Director’s Message: June 2016

Terry Graff is Director/CEO and Chief Curator of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. One of Canada’s foremost curators and respected senior administrators in the visual arts, he has also distinguished himself as a highly accomplished visual artist, art writer, educator, and gallery director.

The Beaverbrook is back!

Yes, we’re back! After a four-month period of being closed to the public, the Gallery recently opened its doors again just in time for an extraordinary summer and fall season of exhibitions and public programs. During closure, various parts of our building were upgraded and changed to enhance visitors’ experience of the Gallery’s collections and programs, to improve administrative and other spaces, and to install the necessary mechanical components to connect with our ongoing capital expansion project. The British Gallery has been transformed into the Harriet Irving Gallery, a newly-refurbished, state-of-the-art gallery; the foyer, front desk and gift shop have been redesigned to better serve our guests, and the space just past the front entrance (formerly known as the High Gallery) has been dramatically altered for greater functionality and public orientation and accessibility. All of these spectacular changes, which have been made possible by the generous support of Jim, Arthur, and John Irving and their families, are part of a major revitalization of your Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is first and foremost a collecting institution, a place where people can experience the very best of Atlantic, Canadian, British and International art. Over the summer we shine a spotlight on various aspects of the permanent collection and our purposeful collecting practice. While 75 of our most prized paintings by some of the world’s most renowned artists are on view at the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, BC, as part of the North American tour of Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, our program here at home offers a unique opportunity for both residents and visitors to see many of our other outstanding holdings, some of which haven’t been on view for many years and others that are featured for the very first time.

The inaugural exhibition in the new Harriet Irving Gallery celebrates one of the first governors of the Gallery, Harriet Irving, who was entrusted by Lord Beaverbrook himself to oversee the safekeeping of his magnificent gift of both an art gallery and an exquisite collection of art for the enjoyment and appreciation of future generations of New Brunswickers. A Tribute to Harriet Irving: Early Highlights from the Permanent Collection communicates our longstanding identity as a collections-based institution by showcasing a selection of the treasures that were acquired in the very first years of the Gallery’s operation.

Thoughtful thematic curatorial perspectives on the permanent collection are presented in a series of compelling exhibitions curated by Senior Curator Jeffrey Spalding: Modernism at Mid-Century; Return of the Image: abstract artists re-visit representation; Get Real!: The Art of Atlantic Canada; and New to You: Recent Contemporary Acquisitions to the Permanent Collection. Although representative of only a sampling of the Gallery’s nearly 5,000 works of art, together these exhibitions offer a special glimpse of the tremendous variety and high-level quality that characterize our ever-evolving permanent collection.

Our founder, Lord Beaverbrook, was a serious, lifelong advocate of cartoons, considering them to be a valuable and necessary expression of independent commentary on the human condition and on world affairs. The Gallery is, therefore, very pleased to present, not one, but two retrospective exhibitions devoted to the cartoon as a serious art form. Curated by Deanna Nebenionquit and organized by the Art Gallery of Sudbury, For Better or For Worse: The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston surveys the 30-year career of Lynn Johnston, whose popular comic strip derives from her own personal life experiences. At the same time, we are also delighted to present Drawing Conclusions: The Political Art of Michael de Adder. Working as a professional cartoonist for over 25 years, New Brunswick-born de Adder is one of Canada’s most popular visual commentators of the political landscape. Organized by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and curated by Virgil Hammock, this major exhibition of his work gives worthy distinction to a remarkable present-day practitioner of political cartooning and his outstanding contribution to the tradition of the art form.

As a key venue in Atlantic Canada for showcasing important international contemporary art, the Gallery is pleased to present William Kentridge: Universal Archive, organized for tour by the Gund Gallery at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio. William Kentridge is one of South Africa’s pre-eminent visual artists, internationally acclaimed for his films, drawings, prints, and theatre and opera productions. His Universal Archive consists of numerous individual everyday images, such as coffee pots, trees, cats, female nudes, typewriters, horses and birds printed onto non-archival 1950s dictionary and encyclopaedia paper.

Arguably Canada’s greatest patron of the visual arts, Lord Beaverbrook established the Canadian War Memorials Fund (CWMF) in 1916, enlisting artists, photographers, and cinematographers to record Canada at war for future generations. Our fall lineup of exhibitions features Witness – Canadian Art of the First World War, which examines how Canadians depicted their First World War experiences in art, both at home and overseas, whether as official war artists or as soldiers in the field. On loan from the Canadian War Museum, the majority of featured works were selected from the Museum’s Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, one of the largest collections of war art in the world, and includes works by celebrated Canadian artists such as A. Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley and Franz Johnston, as well as by ordinary Canadian soldiers.

In conjunction with this exhibition, the Gallery is pleased to present the war art of contemporary artist Allan Harding MacKay, which derived from his service in Somalia and Afghanistan. These works are part of a larger exhibition titled Allan Harding MacKay: War Artist, Portraitist, and Landscapist, a substantive overview of the artist’s career as represented by his recent generous gift to the Gallery of 163 works.

The revitalization of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery as a forward-thinking institution is about expanding the scope of both the permanent collection and the exhibition program to reflect the diversity of Canada and contemporary life in a global world. To this end, presenting and acquiring the art of contemporary
First Nations artists is an important focus. The exhibition 63 Views from Mount Dreamers Rock is a recently donated suite of outstanding work by Manitoulin Island First Nations artist Anong Migwans Beam.

In the fall, the Gallery will provide two special opportunities for New Brunswick’s visual artists: Studio Watch: Emerging Artist Series – Painting 2016, made possible by Earl and Sandy Brewer, and The Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation Art Critic Residency Program, which was established by the Gallery in 2015 to advance visual arts criticism and journalism in the development and appreciation of contemporary art in New Brunswick. This year’s critic-in-residence is New York critic Stephanie Buhmann, whose essays and art reviews have been published in a variety of international publications.

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is truly a Canadian cultural icon. It was the very first public art gallery established in the Atlantic region and holds the region’s most significant and valuable art collection. With the opening of our new pavilion next year, it will also be the largest art gallery in the eastern provinces. But the Gallery is not merely a physical site for engaging with works of art or a repository for an exceptional and growing permanent collection; it is a proactive community builder, a collaborator and initiator of many stimulating outreach projects, educational activities, residencies, and artist talks and workshops in an expanding network of community partnerships throughout the province, the Atlantic region and, indeed, the country. Our exciting new pavilion, which is scheduled to open in the summer of 2017, will further advance our mission to put art at the very heart of contemporary life by igniting new opportunities and possibilities for artists and audiences alike.

Thank you all for your ongoing support! I look forward to seeing you very soon at your ever-evolving
Beaverbrook Art Gallery!

Terry Graff
Director/CEO and Chief Curator
Beaverbrook Art Gallery