Canada's Art Bank goes online

The Art Bank is a treasure trove of contemporary Canadian art. Now, for the first time, the collection is online for everyone to browse.

Canada Council hopes new web exhibit will encourage businesses to rent art

Cowichan Flats by George Tiessen (artbank.ca)

It's the largest collection of contemporary Canadian art under one roof, including the most extensive accumulation of aboriginal art in the world. And yet most Canadians haven't been able to see it. Until now.

The 17,000 works that make up the Art Bank's collection — paintings, drawings, installations and sculptures spanning decades — are stored in a warehouse on St. Laurent Boulevard in Ottawa's east end.

'Seen and shared by all Canadians'

Rarely has the public had the opportunity to browse the racks upon racks of artwork. But now the Art Bank's new web site will allow art lovers to scroll through the collection at their leisure.

Simon Brault, president of the Canada Council for the Arts, which oversees the Art Bank, made the announcement today. Brault said he wants to "make sure contemporary art is seen and shared by all Canadians."

IV Converting the Powell River Mill to a Recreation and Retirement Centre by Elaine Bond, one of thousands of paintings at artbank.ca. (artbank.ca)

'We could rent that and that and that'

When the Art Bank was established in 1972, the idea was to purchase Canadian art, then rent it to government departments to decorate their offices. But with cutbacks, art budgets shrank.

Brault said he hopes that by going online, the Art Bank will reach more potential renters, including businesses. "We think it's a good way to go to their bosses and say, 'We could rent that and that and that.'"

Simon Brault, president of the Canada Council for the Arts, discusses the merits of the Art Bank's new online gallery 0:33

Brault said he also hopes to see the country's art displayed in Canadian embassies around the world.