Arctic Museum Celebrates Its 50th with Major Inuit Art Gift

Longtime Inuit art collectors Judith and Robert Toll have given the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum a major gift of contemporary Canadian Inuit art. The Tolls describe their donation as “fifty Inuit graphics to celebrate the museum’s fifty years,” marking the Arctic Museum’s half century of operation. “This generous gift broadens and deepens our Inuit print and drawing collection,” said museum director Susan Kaplan. “We are excited that our students will be able to work with these magnificent works on paper.”

The donation includes works by artists from seven Canadian Inuit communities, though the vast majority of the prints were done by Baker Lake artists. The works include a rare 1961 “experimental” print from the northern Quebec community of Puvirnituq and an early engraving by Pitseolak Ashoona. Other well-known artists represented in the gift include Pudlo Pudlat, Victoria Mamnguqsualuk, William Noah, and Simon Tookoome.

In addition to the limited-edition prints, two drawings, one by Arviat artist Mary Ayak Anowtolik and the other by Baker Lake artist Luke Anguhadluq, add to the museum’s growing collection of original works on paper. “We are thrilled to be adding these prints and drawings to our collection,” said museum curator Genevieve LeMoine, “and the fact that they mark such an important anniversary adds another level of excitement to the gift. We are looking forward to including them in upcoming exhibits.”

In 2009 the Tolls donated nearly two-hundred pieces of Canadian Inuit sculpture and graphic art to the Arctic Museum. That gift was transformative for the museum, allowing it to mount exhibits about this important aspect of modern Inuit society, first in the major exhibit “Imagination Takes Shape” and subsequently in a variety of smaller, more focused exhibits. The Toll’s 2009 gift has drawn the attention of other collectors who also have been moved to donate their collections of Canadian and Alaskan Inuit art to the museum.

While the prints and drawings will not be on exhibit immediately, they will be available to college classes for study. Indeed, the prints are already being used in instruction. One of the museum’s students, working alongside the curatorial staff, is learning how to catalogue, assess the condition of, and store the prints. Using museum collections to support teaching was one of the factors that drew the Tolls to the Arctic Museum when they first began looking for a home for their collection, and the prints have proven to be particularly important resources of instruction in a wide range of college courses. “Inuit prints provide an amazing window into both traditional and contemporary northern culture,” according to Kaplan, in addition to showing the creativity, imagination, and skill of the artists.

Some of the prints and sculptures from the Toll’s original gift are currently on view in the exhibit “Power of Flight: Visions of Birds in Inuit Art.” That exhibit will close in late December.

The Arctic Museum, located on the first floor of Hubbard Hall on the Bowdoin College campus, is open Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM and Sunday 2:00 – 5:00 PM. It is closed Mondays and national holidays. Admission is free. For more information visit our website or call 207-725-3416.

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