Ottawa

Pop Life exhibit exceeds expectations

Officials say a controversial exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada over the summer was a resounding success.

Officials say a controversial exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada over the summer was a resounding success.

A Child's Dream by British artist Damien Hirst, which was part of the Pop Life: Art in a Material World exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa this summer. ((Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press))
The Pop Life: Art in a Material World exhibit, on loan from the Tate Modern gallery in London, included works from some of the biggest names in contemporary art, including Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst.

Curator Jonathan Shaughnessy said the exhibit, which ran from June 11 to Sept. 19, drew more than 67,000 visitors — 25,000 more than was projected.

He said it was one of the few times the gallery chose a contemporary art exhibition for its blockbuster summer slot, instead of Old Masters or well-known Canadian artists.

"Predictions were a bit little difficult to do in the sense of not knowing how the public would react to seeing something which maybe they weren't expecting to see at the National Gallery," he said.

"So, given the numbers that were made, this is an exhibition that, by all accounts, exceeded that quite a bit."

The exhibit drew controversy in Britain when it included a photo of a naked Brooke Shields taken when she was 10 years old. It was later replaced with an image of her as an adult.

Koons's depiction of himself and an Italian porn star — who later became his wife — in sexual poses also caused a stir.

Shaughnessy said it's encouraging to see such a controversial exhibit draw enough visitors to rival the gallery's last two summer shows — on Renaissance Rome and the 1930s, respectively — which each drew about 70,000 people.

"So, we can see that we're right in line, and … for a contemporary curator like me, that's very reassuring to see that contemporary art can … bring the public in [and] satiate a certain amount of curiosity," Shaughnessy said.

"I think that can only spell out good things down the road, especially this fall when we have our contemporary Canadian art biennial of recent acquisitions of Canadian art."

It Is What It Is: Recent Acquisitions of New Canadian Art runs from Nov. 5 to Jan. 23.

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