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News / July 22, 2014

Artist Paul Butler Steps Down as WAG Curator

A view of “Looking Up: Contemporary Connections with Inuit Art,” one of the exhibitions Paul Butler curated during his tenure at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Photo: Ernest Mayer, Winnipeg Art Gallery. A view of “Looking Up: Contemporary Connections with Inuit Art,” one of the exhibitions Paul Butler curated during his tenure at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Photo: Ernest Mayer, Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Paul Butler, curator of contemporary art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, has decided to step down from his post after 16 months on the job.

“I realized that I’m an artist who sometimes curates, and not an institutional curator,” Butler tells Canadian Art. He took up the position in April 2013 and his last day there will be August 22, 2014.

A significant part of the reason for departing, Butler notes, is to maintain his own art career, which has been distinguished by a variety of projects—including collage parties in which artists and the public collaborate on different works.

Even after he departs the gallery, however, Butler will continue to work on selected curatorial projects for the WAG. Most notable among these is “The Bridge,” which will create an artistic exchange between the North and Winnipeg over the next few years.

“’The Bridge’ is what first initiated my conversation with the WAG,” Butler recalls. “I had this idea that I wanted bring Winnipeg artists up to Northern art communities to work in a collaborative setting—kind of like the collage parties—and then bring Inuit artists to Winnipeg.”

As Butler further elaborated in an interview with Canadian Art earlier this year, “The Bridge” also aims “to use drawing and printmaking as a common language, a way to exchange cultures. I wanted to create a platform where these two Canadian art communities could build a relationship.”

This three-phase project makes sense for the WAG given that it holds the world’s largest collection of Inuit art, and it is in the process of building a special Inuit Art Centre which will likely also figure into some phase of “The Bridge.”

“Paul Butler’s tenure as curator of contemporary art over the last year and a half has been an exciting time for the WAG and somewhat of a curatorial experiment,” WAG director and CEO Stephen Borys said in a gallery release. “We’ll miss Paul’s regular presence at the gallery but we understand his desire to get back into his studio; and we look forward to working with him on upcoming projects, particularly those connected to our contemporary Inuit art collection.”

The Winnipeg Art Gallery plans to begin a search for a new curator of contemporary art in September.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor of white settler Canadian (Irish and Ashkenazi) descent. She is also news and special sections editor at Canadian Art and has written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications. Sandals welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.