Aboriginal art is some of the best-known art in Canada. Which Ontario museums stock the largest and most interesting collections?
Even if you’ve never been to Canada before, you’ve probably seen Inuit sculpture from the arctic. These gorgeous and frequently animal-themed creations are often given as gifts by politicians and business people to visiting foreign dignitaries.
You may also be familiar with some of Norval Morrisseau’s dramatic, colourful and passionate paintings, Kenojuak Ashevak’s elegant owl prints, or the late Bill Reid's Haida-themed sculptures.
Above: Bill Reid's sculpture in the Canadian Museum of Civilization
Here are some of the top places that are easy to reach to see Native art in Ontario.
Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas Street West, Toronto
The AGO has substantial collections of very early art right up to contemporary works by artists such as Norval Morrisseau and Kent Monkman. The main collection is on the first floor but don't miss the open-storage area for Inuit sculpture on the basement level. The AGO also hosts temporary exhibits of Aboriginal art, such as the 2011 show "Inuit Modern" based on a recent large donation of Inuit sculpture, prints and paintings. This is one of the "must-sees".
TD Gallery of Inuit Art
79 Wellington Street West, Toronto
It's an odd place to find a gallery, but there it is: the TD Gallery of Inuit Art is located on the ground floor of an office tower, behind the elevators. Some of the sculptures and prints are housed in glass cases on the main level, and then if you go up the staircase at the back you'll discover many more cases. The gallery is free and open to the public.
National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa
The Canadian native art collection includes works by Kenojuak Ashevak, Jessie Oonark, Carl Beam, Bob Boyer, Joane Cardinal Schubert, Robert Davidson, Robert Houle, Brian Jungen, Faye Heavy Shield, Kent Monkman, Norval Morrisseau, Marianne Nicolson, Shelley Niro, and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. The Inuit Galleries include more than 800 prints and drawings alone.
Canadian Museum of Civilization
100 Laurier Street, Gatineau, Quebec (Technically not in Ontario but in Gatineau, Quebec, which is just a few minutes drive across the bridge from Ottawa, which makes it an easy trip if you're visiting Ottawa)
Probably the best place to see the widest range of Canadian native art in the country. The First People's Hall houses hundreds of objects by Aboriginal artists from all over the country. The West Coast totem poles will take your breath away. Look for the famous sculpture by Bill Reid (photo above). They have a substantial collection of Inuit sculpture as well.
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
10365 Islington Avenue, Kleinburg
Significant Inuit sculpture collection as well as contemporary First Nations artists. Houses a long-term loan of 100,000 drawings, prints, and sculpture from the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative Ltd., based in Cape Dorset. Often hosts temporary exhibits on works by Aboriginal artists. A must-see!
Woodland Cultural Centre
184 Mohawk Street, Brantford
A museum created and operated by people from the local Six Nations community. You’ll find paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, fine crafts and contemporary installations. Historical artifacts as well.
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