National Gallery of Canada – Contemporary Art in Ottawa

The National Gallery of Canada on Sussex Drive is near the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. It is housed in a magnificent building designed by architect Moshe Safdie. The gigantic spider sculpture Maman by Louise Bourgeois is visible from a distance. The National Gallery of Canada opened in 1988 and the focus is Canadian art but there are some notable works by artists from the USA and Europe.

National Gallery of Canada - Maman the gigantic spider sculpture by Louise Bourgeois

Maman by Louise Bourgeois – National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada on Sussex Drive in Ottawa

National Gallery of Canada – designed by architect Moshe Safdie

I visited the National Gallery of Canada specifically to view the contemporary art collection. There are several works by First Nations artists that were described as Pop and a New School of Indigenous Art. Canadian artists from the 1960’s and 1970’s who found inspiration from their cultural traditions as well as developments in the contemporary art scene.

First Nations art at the National Gallery of Canada - Artist and Shaman between two Worlds by Norval Morrisseau - Copper Thunderbird

Artist and Shaman between Two Worlds by Norval Morrisseau – Copper Thunderbird

National Gallery of Canada - Contemporary Art in Ottawa - Untitled - acrylic on canvas by Alex Janvier

Untitled – acrylic on canvas by Alex Janvier

One of my favorite paintings at the National Gallery was by Greg Curnoe – the painting is titled Camouflaged Piano or French Roundels.

National Gallery of Canada - Contemporary Art in Ottawa - Camouflaged Piano by Greg Curnoe

Camouflaged Piano or French Roundels by Greg Curnoe – National Gallery of Canada

There are works by Andy Warhol in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada including Brillo Pads which is a stack of Brillo soap pad boxes made of silkscreen ink and acrylic paint on plywood. There is also the series of  10 screen prints depicting Chinese Communist Leader Mao Zedong which Warhol started creating after President Nixon visited the Chinese leader in 1972. Andy Warhol was seduced by art and money. He chose highly recognizable people and objects for his pop art screen printings.

National Gallery of Canada - Contemporary Art in Ottawa - Mao Tse-tung by Andy Warhol

National Gallery of Canada – Mao Tse-tung by Andy Warhol

There have been controversial acquisitions by the National Gallery of Canada. There was the $1.8 million purchase of the painting Voice of Fire by the American painter Barnett Newman in 1989. The painting consists of three vertical stripes in blue, red, and blue. Yes that is it. Three stripes. I love contemporary art but I cannot wrap my brain around the hyper minimalist style. I shall not bore you with an image. Instead I present you with two black circles painted upon the gallery wall by artist Neil Campbell – the work is called Boom Boom. I find it rather dull dull.

Contemporary art at National Gallery of Canada - Boom Boom by Neil Campbell

Boom Boom by Neil Campbell – is it art? Some would say no way!

While walking around the gallery I thought I heard the voice of Meryl Streep. What was Meryl Streep doing at the National Gallery of Canada? Walking into a viewing room I sat and watched a portion of Him + Her by Candice Breitz who was born in Johannesburg South Africa and is now based in Berlin. I watched Meryl Strep for 20 minutes or so and just a few minutes of Jack Nicholson.

Him + Her by Candice Breitz

Meryl Streep – Him + Her by Candice Breitz

Him + Her consists of 2 digital videos – Him: 28:29 minutes and Her: 23:56 minutes.

Him + Her derives from the artist’s analysis of Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep films, over which she noticed “a whole slew of clichés about masculinity and femininity that came rushing to the surface” of these iconic American actors’ varied cinematic roles. – National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada - Contemporary Art in Ottawa - Him + Her by Candice Breitz

Jack Nicholson – Him + Her by Candice Breitz – National Gallery of Canada

There is a room of paintings from Montreal artists from the 1050’s and these were some of my favorite works. I cannot explain why but I find these paintings intriguing. The painting Natashkouan by Mercel Barbeau is named for the river that flows from the Quebec-Labrador border and drains to the Saint Lawrence. Barbeau visited the area during the summer of 1956.

National Gallery of Canada - Contemporary Art in Ottawa - Natashkouan by Mercel Barbeau

Natashkouan by Mercel Barbeau – National Gallery of Canada

Here is a close-up of the paining Natashkouan by Montreal artist Mercel Barbeau.

Contemporary Art in Canada - Detail of Natashkouan by Mercel Barbeau - National Gallery of Canada - Ottawa ON

Detail of Mercel Barbeau ‘s Natashkouan 1956 oil on canvas

The enormous triptych Pavane by Jean Paul Riopelle is 300 x 550 cm (9.84 x 18 feet) and was created by applying paint directly to the canvas with a palette knife.

