Media tour provides sneak peek of Remai Modern art gallery

The long-awaited Remai Modern art gallery opens Saturday. All 7,000 free tickets have been claimed for opening day.

New $84.6M facility opens Saturday

This piece at the Remai Modern art gallery plays on the spectrum of light in SAD lights, used to treat seasonal affective disorder. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Saskatoon's highly anticipated Remai Modern art gallery doesn't open to the public until Saturday, but members of the media got an early look Thursday at the $84.6-million addition to the city's waterfront.

The 130,000-square-foot space will house the city's collection of over 8,000 works, worth over $40 million.
The new Remai Modern is slated to open Saturday. Tickets for the opening have all been scooped up. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

"It's going to be, from my perspective, fantastic. We've already confirmed 7,000 visitors. There will be so many people engaging with the space and, of course, the art," said CEO Gregory Burke of the opening.

"The building is just mesmerizing. It is the most beautiful art gallery in Canada."

It also includes a community atrium, a restaurant, a retail store, two learning studios, a 150-seat theatre, rental spaces, a rooftop patio, two boardrooms and a gallery lounge. 

The gallery is expected to see 220,000 visits a year.

Staff were putting final touches on the building and galleries Thursday in anticipation of the opening, but all 11 galleries are expected to be ready by Saturday.

Each gallery features modern art — meaning art produced from 1905 to the present — grouped accordingly by a curator.

"We're the first in Canada to call ourselves a museum of modern art and that really reflects the spirit of the province. Modern art started around the time the province was born and represents the progressive spirit of the province," said Burke.

Burke made clear the Remai Modern wouldn't have been possible without the existence of the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon's former art museum, which closed its doors in 2015.

Works from the Mendel family collection are now hung in the Remai, along with other Canadian works.

"The collection will still be known as the Mendel Art Gallery Collection at the Remai Modern," said Burke.
Children from a school group got a sneak peek at the Remai Modern art gallery and its hands-on programming. They're creating art from mixed materials like metal and paper. (CBC News)

The inaugural exhibit, Field Guide, is displayed throughout the three-level building, and though most of the art can't be touched, not everything is off-limits.

According to Burke, interactive programming is coming soon.

"We are going to have a lot of attention on engagement and live programming and learning and engagement program, so it will be a very dynamic institution," he said.

Regular hours will begin Tuesday after the opening.