Why does the AGW collect art?
Public art collections are an important part of any democratic society that values cultural heritage and freedom of expression. The AGW acquires, conserves, researches and exhibits its collection, which is held in trust for society. It makes fine art accessible to all for education, inspiration and enjoyment, and is part of an international museum community, lending its works to other galleries.
How big is the collection?
The AGW has approximately 4,000 paintings, sculptures and works on paper. New artworks are added to the collection every year.
How does art become part of the collection?
Most works of art are generously donated by artists and collectors. Occasionally art is purchased with funds donated specifically for this purpose. Based on their areas of expertise, AGW staff recommends additions to the collection to a volunteer acquisitions committee who ultimately decide what enters the collection. Committee members are constantly changing, so over time many people are involved in deciding what enters the collection.
How and where is the art stored?
The collection is stored in special vaults at the AGW. These vaults meet international museum standards to control light, humidity, temperature and access. The AGW provides the best environment possible for the preservation of rare and fragile works of art.
What is the oldest object in the AGW collection? The largest?
The AGW owns an English tapestry that is over 300 years old. The largest work is an installation by Canadian artist Spring Hurlbut. La Somnolence (1999), consists of 150 antique children's beds collected by the artist over many years in France, the United States and Canada. It is a hauntingly beautiful work that honours the memory of forgotten orphaned children in the 19th century.
Why is only part of the collection on display?
Like most public art galleries, space and other resources are limited at the AGW. The annual exhibition program includes art from many sources including touring shows from other galleries and work belonging to artists and private collectors. The AGW strives to create a balance of exhibitions from the collection and from other sources to give visitors a rewarding experience. Also, some works of art, especially works on paper and textiles, are too fragile to be on display for more than a brief period.
How can I access the AGW collection?
Visit the Gallery often! The best way to get to know the AGW collection is to spend time at the gallery. Exhibitions are always changing. The more you visit the more you will appreciate what we have. You will see old favourites and new, at times, challenging works of art. Information about the collection is also available in the AGW Resource Centre.
Who owns the AGW collection?
You do! Like a national park or heritage site, the collection belongs to the community. The AGW is a charitable organization that holds the collection in trust for all Canadians. It is part of our cultural heritage to be enjoyed and celebrated for generations to come.