Inaugural Program Features World’s Largest Collection Of Picasso Linocuts, Artist-Led Projects, Immersive Installations, And Modern And Contemporary Art From Canada And The World
Canada’s museum of modern art, Remai Modern (pronunciation Note: the last name is pronounced RAY-mee), will open to the public October 21, 2017, in Saskatoon. The launch aligns with the international trend of world-class museums opening in unexpected destinations.
Remai Modern is located in Treaty 6 Plains Cree territory and the traditional homeland of the Métis. The museum is informed by the rich history of the Prairies, including Indigenous artists and cultures, progressive political support for art, and unique modernist legacies. The museum’s collection of nearly 8,000 works once resided inside popular local cultural center, the Mendel Art Gallery, and features the foremost collection of Picasso linocuts (406) and 23 Picasso ceramics. Remai Modern builds on the region’s arts legacy created by the former Mendel Gallery and the Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops.
In 1944, the province of Saskatchewan elected the first democratic-socialist government in North America, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. In 1948 the Saskatchewan Arts Board was founded to provide vital funding to artists in all disciplines. At the time, it was only the second agency of its kind in the world. In the 1950s and 60s, influential modern artists and critics flocked to the Emma Lake artist workshops, just north of Saskatoon. Workshop leaders, including Clement Greenberg, Kenneth Noland, Barnett Newman, Donald Judd, Frank Stella, Anthony Caro and John Cage responded to the wilderness landscape and introduced new concepts. These retreats had a lasting impact on regional aesthetics and fostered exchanges between Canadian artists and the international art world.
Remai Modern’s collection of nearly 8,000 works was developed by the Mendel Art Gallery, which opened in 1964 and closed in 2015. An important component of Field Guide will be the Mendel Gift, 13 paintings by Canadian and European modern artists – including Lawren Harris, Emily Carr, and David Milne – donated by Fred Mendel in 1965 and forming the nucleus of the Mendel Art Gallery‘s collection.
Remai Modern will be opening on Treaty 6 territory in the newly developed River Landing area of south downtown Saskatoon, the largest city in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Located in Canada’s heartland, Saskatoon is a budding cultural hub for the worldly traveler to experience the region’s arts scene, local craft breweries, and food movement.
With an international airport only 10 minutes from downtown, travelers can access Saskatoon via daily flights from major Canadian and U.S. destinations. Air Canada and WestJet offer flights through major Canadian cities like Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa/Montreal and Toronto while Delta, United Airlines, and American Airlines fly to Saskatoon through destinations including Minneapolis, Denver, Salt Lake City and Chicago. Saskatoon is also home to a VIA Rail Canada station and is conveniently accessed by major highways.
This project is made possible thanks to contributions from Government of Canada, Province of Saskatchewan, and the City of Saskatoon. As well as program support from SaskCulture, Sask Arts Board, SaskTel, Canadian Heritage, and the Canada Council for the Arts.
The inaugural exhibition, Field Guide, curated by Executive Director & CEO, Gregory Burke, and Director of Programs & Chief Curator, Sandra Guimarães, will animate the entire building. Selected works from the museum’s collection will be displayed in dialogue with contemporary projects by international and Canadian artists. The collection includes some 8,000 works inherited from the (aforementioned) former Mendel Art Gallery, and the world’s most comprehensive collection of Picasso linocuts (406), plus 23 Picasso ceramics. Upon opening, Remai Modern will be an artist-centered institution that raises questions, inspires discussion, and enables transformative experiences among both local and global audiences.
Field Guide is not a thematic exhibition but rather a series of singular positions and coherent groupings of works that introduce Remai Modern’s program philosophy and direction, providing an open framework that invites consideration of a network of issues and questions impacting art and society today.
“The concept for Field Guide emerges from a set of questions we asked ourselves during the establishment of Remai Modern, including What is modern? Can art confront reality? What is urgent and why? How will Indigeneity shape the future? And what role can be played by a new art museum opening in Saskatoon, Canada?” said Burke. “These questions, and others will continue to inform the development of our programs, articulating a spirit of active engagement, curiosity, and disruption.”
Rather than being a static display, the exhibition will change over time, creating new conversations and rethinking the idea of “modern” from multiple cultural, historic and contemporary positions. Accompanied by a strong focus on live and artist-driven programming, Field Guide introduces the museum as a dynamic field of relations.
The exhibition will be anchored by several major artist projects that propose new social, personal, and political engagements with the institution and its audiences. A full list of artists included in Field Guide will be announced in the fall and will feature emerging and established artists working in a wide variety of media and across disciplines.
New collaborative project by Tanya Lukin Linklater and Duane Linklater
As part of the opening program, renowned Ontario-based artists Tanya Lukin Linklater and Duane Linklater will introduce a new collaborative project in the Connect Gallery, Remai Modern’s free, ground-floor space sponsored by the TD Bank Group.