National Gallery of Canada - Contemporary Art in Ottawa - Pavane by Jean Paul Riopelle - oil on canvas triptych 1954

Pavane by Jean Paul Riopelle – oil on canvas triptych 1954

Contemporary art in Canada - Detail of Pavane by Jean Paul Riopelle - National Gallery of Canada

Detail of Pavane by Jean Paul Riopelle – National Gallery of Canada

The last work I will show you is Column by Ulysse Comtois and it is a favorite of mine due to the fact that the viewer is allowed to touch the work. Viewers are invited to “feel free to give any shape you want to this sculpture. Gently move the aluminum plates.” My creation is pictured below.

National Gallery of Canada - Contemporary Art in Ottawa - Detail of Column by Ulysse Comtois and Susan Moore

Detail of Column by Ulysse Comtois and Susan Moore – National Gallery of Canada

I think I did an absolutely stunning job – don’t you think so?! No? Well, I invite you to visit the National Gallery of Canada to try to outdo my creation.

Tell me about your favorite art work – do you enjoy contemporary art or do you prefer more classical works?

A journey through the alphabet with ABC Wednesday Project where people from around the world create and share a weekly post.


Practical Information:

Address: 380 Sussex Dr
Phone Number: 1-(613)-990-1985
Hours: During Summer, open daily 10AM – 6PM (open until 8PM on Thursdays). Winter hours are more limited (check here).
Admission Cost (as of July 2015): General admission: $12 adults, $10 seniors and students. Free entry on Thursdays. Special exhibitions have separate prices. Click here for more information.
Tours: Group tours available. Contact: 1-(613)-990-4888
How to Get There: OC Transpo buses #1 or #9. Check the OC Transpo Travel Planner for more info.


About the Author

Susan Moore's first solo travel experience was traveling around SE Asia for 7 months in 1993. It was life changing and extraordinary. Currently Susan is living a nomadic life, working and roadtripping around the USA and Canada. You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter

16 Comments

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  1. Hello Susan,
    There sure is some stunning works of art there, wish I lived nearer!
    I particularly liked
    Artist and Shaman between two Worlds
    by Norval Morrisseau – Copper Thunderbird.

    I loved the colour in this, in fact I loved all of it !

    The piano one was lovely too, I guess you’ll realise that I love brightly
    painted art work.

    Your work was intriguing rather clever too!
    You certainly are a lady of many talents!

    We have a Tate Modern Gallery at The Albert Dock on the Waterfront
    I bet you’d enjoy a visit there?

    Than you for sharing the art gallery with us I enjoyed reading it.

    best wishes,

    Di,
    Abcw team

    • Susan Moore says:

      Hello Di,
      Glad you enjoyed the art work. I too love brightly painted art work. I am so glad I finally made a visit to the National Gallery, having heard so much about it over the years. I just looked up the Tate Modern in Liverpool and yes I would definitely enjoy a visit. And I also want to Ferry ‘cross the Mersey when I visit Liverpool :)
      Wanderlust setting in….Liverpool calling!

      Cheers,
      Susan

      • You won’t regret it Susan I’m sure Leslie from Vancouver (aka The Pedalogue), will tell you, she stayed at Holiday Inn Hotel in The Albert Dock where The Tate Modern is housed, right next to the ‘Ferry ‘cross the Mersey’s landing stage.
        love Di x

        • Susan Moore says:

          Sounds lovely Di! Perfect location. I haven’t planned out my 2015 travels yet but I do know it has been too long since I set foot in England. So who knows, perhaps a trip across the pond is in my future :)

          Best,
          Susan

  2. Rajesh says:

    Beautiful art gallery.

  3. Cool collection, I love that abstract artwork♪

  4. Margy says:

    Thanks for the tour. The spider sculpture might have scared me a bit if I wasn’t expecting it. – Margy

    • Susan Moore says:

      Margy, glad you enjoyed it! I first saw the spider sculpture from atop the Peace Tower at the Parliament Buildings – a wonderful surprise, made me smile! Maman is a popular attraction.

      Cheers,
      Susan

  5. Freda Mans says:

    Some interesting pieces for sure!

  6. ellen b says:

    Well done on the art work! I prefer the classical pieces of art work. I’ve never been disappointed by any National Gallery we have strolled through…
    Great choice for the letter N Susan!

  7. I love indigenous art, I’m obsessed with Warhol, and I’ve been wanting to visit Ottawa for quite a while. Three reasons I should visit this place when I get the chance!

    • Susan Moore says:

      Hi Scott, Yes, you definitely should make a visit to Ottawa – art awaits you. A long weekend right around this time of year would be a perfect timing to see the fall foliage too. What are you waiting for?!

      Cheers,
      Susan

  8. Roger Green says:

    Most minimalist art, and music for that matter, are lost on me, I am afraid.

    ROG, ABCW

    • Susan Moore says:

      Hi Roger, I’m occasionally intrigued by a piece of minimalist art work but I more or less look to nature when I want to see minimalism at its best.

      Cheers,
      Susan

  9. LadyInRead says:

    beautiful museum.. my favorites you featured – the spider and the piano painting:)

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