"Women and Children" by Miriam Qiyuk,1990, Stone (Ernest Mayer)
Winnipeg was a booming, optimistic city in 1912 and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, or as it was known then, the Winnipeg Museum of Fine Arts, was part of an expression of this grand optimism and making Winnipeg into a world class city in Canada.
—Andrew Kear, WAG Curator
The countdown is on. It is now 100 days until the Winnipeg Art Gallery celebrates is big centennial year.
Looking back, it's been 100 years of firsts for the WAG:
1. The WAG was the first civic art gallery in Canada.
Andrew Kear is curator of Canadian Historical Art and a font of knowledge about the gallery's history.
"Winnipeg was a booming, optimistic city in 1912," he says, "and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, or as it was known then, the Winnipeg Museum of Fine Arts, was part of an expression of this grand optimism and making Winnipeg into a world class city in Canada."
Winnipeg was the third largest city in Canada at the time and was called the "gateway to the west." There were 19 millionaires in the city. The grain industry and wholesale industry were big.
2. The first acquisition actually purchased for the WAG's collection was a painting called The Prairie by Lionel Lemoine FitzGerald. He had his first major solo exhibition at the WAG in 1921. He sold the painting to the gallery for $300, and that sum financed his education in New York.
3. The first Inuit works were purchased in 1956. "When you consider the history of contemporary Inuit art, which goes back to only 1949, that's very recent," insists Kean.
The collection is now comprised of more than 11,000 works, making it the largest collection of Inuit art in the world.
4. The first director of the gallery, Allan Eastman wasn't appointed until 1951. But Alexander Musgrove was one of the first influential curators, followed by Lionel Lemoine FitzGerald, who was the principal of the School of Art, which was closely associated with the gallery. So his role was very influential.
5. The gallery was first housed in the Board of Trade Building on Main and Water Streets. In 1930/31 it moved to the Civic Auditorium, now the Manitoba Archives.
Its current building is made of Manitoba Tyndall stone and was constructed in 1970 during the tenure of Ferdinand Eckhardt.
Festivities get under way on September 29 with a big birthday bash all day, followed by Nuit Blanche all night. Some fabulous exhibits are in the works for the whole centennial year.
Andrew Kear will be curating an exhibit called The WAG Century, opening on August 13.