North

Inuit art, experience to be included in Venice Biennale art exhibition

Cape Dorset artist Kananginak Pootoogook's work will be featured in the International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy. Ten of the artist’s ink and coloured pencil prints will be part of the central exhibition for the 57th Biennale.

10 of Cape Dorset artist Kananginak Pootoogook’s prints will be featured

A Kananginak Pootoogook print to be featured in the Biennale is from the Samuel and Ether Sarick collection in Toronto. The ink and coloured pencil print shows people wearing eider clothing inside an igloo. (Cape Dorset Fine Arts)

Cape Dorset artist Kananginak Pootoogook's work will be featured in the International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy.

Ten of the artist's ink and coloured pencil prints will be part of the central exhibition for the 57th Biennale.

The prestigious exhibition opens May 13 and runs until November 26.

"[Pootoogook] would probably say: 'those four ugly works that I did are being shown?'" said Joemie Tapuangai, a buyer with the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative. 

"He would be shy, but it's very good exposure for him and the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op, so he would be very happy." 

Involved in the co-op since it started its graphic arts program in the late 1950s, Pootoogook worked in sculpture and printmaking until his death in 2010. 
Kananginak Pootoogook's untitled ink and coloured pencil work is from the Marnie Schreiber collection in Toronto. (Cape Dorset Fine Arts)

"He's known as a wildlife documentarian with this really unusual obsession with owls," said William Huffman, a spokesperson for Cape Dorset Fine Arts, which manages copyright for Pootoogook's estate.

None of the birds he is known for will feature in the Biennale. Instead, the choices reflect Inuit culture and some of his self-portraiture.

Huffman says the selections make sense based on the theme of the exhibition, Viva Arte Viva, which focuses on the role of artists in society and the lives they lead.

In 2017, the exhibition is being curated by Christine Macel of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Huffman says it will be the first time an Inuit artist has been featured in the show, which includes 120 invited artists from more than 50 countries.

Pootoogook's work will appear in the sprawling Arsenale and Giardini venues, as will the work of two other Canadians, Jeremy Shaw and Hajra Waheed.

Nod to Cape Dorset in Canadian Pavilion

In addition to the central exhibition, which Huffman says grabs the most attention because of the high-profile curators selected to run it each time, the Biennale is also made up of pavilions from countries around the world.

This time, Canada's pavilion will feature the work of Geoffrey Farmer, a Vancouver-based multimedia artist. 
Peter Pitseolak High school in Cape Dorset, Nunavut burned to the ground in September 2015. (submitted)

Farmer visited Pootoogook's home of Cape Dorset in February with Huffman on a four-day reconnaissance mission for his own work.

Huffman says Farmer became interested in the Peter Pitseolak High School, Cape Dorset's only high school, which burned down in 2015.

"He wanted to talk to the students, the faculty and the community members about what the loss of this school meant. There's a lot of this idea of loss in his overall exhibition," said Huffman.

Community members gave him permission to take artifacts from the wreckage with him, and Huffman says they will be incorporated into Farmer's work for the Canadian pavilion.

Cape Dorset Fine Arts will be attending the show in Venice and hosting a cocktail party to celebrate the inclusion of Inuit art and ideas.

Huffman says he hopes a member of Pootoogook's family can speak to the event via Skype.

With files from Qavavao Peter

now