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National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada
Established 1880 (building 1988)
Location Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Type art galleries
Director Marc Mayer
Curator Paul Lang

The National Gallery of Canada (French: Musée des beaux-arts du Canada), located in the capital city of Ottawa, Ontario, is one of Canada's premier art galleries.[1]

The Gallery is now housed in a glass and granite building on Sussex Drive with a notable view of the Canadian Parliament buildings on Parliament Hill. The building was designed by Moshe Safdie and opened in 1988.[2] The Gallery's former director Jean Sutherland Boggs was chosen especially by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to oversee construction of the national gallery and museums.[3]

Marc Mayer was named the museum's director, succeeding Pierre Théberge, on 19 January 2009.[4]


  • History 1
  • Directors 2
  • Collection 3
  • Noted works alphabetical by artist 4
  • Affiliations 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


View of the National Gallery of Canada from Parliament Hill

The Gallery was first formed in 1880 by Canada's Governor General John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll, and, in 1882, moved into its first home on Parliament Hill in the same building as the Supreme Court.[2] In 1911, the Gallery moved to the Victoria Memorial Museum, now the home of the Canadian Museum of Nature. In 1913, the first National Gallery Act was passed outlining the Gallery's mandate and resources.[2] In 1962, the Gallery moved to the Lorne Building site, a rather nondescript office building on Elgin Street.[5] Adjacent to the British High Commission, the building has since been demolished for a 17 storey office building that is to house the Federal Finance Department. The museum moved into its current building on Sussex Drive in 1988, beside Nepean Point.

In 1985, the newly created Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (CMCP), formerly the Stills Photography Division of the National Film Board of Canada, was affiliated to the National Gallery. The CMCP's mandate, collection and staff moved to its new location in 1992, at 1 Rideau Canal, next to the Château Laurier. In 1998, the CMCP's administration was amalgamated to that of the National Gallery's.

In 2000, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada chose the National Gallery as one of the top 500 buildings produced in Canada during the last millennium.[6]



The interior of National Gallery of Canada

The Gallery has a large and varied collection of paintings, drawings, sculpture and photographs. Although its focus is on Canadian art, it holds works by many noted American and European artists. It has a strong contemporary art collection with some of Andy Warhol's most famous works.[7] In 1990 the Gallery bought Barnett Newman's Voice of Fire for $1.8 million, igniting a storm of controversy. Since that time its value has appreciated sharply. In 2005, the Gallery acquired a painting by Italian Renaissance painter Francesco Salviati for $4.5 million.[8] Its most famous painting is likely The Death of General Wolfe by Anglo-American artist Benjamin West.

In 2005, a sculpture of a giant spider, Louise Bourgeois's Maman, was installed in the plaza in front of the Gallery.[9] In 2011 the gallery installed Canadian sculptor Joe Fafard's Running Horses next to the Sussex Drive entrance, and American artist Roxy Paine's stainless steel sculpture One Hundred Foot Line in Nepean Point behind the gallery.

The Canadian collection, the most comprehensive in Canada, holds works by Louis-Philippe Hébert, Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, Alex Colville, Jean-Paul Riopelle and Jack Bush.[10]

The Gallery organizes its own exhibits which travel across Canada and beyond, and hosts shows from around the world, often co-sponsored with other national art galleries and museums.[11][12]

The Gallery's collection has been built up through purchase and donations. Much of the collection was donated, notably the British paintings donated by former Governor General Vincent Massey and that of the Southam family.

Noted works alphabetical by artist

Louise Bourgeois' Maman (1999) stands outside the National Gallery of Canada's main entrance
Samuel de Champlain by sculptor Hamilton MacCarthy stands beside the Gallery at Nepean Point, Ottawa
National Gallery of Canada

The museum features Canadian, Native and Inuit art, American and European painting, sculpture, prints and drawings, modern and contemporary art and photographs. The largest work in the Gallery is the entire interior of the Rideau Street Chapel, which formed part of the Convent of Our Lady Sacred Heart,[5] The interior decorations of the Rideau Street Chapel were designed by Georges Couillon in 1887. After the convent was demolished in 1972, the chapel was dismantled, stored and reconstructed within the gallery as a work of art in 1988.


The Museum is affiliated with: CMA, Ontario Association of Art Galleries, CHIN, and Virtual Museum of Canada.


  1. ^ The Canadian Encyclopedia
  2. ^ a b c National Gallery of Canada - 1980
  3. ^ "Concordia university to award five honorary degrees at five ceremonies for 3300 graduating students".  
  4. ^ "Mayer confirmed as gallery director", The Globe and Mail, 8 December 2008.
  5. ^ a b Pound, Richard W. (2005). 'Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates'. Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 
  6. ^ Cook, Marcia (11 May 2000). "Cultural consequence". Ottawa Citizen (Canwest). Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  7. ^ National Gallery of Canada: Contemporary Art
  8. ^ National Gallery acquires rare Renaissance masterpiece by Salviati, 15 August 2005
  9. ^ National Gallery of Canada is latest major museum to welcome Louise Bourgeois' Maman, 9 May 2005
  10. ^ National Gallery of Canada: Canadian & Aboriginal Art
  11. ^ National Gallery of Canada: Past Exhibitions
  12. ^ National Gallery of Canada: Travelling Exhibitions
  13. ^ Hugh Honour, "Canova's Statue of a Dancer,"
  14. ^ Artwork Page: Forty-Part Motet
  15. ^ National Gallery of Canada: Roxy Paine - One Hundred Foot Line
  16. ^ National Gallery of Canada: Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool, 1919
  17. ^ WorldHeritage image of Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool

Further reading

  • Ord, Douglas (2003), The National Gallery of Canada: ideas, art, architecture, McGill-Queen's University Press,  
  • Robert Fulford, "Turning the absurd into an art form: Canada's National Gallery has a history filled with bizarre decisions," National Post, 9 September 2003,

External links

  • Official website

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