Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

WAG's 100 Masters exhibit drawing more than art aficionados

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The Winnipeg Art Gallery is packed this rainy Victoria Day weekend as art lovers took the opportunity to visit the recently opened gallery titled, 100 Masters: Only in Canada.  A visitor to the gallery listens to an audio tour while looking at Claude Tousignant's Gong 80, 1966.  The show includes the works of major paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn, Giovanni Paolo Panini, Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol and many more. It will be open until Aug. 18.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The Winnipeg Art Gallery is packed this rainy Victoria Day weekend as art lovers took the opportunity to visit the recently opened gallery titled, 100 Masters: Only in Canada. A visitor to the gallery listens to an audio tour while looking at Claude Tousignant's Gong 80, 1966. The show includes the works of major paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn, Giovanni Paolo Panini, Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol and many more. It will be open until Aug. 18. Photo Store

Rose Goossen stands in the Winnipeg Art Gallery, directly in front of an Italian scene painted in the 18th century.

Her arms crossed, her body shifting side to side, she is in awe. Not long ago, she was standing in that very setting in Rome.

"I'm looking at this painting and trying to position it in my mind in relation to myself and where I was," Goosen said Sunday. "I'm really astonished, and struck by the fact this was painted hundreds of years ago and these monuments are still there today."

The rain of the Victoria Day long weekend gave Goosen a welcomed chance to visit the WAG for its 100th anniversary exhibit called 100 Masters: Only in Canada. The exhibit has 110 pieces of art featuring the works of Rembrandt van Rijin, Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, as well as Canadian artists such as members of the Group of Seven.

The pieces featured at the event were borrowed from 28 Canadian museums and two museums from the United States, while 10 pieces are from the WAG's own collection.

"Everyone will have different expectations," said Stephen Borys, curator of the 100 Masters and director and CEO of the WAG. "But I'm really thinking of those people who don't usually go to art galleries or museums. I kind of want them to have a really special experience."

The exhibit has only been open since May 11, but Borys estimates over 4,000 viewers have already come in to see the pieces, and 100 new memberships have been sold.

He expects more will be sold before the exhibition closes Aug. 18.

"I know they're going to discover things they've never seen before," said Borys.

Wolseley residents Jeff and Jennifer Renton went to the exhibit before they have to move in June.

"He's not one that's been to a lot of art galleries, so it's been kind of really cool to take him through one," said Jennifer of her husband. "He's really excited; it's a really unique opportunity."

Gathering all the pieces for the exhibit comes with a hefty price tag. Though the loan of artworks is free, moving a piece includes expenses such as wrapping it, transport and security. Borys said bringing one piece to the museum can cost up to $5,000.

"The overall exhibition, all costs in, it's well over $600,000," said Borys. "But when I think of it, for a centennial exhibition, it's worth it. We also raise $400,000 in sponsorships."

Borys said he started preparing for the 100 Masters in 2010.

The groundwork included taking a list of 1,000 pieces and trimming it down to just 100. Borys travelled across Canada to examine the pieces, then made sure there were 50 from the Canada and the U.S. and 50 more from Europe.

The exhibit spans five centuries, with a range of subject matter that includes landscapes, portraits and still-life paintings.

"I wanted to include what I consider are really some of the masters," said Borys. "In discussing this with the other lenders, we agreed the artists that are in the show are great artists."

Corrinne Parker, a teacher's assistant at Churchill High School, paints as a hobby. Visiting the gallery Sunday, she enjoyed seeing the expertise of texture and lighting in the pieces.

"It's been quite spectacular... it's been killer so far," said Parker. "It's interesting to see these paintings that you may have seen in books and then see the real thing."

Borys hopes everyone, not just art lovers, will come and check out the exhibit.

"You're seeing more than just art," said Borys. "You're seeing history, contemporary culture. You're seeing landscapes, geography, politics, religion. You're going to see humanity in front of you documented by artists."

The WAG was opened in 1912 -- as Canada's first civic art gallery -- by a group of Winnipeg businessmen. After moving several times, the WAG settled at its current location at 300 Memorial Blvd.

steph.crosier@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 21, 2013 B1

History

Updated on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 7:12 AM CDT: replaces photo

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