Diamond Mine: 60 Years of Collecting at the Dalhousie Art Gallery

12 September – 5 October, 2014

Public reception: Thursday 11 September at 8:00 PM

In October 1953, a one-room area in the Arts and Administration Building was officially opened as the Dalhousie Art Gallery, a space administered by an art committee made up of faculty members working on a volunteer basis. The 1950s and 1960s were formative years for the Gallery when it went through a period of rapid growth. In 1970, the Gallery hired its first professional Director, and it has been led by paid professional staff ever since.

The Gallery moved into its new, permanent home in the Dalhousie Art Centre in November 1971. With a large exhibition area and the availability of work and storage space, the Gallery was able to meet National Gallery of Canada standards for displaying and handling works of art. The new move also meant that the Gallery was able to expand and care for its Permanent Collection, especially with the development of paid staff positions for a part-time Curator and Registrar/Preparator.

Diamond Mine marks the end of our 60th anniversary year. In planning for a celebratory exhibition, Gallery staff members were challenged to carefully choose works from the Permanent Collection that acknowledged the history of the Gallery but also to the pleasure of intellectually polishing up a few ‘diamonds’ in the vault that have not been seen in the public eye for many years. Two bodies of work and one professional practice are the focus of this exhibition.

The first selection presents works that were acquired from the Dalhousie Drawing Exhibitions. Initiated in 1975, the ten group exhibitions that were produced during the next fifteen years were curated by practicing artists with the full intention of pushing the boundaries of what constituted ‘drawing’ as both an object and a practice. Indeed, this is the first time that all of our holdings are on display together as a curated set.

The second project is a tight selection of ‘hard edge’ paintings, drawings and prints from the 1960s and 1970s, studio work that was produced in the same aesthetic era when the Gallery first opened in 1971. Intended to re-examine work that has not been assembled together for many years, the installation also investigates how hard edged work visually riffs off the ‘poetic brutalist’ architecture of the Gallery space itself.  

Part of the custodial responsibility towards our Permanent Collection is attention to conservation issues as they arise. To shed light on this often hidden task, we have invited Elizabeth Jablonski, Fine Art Paintings Conservator, to set up a temporary studio within the Gallery as she attends to the cleaning of a number of works. While we curatorially polish up the diamonds in our mine, she will physically do so with the objects themselves.

Public presentation by Elizabeth Jablonski: TBD