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News / October 3, 2019

News Roundup: Totem Pole Section Vandalized, Then Returned, at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

The totem pole by Kwakiutl artist Charles Joseph relates to residential schools; vandals removed a hand from it. Also: a permanent stained-glass memorial to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is unveiled in New Brunswick, a public-art tribute to Raptors fans gets prepped in Toronto, the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation launches in Montreal and Eyelevel Gallery in Halifax is forced to move
Charles Joseph's Residential School Totem Pole has been installed outside the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for two years or so. Recently, a lower portion of the pole was removed by vandals. Vandals later returned the missing piece with an apology. Photo: Facebook / Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Charles Joseph's Residential School Totem Pole has been installed outside the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for two years or so. Recently, a lower portion of the pole was removed by vandals. Vandals later returned the missing piece with an apology. Photo: Facebook / Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Earlier this week, we reported on some of the Global Climate Strike activity in Canada’s art institution sector. But a lot more has happened, too. Here’s an overview.

A totem pole was vandalized, then returned, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Security footage from late September shows that two individuals removed a hand from Kwakiutl artist Charles Joseph’s Residential School Totem Pole, which has been installed outside the museum for the past two years. The museum then issued an appeal for the hand to be returned. On October 2, the museum stated that the hand had been returned overnight on October 1 with a note of apology. “Both the artist and owner are reportedly ‘very pleased with this conclusion,’” says APTN. “The museum will be working to restore the piece to its original form.” (APTN, Global News, APTN)

A Saskatchewan man has been barred from the US for five years after trying to volunteer at an arts festival in Washington State. “Kyle Kuchirka, 25, an actor and recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan’s drama department, said he tried to cross the U.S. border…to volunteer his skills at the Sh’Bang Art Festival near Bellingham, Wash.,” the CBC reports. US customs officials reportedly took issue with whether Kuchirka, who is also a set designer, was volunteering or doing paid work without authorization. Appeal of the five-year ban is possible, but Kuchirka isn’t sure he will proceed, given the cost. (CBC Saskatoon)

Discussing the appropriation of Indigenous music in Canadian art song. A new podcast episode is looking at this topic in conversation with Kwagiulth and Stó:lo mezzo-soprano Marion Newman and Métis composer Ian Cusson. And yes, “Land of the Silver Birch” may be up for needed critique. (CBC Music)

Public Art

A permanent stained-glass memorial to missing and murdered Indigenous women has been unveiled at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. Pauline Young’s She Lights the Way is installed at the Wallace McCain Student Centre. Young is a Mi’kmaq artist who lives in Whitney, New Brunswick. A red dress is a central feature of the work. The project was funded by a federal grant specifically directed at projects paying tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women. (CBC New Brunswick)

Public art in PEI goes beyond the celebration of Confederation. Mi’kmaq photographer Patricia Bourque and Maria Campbell, a painter of European ancestry, have joined together to create a public art exhibit in Charlottetown about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. “I want to see more Mi’kmaq representation not only just in Charlottetown but across Prince Edward Island,” said Bourque. (CBC Prince Edward Island)

A monument to Raptors fans is among the artworks on view at Toronto Nuit Blanche this weekend. The work by Esmaa Mohamoud and Bryan Espiritu will be on view at Queen and Bay on Saturday, then installed outside Scotiabank Arena for the next basketball season. A recent NOW feature about the work and its artists also touches on mental health, racism and sport. (NOW Toronto)

Canadian artist’s bronze sculpture about the refugee crisis has been unveiled at St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Timothy Schmalz, of Kitchener-Waterloo, is known in part for his Homeless Jesus series of public sculptures installed outside churches within and beyond Canada. The new bronze is called Angels Unawares, and was unveiled by Pope Francis and four refugees on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The sculpture depicts a range of figures, including “a Hasidic Jew escaping Nazi Germany, a Syrian fleeing civil war, [and] a Polish refugee running from the Communist regime,” the CBC reports. (CBC News)

Toronto murals unexpectedly painted over. “A community project meant to beautify a Toronto laneway has turned into ‘a debacle’ for homeowners after work by some of the city’s top graffiti artists was painted over, turning a colourful public space into an alley of black paint,” the CBC reports. Just seven of the previously installed murals in the Laneway Project were to have been painted over, but instead the artist hired painted over all 26 murals, mostly with solid black paint. (CBC Toronto)


Steve Martin is selling one of his Lawren Harris artworks. A few years ago, the famous actor made headlines when he co-curated Harris’s art for exhibitions in Toronto, Boston and Los Angeles, bringing new American awareness to the Group of Seven’s oeuvre. The work Martin is selling, Harris’s Mountain Sketch LXX, valued at an estimated $300,000 to $500,000, will be presented at a Heffel auction taking place November 20 at the Design Exchange in Toronto. (CTV / Canadian Press)

A new Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation has launched. The  chair of the foundation’s board of directors, Michael Audain, says in a release that “The Foundation’s objective is to promote the rediscovery of Riopelle’s legacy as an iconic visionary, a symbol of freedom, creativity and experimentation.” The foundation will support a series of national and international initiatives to be deployed over the next four years, culminating with a centenary celebration in 2023. The foundation will also serve as a repository for the Riopelle archive. The founding board includes André Desmarais, Pierre Lassonde, Serge Joyal, John R. Porter and Yseult Riopelle. (Canada NewsWire)