Responding to the museum’s positioning on the South Saskatchewan River, the artists are developing a physical and conceptual vessel to carry or hold Indigenous ideas, histories, objects, and forms. Titled Determined by the river, the installation will be activated with selections from Remai Modern’s collection, as well as works the artists will bring to Saskatoon. The river has been a gathering place and catalyst for movement for millennia, and the artists see it as a way to imagine Indigenous presences in the past, in the now, and into the future — a continuance. Their project asks, “How are these continuous presences activated in relation to the site of the museum?“
The artists are also organizing a series of discursive events to accompany the installation, with contributions from Indigenous artists, filmmakers, curators, and writers, many of whom are based in Saskatoon, or have a relationship to Saskatchewan or the Prairies.
Debut of the Picasso Collection, curated by Ryan Gander
Remai Modern is home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of Picasso linocuts, donated to the museum in 2012 by the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation. The inaugural presentation of this collection will be curated by internationally renowned artist Ryan Gander.
Gander’s interest in the linocuts focuses on portraits, as a way to contemplate self-projection and self-image. For Gander, Picasso’s iconic persona makes it difficult to separate the artist’s work and life—they become one grand, extravagant self-portrait. Faces of Picasso: The collection selected by Gander proposes that to understand Picasso, we have to understand his representation of the self.
While Picasso’s works line the gallery walls, the center of the room will be held by Gander’s installation Fieldwork (2015), also recently donated by the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation. Through a window, viewers are presented with a rotating display of idiosyncratic objects connected to the artist. This personal inventory blends biography, memory, and fiction, with Gander’s distinctive sense of humor. Especially for this exhibition, Gander is producing a new object for the installation: a stack of drawings of every Picasso linocut in the museum’s collection. The drawings will also be reproduced in a publication, Picasso and I, offering an intimate catalogue of the collection as interpreted by Gander. Inexpensively produced and available at cost, the book aims to circumvent restrictions around reproductions of Picasso’s work, making the collection more accessible to all.
Critical Work-shop by Thomas Hirschhorn
As part of Field Guide, Thomas Hirschhorn will produce an immersive Critical Work-shop at Remai Modern, titled, What I can learn from you. What you can learn from me. (Critical Work-shop). In advance of the Work-shop, Hirschhorn will spend time in consultation with community groups and organizations in Saskatoon, conducting fieldwork and reaching out to “Teachers” and “Learners” – roles that can also be reversed. The artist will be onsite for the entirety of the Work-shop, from morning to evening, facilitating exchanges of knowledge, skills, and histories between Saskatoon residents and visitors. The gallery will be transformed into a true “Work-shop-Space,” with its own furniture, materials, tools, and hardware, proposing its own organization and logic.
What I can learn from you. What you can learn from me. (Critical Work-shop) will be the first “Presence and Production” work realized by Hirschhorn in Canada. It continues the artist’s approach of constant onsite engagement, as developed in recent projects such as Flamme Eternelle (Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2014), and Gramsci Monment (produced by Dia Art Foundation and installed at Forest Houses in the Bronx, NY, 2013). These inclusive projects oppose hierarchies of culture and artistic value, encouraging unexpected encounters and critical social discourse. What I can learn from you. What you can learn from me. (Critical Work-shop) closely aligns with Remai Modern’s direction as a museum rethinking the conditions for learning.
The Remai Modern Experience
Set where the South Saskatchewan River meets downtown Saskatoon, Remai Modern has a dramatic impact on the city’s skyline. Designed by architect Bruce Kuwabara, founding partner of renowned Canadian architectural firm KPMB, the structure features four cantilevered, horizontal spaces inspired by the low, flat topography of the surrounding Prairie landscape. Portions of the museum’s exterior are covered in a copper-colored mesh screen created by James & Taylor, in a reference to the copper roof of Saskatoon’s landmark Bessborough Hotel.
In addition to acting as a gathering place for the local community, the elaborate museum will be an attraction for visiting Canadians, international travelers, and the global art community. Remai Modern‘s spaces are designed for dynamic experiences and will allow for world-class art to be showcased around every corner. The museum will boast intimate spaces and dramatic expanses, along with an atrium and outdoor terraces offering stunning views of the river and sky. The ground floor will feature large-scale art commissions, a changing gallery space, and an active learning studio, as well as a fireplace and open lounge areas, an art and design store, and a restaurant. On the second and third floors, visitors will find Remai Modern’s main programming spaces including collection galleries, a Picasso gallery and sizeable spaces for temporary and internationally touring exhibitions.
Other areas of the building include a 150-seat lecture theater, and impressive event and entertainment spaces, which will be used for performances, members’ nights, private rentals and community events.