Cape Dorset annual print exhibition celebrates Inuit art

One of the most sought-after events for collectors of Inuit art — the Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection exhibition — takes place today.

‘Its popularity just gets stronger every year,’ says Iqaluit museum curator

Tim Pitsiulak's Running Rabbit, one of the pieces in this year's Cape Dorset print collection. (submitted by Dorset Fine Arts)

One of the most sought-after events for collectors of Inuit art — the Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection — opens this Saturday and some are using the occasion to remember Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook.

'It’s always exciting and every year people are anxiously waiting for the event,' says Gyu Oh the curator at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum. (Travis Burke/CBC)

In Nunavut, the collection will be on display and up for sale at Iqaluit's Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum.

The annual collection, presented by Dorset Fine Arts, started in 1959 and showcases some of the best work produced by Nunavut's most famous printmakers. 

"It's always exciting and every year people are anxiously waiting for the event," says Gyu Oh, curator at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum.

After stone carvings, printmaking is the best known form of Inuit art, says Oh, adding that more and more collectors are turning on to these works.

"Its popularity just gets stronger every year," says Oh.

'The images always reflect the daily lives of people up North,' says Gyu Oh. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

This year the collection features 27 prints including a few large format pieces. The majority of the works are traditional stone-cut prints with a few lithographs and etchings in the mix.

"The images always reflect the daily lives of people up North," says Oh.

A few decades ago, the art showed predominantly traditional scenes of Inuit life in the Arctic.

This year's collection includes both traditional as well as modern pieces with images inspired by Arctic wildlife dominant in the collection.

Two artists to watch for this year are Tim Pitsiulak and Ningeokuluk Teevee.

"Choose what speaks to you," is Oh's advice to anyone buying art for the first time.

Tim Pitsiulak's Double Tusked Narwhal, part of the Cape Dorset print collection. (submitted by Dorset Fine Arts)

Remembering Annie Pootoogook

This year's print sale has a bittersweet undertone as many artists and art lovers take the opportunity to remember Cape Dorset-born artist Annie Pootoogook, who died recently in Ottawa and whose death is under investigation.

'The new generation are bringing contemporary ideas into art. It's very pleasing to see,' says Jimmy Manning. (Chris Publat)

Jimmy Manning is the former manager of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op which runs the Cape Dorset print shop.

"It's regrettable that over the years, we have lost incredible artists," said Manning in Inuktitut.

"Their successors — some who are their children, the new generation — are bringing contemporary ideas into art. It's very pleasing to see."

with files from Madeleine Allakariallak and Michael Salomonie