variety of interesting exhibitions on hand: “David Altmejd: The Vessel,” touring from the National Gallery of Canada, is a monumentally scaled Plexiglas sculpture that exemplifies movement, transformation and the act of artistic creation “Damian Moppett and Ron Moppett: Every Story Has Two Sides” explores the commonalities and intersections of their artistic practices, and examines a shared interest in mining the history of art. “Hannah Doerksen: A Story We Tell Ourselves About Ourselves” offers, among other attractions, “life-sized faux-marble statues cheekily imitate[ing] Neo-classical works of religious allegory, casting shade towards prescribed archetypes of morality.” And “The Edge: The Abstract and The Avant-Garde in Canada” brings together works by some of the most recognized artists in Canadian art history, as well as early pioneers of abstraction like Fritz Brandtner, Bertram Brooker and Kathleen Munn.


The wide-ranging “Terroir: a Nova Scotia Survey” presents works by 29 artists working in the province, mining its history and culture, and offering a diversity of production. Catch it at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to take in works by Lorraine Field, Ursula Johnson, Sarah Maloney and Melanie Colosimo, among others. Also at the AGNS right now: “Return to Nova Scotia,” featuring art that was recently acquired by the gallery from the private collection of Peter Winkworth. Among the highlights: a rare French-period representation of a Mi’kmaw family canoeing in the Strait of Canso, a group of late 18th century Abolitionist objects, and some maritime battle scenes from the War of 1812.

St. John’s

Sakkijâjuk—a Labrador Inuit term meaning, “to be visible”—is the name of a groundbreaking exhibition that highlights the little known craft and artworks produced in Nunatsiavut (the Inuit region of Labrador) over half a century of production. See it at the Rooms before it begins its Canadian tour. And also catch photos by Jennie Williams at the gallery; Williams was born and raised in Labrador in the most southern Inuit region in the circumpolar Arctic. Recent bodies of work reveal her deep interest and love for Inuit cultural traditions, especially the photographic series Nalujuk Night, shot in Nain, where she lives, and photos of urban Inuit recently taken in St. John’s.

Fogo Island

Lithuanian artist Augustas Serapinas has taken one of the many existing sheds on Barr’d Islands and reconfigured it in the Fogo Island Gallery for a show opening on December 23. Later, he will deconstruct the shed, use it as a shipping container, and send it over the Europe for use in other installations. Get the scoop at the opening reception December 23 from 6 to 8 p.m.

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