Remai Modern Art Gallery receives $3M from federal government

As construction continues, executive director says Saskatoon gallery will open this fall

March 01, 2017

The Remai Modern Art Gallery has received $3 million from the federal government. (Eric Anderson/CBC)

Ottawa gave Saskatoon's Remai Modern Art Gallery a $3.1-million boost this morning.

Staff at the Remai Modern said the one-time grant will go toward finishing construction on the "Marquee" and "Feature" galleries. A portion of it will also be used to buy specialized equipment for handling art. 


The money brings Ottawa's contribution to the project to $16 million, and comes from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund.

Calling the Remai Modern a "stunning vista" along the banks of Saskatoon's river, Liberal Member of Parliament Ralph Goodale announced $3.1 million in a one-time grant to help complete work on new gallery spaces. (CBC)

Saskatchewan's lone Liberal member of Parliament Ralph Goodale was on hand for the announcement, which was held at an office complex staff described as "within sight of the new Remai Modern museum."

"I've had the chance to look at it from outside and it certainly is a stunning vista on the banks of the Saskatchewan," said Goodale. "The Mendel was a little bit downstream, this one is a little bit upstream, but keeping that Saskatoon heritage and geography in mind, that's important too."

Not counting its parkade and other amenities, city officials estimate the Remai Modern's price tag will be $84.7 million. It's primarily funded by the City of Saskatoon, with the province contributing $16.7 million toward its construction.

Open this fall

Six year ago, as a donor fundraising campaign was launched, backers of the Remai Modern told CBC they hoped to see the gallery open in 2015. Numerous construction issues have continued to delay that opening.

So, when will the gallery open?

Remai Modern CEO Gregory Burke called the $3.1-million federal grant "critically important". (CBC)

"That is a question that's probably best directed at the City of Saskatoon," said Gregory Burke, the Remai Modern's CEO and executive director. "We're expecting that the opening will most likely happen in the fall." 

He said there are 8,000 works to bring into the building, galleries to be completed, and exhibitions to be installed.

In a news release, Dan Willems, the City of Saskatoon's director of major projects said "consultants are reviewing EllisDon's application and substantial completion has not yet been certified. Work is continuing on site."

Staff now refer to the Remai Modern 'museum'

"As a world-class art museum this investment is critically important," said Burke. "We are responsible for collecting, exhibiting, preserving and interpreting works of art.

'If you're in Quebec, you wouldn't use the word gallery.' - Gregory Burke, Remai Modern CEO

That contrasts with the original vision for Saskatoon's permanent home for art exhibitions, described in Helen Coleman's 2015 book Dreaming A Gallery

Coleman referred to a 1946 annual report by the Saskatoon Art Association, advocating the city's need for "an alive gallery, not a museum."

Burke defended the use of the term "museum".

"If you're in Quebec, you wouldn't use the word gallery to describe a public collecting institution like a gallery," said Burke.

"In America they would call them museums. Galleries across the world outside the English tradition are usually known as places that sell art, not preserve art."

Burke said the full name is the Remai Modern Art Gallery of Saskatchewan. He said despite being located in western Canada, staff use the term "museum" because the institution sends its communications around the world.

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