Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection opened at the Art Gallery of Ontario on April 2 and ran to October 16. The exhibition featured more than 175 works by 75 Inuit artists across multiple mediums in response to a global push by art and literary historians who aimed to more accurately describe modernism outside the scope of the early 20th European artist production. Intellectually, the exhibition was hugely influential and helped recontextualize art made in the North as products of contemporary artistic practices, highlighting how these artists individually respond to the challenges of modernity. The exhibition was organized into chronological thematic sections that broke with the usual divisions by region and community: “Art in the Face of Colonialism (1800-1950),” We Are Inuit (1960s),” “I Am an Inuit Artist: The Rise of the Individual (1970s-1980s),” “I Am an Artist (1990-present). In this way it was able to feature the works of nearly every notable artist of the 20th century such as Kenojuak Ashevak, Joe Talirunili, Karoo Ashevak, John Kavik, Judas Ullulaq, Jessie Oonark, David Ruben Piqtoukun and many of artists who emerged at the beginning of the 21st century artists, including Itee Pootoogook, Shuvinai Ashoona, Annie Pootoogook and Tim Pitsiulak.
Installation view of the exhibit Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska Courtesy Anchorage Museum
Meanwhile, in Victoria, BC, the recently established Madrona Gallery launched its exhibition Contemporary North, featuring work by the artists like Shuvinai Ashoona, Qavavau Manumie, Tim Pitsiulak, Itee Pootoogook, Ningeokuluk Teevee and Jutai Toonoo.
The Smithsonian Institution opened its Arctic Studies Centre in The Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, Alaska, USA. The inaugural exhibition Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska included 200 Native Alaskan artefacts and artworks and was the result of a decade worth of research.
Inhabit Media published Isuma: The Art and Imagination of Ruben Anton Komangapik, celebrating the artist’s unusual vision and carving skill. Komangapik had emerged in the decade before as an artist with unique vision and an innovative approach to mixed media.
Despite the landmark exhibition, Inuit Modern, at the AGO, the arts events calendar in 2011 was not robust as the market was still feeling the effects of the economic downturn that had begun at the end of the previous decade. These years were marked by systematic cuts to arts funding and investment in Canada and globally. Sadly, the Inuit Art Quarterly was forced to cease publication at the end of the year.