Canadian Museum of Civilization announces historic acquisition of Inuit prints

March 8, 2010


Canadian Museum of Civilization announces historic acquisition of Inuit prints

Gatineau, Quebec, March 4, 2010 — The Canadian Museum of Civilization has expanded its unrivalled collection of Inuit prints with two major sets of acquisitions. The largest comprises 554 original, limited-edition works of art from the renowned Cape Dorset studio — an exceptionally large and important acquisition. The other comprises three rare and historically significant stonecut and stencil prints from the earliest days of Inuit printmaking in the 1950s. Together, these acquisitions will help the Museum comprehensively document five decades of Inuit art, culture and society.

The 554 prints include the Cape Dorset studio’s complete annual collections for 1994, and for the 14 years from 1996 to 2009. Their acquisition completes a collection the Museum has been building since the 1950s, providing an unbroken record of the first half-century of Inuit printmaking. Among the three prints acquired separately is an early work by Kenojuak Ashevak, one of Canada’s most celebrated and influential artists. 

“The Museum of Civilization has long been in the forefront of collection and exhibition of Inuit art. We are a leading source of related research and publishing, and now hold close to 3,000 Cape Dorset prints, which include rare experimental prints from late 1957 to the fresh expressions of contemporary Inuit artists reflecting today’s reality,” said Dr. Victor Rabinovitch, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. “The Museum will continue to draw on this collection to enhance — in Canada and internationally — the public’s knowledge and appreciation of life, culture and artistic creation in Inuit communities.” 

The 554 prints were purchased from the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative in Cape Dorset with the assistance of its marketing office in Toronto, Dorset Fine Arts. Speaking on behalf of the Cape Dorset artists, Leslie Boyd-Ryan, Director of Dorset Fine Arts, applauded the “commitment and foresight of the Canadian Museum of Civilization… to share the artistic legacy of Cape Dorset not only with the southern audience but with the new and future generations of Inuit artists.”

The recent prints were created during a time of great change at the Cape Dorset print studio, an era marked by the passing of many of the celebrated first-generation graphic artists. “This acquisition documents the gradual emergence over the past 15 years of an exciting and sophisticated group of graphic artists in Cape Dorset,” said the Museum’s Curator of Contemporary Inuit Art, Norman Vorano. “These artists are unabashedly cosmopolitan, modern and traditional in their own way. They represent the future of Inuit art and bring the Canadian Museum of Civilization collection into the 21st century.”

The three older prints were purchased at auction in Toronto. Created between 1957 and 1960, they help document the beginning of Inuit printmaking, a transformative event for many Arctic communities and for Canadian art and culture.
The Museum is currently working to make images of this treasured collection available online. 

The Canadian Museum of Civilization is the centre for research and public information on the social and human history of the country. Located on the shores of the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, the Museum is Canada’s largest and most popular cultural institution, attracting over 1.3 million visitors each year. The Museum of Civilization’s principal role is to preserve and promote the heritage of Canada for present and future ge