The exhibition “Early Days: Indigenous Art at the McMichael” tells the story of the Gallery’s long history with the art of Indigenous Peoples, reaching back to the collecting practices of McMichael Canadian Art Collection founders Robert and Signe McMichael. Their early forays into collecting Indigenous art included major acquisitions of Inuit prints and sculptures; masks, historic rattles, headdresses and totem poles from the Northwest Coast of British Columbia; and paintings and prints by the Woodland School of artists in Ontario, in particular the work of Norval Morrisseau, who was artist in residence at the Gallery in 1979.
The McMichael’s collection has since grown to include exceptional works of contemporary art by leading artists such as Carl Beam, Alex Janvier, Bill Reid, Robert Houle, Daphne Odjig, Arthur Schilling, Shelley Niro, Faye HeavyShield and Gerald McMaster, as well as historic materials from the Great Lakes region that were donated to the Gallery by Phil Nuytten in 2013. More recent acquisitions have included works by leading contemporary artists Shuvinai Ashoona, Rebecca Belmore, Dana Claxton, Maria Hupfield, Duane Linklater, Meryl McMaster, Kent Monkman, Nadia Myre, Jeneen Frei Njootli, Tim Pitsiulak, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun and others.
As an institution, the McMichael continues to lead the way in promoting discussion on Indigenous fine art, with landmark exhibitions of works by Itee Pootoogook and Annie Pootoogook, and an upcoming exhibition of the carver Dempsey Bob. Thanks to the Gallery’s long history of strategic acquisitions and carefully cultivated donations, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection is ready to intrigue and engage audiences with “Early Days: Indigenous Art the McMichael.”