all walks of life come through here"
to the Drake Hotel in Toronto are greeted by this massive
screen print, first produced in Cape Dorset in the 1960s.
(photo by Sarah Rogers)
lounge area in the Drake Hotel features a display of metal
etching plates used to print some of Kinngait Studios most
iconic images. (photo by Sarah Rogers)
hang on display in the Drake's front entrance, along with
a stoneblock called Spectator Birds, made by Lucy Qinnuayuak
in 1970. (photo by Cheryl Rondeau)
TORONTOWhen art curator Mia Nielsen visited Dorset Fine
Arts' Toronto office for the first time, she describes being "blown
away" by what she saw.
"It was very urgent and real and a window into a culture I hadn't
seen before," Nielsen said of the pieces she saw, all produced at
the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative's Kinngait Studio in Cape Dorset.
Nielsen, long-time curator at the city's uber-hip Drake Hotel,
said it was her first time immersing herself in Inuit art.
But it wasn't the bold, wildlife-inspired annual print collections
that grabbed her mostarguably Kinngait Studio's best-known
worknor the impressive carvings.
Sitting in a box on the office floor, Nielsen discovered yards
and yards of cotton fabric with colourful images of birds and other
Inuit imagery, hand screen printed at the Cape Dorset studio in
Dorset Fine Arts figures only a few were ever made available
for sale. The rest have sat in storage for decades; so long that
their original artists are largely unknown.
Some of those pieces have now found a temporary home on the
walls of the trendy establishment along Toronto's Queen St. W..
The pieces are massive, some running 20-feet across, hung in the
front entrance of the boutique hotel, which also houses a restaurant,
café and performance space.
This is the Drake's first dedicated installation of Inuit artof
Indigenous art, in fact inspired by Canada's 150th anniversary
"From a creative standpoint, we wanted to start from a place
that wasn't confederation," Nielsen said. "People from all walks
of life come through here and it's showing them something they may
not have seen."
The exhibit is called Maanngat, "from here" in Inuktitut. The
exhibition also includes metal etching plates and a stonecut matrix
used to print some of Kinngait Studio's most iconic images, alongside
more contemporary drawings by Cape Dorset artist Shuvanai Ashoona.
From the hotel's front vestibule, passers by can see the impressive
stoneblock called Spectator Birds, first etched by the late Cape
Dorset artist Lucy Qinnuayuk in 1970.
For Toronto fans of Inuit art, the Drake is hosting an symposium
on Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. and again at 4:30 p.m. The event will feature
a discussion on the current issues facing Inuit art, lead by Nielsen,
Dorset Fine Arts' William Huffman and Cape Dorset artist Saimaiyu
Akesuk, who'll participate by video conference.
The talk will be followed by a northern-inspired, prix fixe
menu, which includes smoked Arctic char with mustard greens, confit
potatoes, poached fennel and radish along with a bison ragout.
Maanngat runs at the Drake until Feb. 8. You can read more about
the pieces on display here.
Following the exhibit, Dorset Fine Arts has an agreement with
the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto to host the large textile