Exhibit at Art Gallery of Ontario to focus on 2 late famed Inuit artists

Kenojuak Ashevak and her nephew Tim Pitsiulak are having their work presented in a retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) this summer.

Will be the 1st time Inuit art showcased in gallery's largest exhibition space, seal to be served at opening

Kenojuak Ashevak was born on South Baffin Island in 1927. Ashevak is considered a pioneer of Inuit art.

Two famed Inuit artists are having their work presented in a retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) this summer.

Kenojuak Ashevak and her nephew Tim Pitsiulak were both print artists from Cape Dorset, Nunavut.

The exhibition, Tunirrusiangit, will be the first time Inuit art is showcased in the AGO's largest exhibition space, the Sam & Ayala Zacks Pavilion.

Tim Pitsiulak was known for his large-scale coloured pencil pieces of the Arctic’s landscapes, animals and modern Inuit life. (Facebook)

It will also be the first time, Pitsiulak, who died in 2016, will have a major gallery retrospective of his work.

His wall-sized depiction of a prominent Cape Dorset landmark — a cliff jutting out into the ocean — will be included in the exhibit.

Pitsiulak was known for his large-scale coloured pencil pieces of Arctic landscapes, animals and modern Inuit life. He was also a sculptor and photographer.

His work was even featured on a Canadian quarter.

Ashevak, an Order of Canada recipient, is often called the "grandmother of Inuit art" and is known for using magic markers as a medium and for the fluid storytelling of her work, according to the AGO.

Her career was memorialized in a Heritage Minute in 2016 and a version of her work, The Enchanted Owl, features prominently in the lobby of the Iqaluit airport.

Three original prints of the enchanted owl are part of the retrospective, a version in red and black, one in a speckled blue and another green, according to one of the exhibit's curators Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory.

Kenojuak Ashevak's The Enchanted Owl, created in 1960, was featured on a Canadian stamp, and has now been recreated on the wall of the Iqaluit airport. (West Baffin Eskimo Co-Operative Ltd./National Gallery of Canada)

Bathory is one of four Inuit chosen to curate the exhibit, along with Koomuatuk (Kuzy) Curley, Taqralik Partridge and Jocelyn Piirainen.

The four are working with Georgiana Uhlyarik, a curator with the AGO and Anna Hudson, a professor at York University, who leads the Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage project, which helped organize this exhibition.

'It's a part of our culture'

The four Inuit have decided on the evening of June 13 for the gallery opening, they will serve a seal to attendees.

"We couldn't think of a better idea than to have seal meat, because this is the meat that has given us all life since time immemorial and was very important to both these fantastic artists lives,' Williamson Bathory said.

"It's a part of our culture to share meat at a special occasion, so we would like to bring that to into the Art Gallery of Ontario—it's the first time."

Williamson Bathory said the four have also contributed artworks of their own both as a tribute to the two featured artists and to showcase contemporary Inuit works.

The exhibit will open to the public on June 16 and close August 12 and admission is free.  

With files from Qavavao Peter