Fighting ‘Institutional Intolerance,’ Canada Announces Biennial for Indigenous Art in 2020

Fighting ‘Institutional Intolerance,’ Canada Announces Biennial for Indigenous Art in 2020
A rendering of the Inuit Art Center courtesy of Michael Maltzan Architecture
Leading lights  -   Curators

A biennial for Indigenous art has been announced and set to take place at the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Center in 2020. The debut biennial will coincide with the highly-anticipated opening of the Inuit Art Center, a $65 million building designed by LA-based Michael Maltzan Architecture, and will feature indigenous artists from Australia, New Zealand as well as Canada.

The biennial, named “To Draw Water,” will feature works that deal with the urgency of water, climate change, environmental degradation and sustainability. “Contemporary Indigenous artists are producing some of the most relevant innovative work, examining issues and exploring movements that are motivating art practice today,” Isaac and Nagam said in a joint statement about the biennial. “We are excited to begin fresh dialogues and interactions that are long overdue about a vital and sacred resource: Water.”

In addition to the biennial, the museum will be hosting another show curated by the all-Inuit curatorial team, INUA. Indigenous artists and curators have often been overlooked from the mainstream art world “due to systemic and institutional intolerance,” Isaac told artnet News. Only until recently, “indigenous art and artists were treated like relics and the art as artefact.”

Canada has been making strives lately in ensuring a more inclusive landscape for Indigenous culture in general. The Inuit Art Center will hold the largest collection of Inuit Art in the world, created by indigenous artists from Canada, Oceania, Greenland and Alaska.

To further stress the country’s emphasis on Indigenous art, Canada’s 2019 Venice Biennial pavilion will be designed by the Inuit artist collective Isuma. Winnipeg Art Gallery director, Stephen Borys, said that “Canada is experiencing a renaissance of Indigenous art, and the gallery is honored to be part of this exciting movement.”

There has been a global increase in interest for Indigenous art and its inclusion in international exhibitions in the past few years. “The impetus for an Indigenous biennial has been a long time coming, we are building on the momentum of many Indigenous artists and curators working to advocate for the inclusion of Indigenous art and artists acknowledged in a contemporary context,” Isaac said. “We feel that Indigenous arts are capturing some of the most important issues and are at the center of contemporary art in terms of resurgences of art and culture.”