Art Spaces

Eyelevel in Halifax is moving. “We received notice from our landlords that [the] building on 5663 Cornwallis Street is getting shut down to repair water damage to the upper levels. Eyelevel is making an emergency move to the space above Radstorm on Gottingen Street during the month of October and seeking volunteers to help make this possible,” says a recent email from the gallery. “We are working hard to keep our planned October programs running during this time.” (emailed release)

Mercer Union is the inaugural guest of the Art-Space Residency and Exhibition at KADIST San Francisco. While there, Mercer Union is presenting Native Art Department International: Bureau of Aesthetics from October 20 to January 20. Native Art Department International (NADI) is a collaborative project by Toronto-based artists Maria Hupfield and Jason Lujan focusing on “communications platforms and art-world systems of support while at the same time functioning as emancipation from essentialism and identity-based artwork,” says a release. This will be the group’s first solo exhibition on the West Coast of the US. (press release)

Art Fairs

Some Canadians are at Frieze London. Toronto dealer Cooper Cole is in the fair’s Focus section, featuring work by Jenine Marsh and Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill, among others. General Idea’s work is featured in a Spotlight solo booth by Zurich’s Mai 36 Galerie. And Toronto-based artist Ghazaleh Avarzamani is featured with a piece in Frieze Sculpture, the public-art component of the fair. (Frieze London)

Art Toronto is adding a new public art component. The piece will be installed in the lobby of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, downstairs from the fair. Public art highlights will include a 10-foot-tall sculpture made of rulers by Kristiina Lahde; a video installation composed of 12 43-inch television monitors mounted on a circular plywood structure by Mathieu Valade; and an inflated structure, standing eight feet tall in the form of a book by Divya Mehra. “We believe art should be accessible to all. That’s the beauty in public art, and why we decided to make it an important and celebrated part of this year’s fair,” said Mia Nielsen, the new director of Art Toronto, in a release. The fair runs October 25 to 27. (emailed press release)

Art Films

More programming highlights have been released for the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto. They include the world premiere of Freedom Road: Youth/Oshkaadiziig, in which youth share what it’s like to be forced to live away from their close-knit families and community to attend high school in Kenora, Ontario. It’s part of a series that tells the story of Shoal Lake 40 Anishinaabe First Nation’s battle to build a road after their community was forcibly relocated more than 100 years ago. A rediscovered Indigenous classic, Loon Lake, first released in 1969, is also screening. It is the work of the Indian Film Crew, Canada’s first all-Indigenous production unit, formed within the framework of the NFB’s community film initiative Challenge for Change. (emailed press release)

Staffing Situations

Victor Wang has been appointed chief curator of the M Woods Museum in Beijing. Wang, originally from Vancouver, has been moving between East Asia and Europe as an independent curator for many years. Among other projects, Wang curated the first institutional solo exhibition in Europe by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun in 2017 at the Canadian High Commission’s gallery in London. “Recently more museums in China are rethinking what it means to be a global museum,” Wang said in a release. “And after a successful collaboration with Tate Modern, London, and the recent expansion with the M WOODS ART COMMUNITY, I look forward to developing new ways of supporting contemporary art in this region.” (press release)

Raj Sen has been named executive director at Open Space in Victoria. Sen has been serving as acting executive director since June 1, 2018. Before arriving at the gallery, Sen was director of the Singapore branch of Sundaram Tagore Gallery and a project manager for exhibitions at the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre and the Ayala Museum in Manila. In 2015 he was the managing director of Frontiers Reimagined, a successful Collateral Event at the 56th Venice Biennale. Raj spent the majority of his youth in BC on Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw territories, and studied History in Art at the University of Victoria. (emailed release)

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has appointed Jean‑Bruno Giard as head of archives and the library. Giard will be helming an all-new department created from the merger of the museum’s archives and library services. Previously, Giard was media librarian and then head media librarian of audiovisual archives at Société Radio-Canada. He then became coordinator of special collections and project manager for the Plan culturel numérique du Québec. From 2012 to 2018, he was coordinator of digital content at the Bibilothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. (emailed press release)

Manon Gauthier is the inaugural executive director of the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation. Gauthier helped lead transformation of Montreal’s Segal Centre for Performing Arts and was responsible for culture and heritage on Montréal’s Executive Committee as an elected official. Gauthier hopes to make Riopelle’s “art known, understood and accessible to the general public whether in museums and galleries across the world, on stages and screens, or in the school classrooms.” (Canada NewsWire)

Three staff members—meaning most of the team—are departing Gallery TPW in Toronto. Curator Kim Simon and administration and development coordinator Kate Wivell resigned in September, confirms interim executive director Asad Raza via email. Installation and communications coordinator Daniella Sanader will be leaving at the end of October. “We are extremely grateful to Kim for her thoughtful and rigorous vision and her contributions to the arts ecology in Toronto. And similarly we are grateful to our staff for their incredible hard work,” Raza stated via email along with the Gallery TPW board. “This will clearly be a moment of significant transition for us and while trepidatious, we are also excited about the evolution of Gallery TPW this moment necessitates.” (via email)