Collecting is central to the Art Gallery of Alberta’s role as an active resource and research facility for the Alberta community and broader public. Since its founding in 1924, the AGA has acquired nearly 6,000 works of art, the vast majority of which were produced after 1950 and added to the collection since 1970.
The strength of the gallery’s contemporary collection lies primarily in the area of Canadian abstract painting and sculpture, with a strong emphasis on the work of artists from this region in the context of parallel national and international movements.
Other significant collecting areas include: contemporary and historical photography, a collection which began in 1977 and now numbers over 1,500 photographs; a comprehensive collection of prints by the renowned 18th century British printmaker Thomas Bewick, numbering in excess of 850 objects; and a strong representation of historical Canadian painting from the late 1800s to the 1950s.
Acquisitions have included important works by contemporary Alberta artists such as: Jane Ash Poitras, Allen Ball, Catherine Burgess, Isla Burns, Chris Cran, Clay Ellis, Douglas Haynes, Alex Janvier, George Littlechild, Ron Moppett, Lyndal Osborne, Carol Taylor-Lindoe and Peter von Tiesenhausen, as well as comprehensive collections by the photographers Hubert Hohn and Orest Semchishen.
Nationally, the AGA has also acquired the work of a diverse range of modern and contemporary artists including: Marlene Creates, Janet Cardiff, Dean Drever, Brian Jungen, Liz Magor, Kevin Schmidt, Aganetha Dyck, Rita Letendre, and Takao Tanabe.
Additionally, the AGA’s expanding holdings in photography include work by key historical figures such as Edward Curtis, Karl Blossfeldt, Walker Evans, and Yousuf Karsh as well as significant contemporary photographers, including Lynne Cohen, Robin Collyer, and William Eakin.
The Gallery also continues to build on the strengths of the collection through acquisitions of historical Canadian artists. Foremost is a significant body of work by Alberta artist H.G. Glyde and a collection of works by Canadian artists, including: Illingworth Kerr, Marion Nicoll, Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Bill Reid, Carl Schaefer, John Snow, and Lilias Torrance Newton, as well as a strong representation of painters associated with the Group of Seven. The AGA’s rich collection of historical and contemporary Canadian artists is complemented by a diverse selection of international holdings.
The AGA’s collection has been built through generous donations and considered purchases with endowment funds. The Ernest E. Poole Foundation, for example, has gifted nearly 100 works by some of Canada’s most important artists, including Cornelius Krieghoff, Paul Peel, James Wilson Morrice, Emily Carr, A.Y. Jackson, Jack Bush, and Jean-Paul Riopelle. It is through the generosity of donors that the AGA has built, and continues to grow, one of the most important collections of visual art in western Canada.
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