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New sights to behold at Beaverbrook Art Gallery with acquisition of 30 works

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery has added 30 art pieces to its permanent collection, in part because of the sale of one of the original gifts to the gallery from Lord Beaverbrook.

“It is just about the largest single amount of purchases we’ve ever made at one time,” said Ray Cronin, curator of Canadian art at the gallery.

“That was only made possible by a combination of factors, including … the deaccessioning of a painting.”

Beach Scene, Lancashire by British painter L.S. Lowry stirred up controversy when it was auctioned off for slightly more than $2 million Cdn in London, England.

An oil painting of lots of people on a beach with a large boat in the water surrounded by smaller boats.
Beach Scene, Lancashire by British artist Laurence Stephen Lowry sold for slightly more than $2 million Cdn at an auction in November. (L.S. Lowry/ Submitted by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery)

The Beaverbrook defended selling the painting, saying that the money from deaccessioning goes directly into an acquisition fund for new works.

“This is all part of our process of how we deal with the collection and how we keep it fresh and how we keep it relevant over the decades, since the Beaverbrook’s founding in the late 50s,” said Cronin.

Cronin, the former CEO of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, joined the Beaverbrook in November. Since then, he said he’s been acquiring new works.

WATCH | The CBC’s Rachel Cave takes a tour with Ray Cronin, curator of Canadian art:

Take a tour of Beaverbrook Art Gallery’s latest additions

The Fredericton art gallery recently purchased 30 new works, and another dozen were donated.

The newest acquisition is Zombies Fire Burning by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptuna, a British Columbia-born artist with a Coast Salish and Okanagan background, which depicts the destruction of the environment.

Cronin said Yuxweluptuna was especially excited for the painting to come to the Beaverbrook, home of Santiago El Grande by Salvador Dali, because he draws inspiration from Dali’s surrealism.

That painting will soon occupy the same room as Dali’s piece, Cronin said, inciting “a nice conversation between the two paintings.”

A large painting of a horse
Cronin said Yuxweluptuna’s piece will soon be featured in the same room as the famous Santiago El Grande by Salvador Dali. (Pat Richard/CBC)

“The Santiago El Grande came into the collection within the first few years of the Beaverbrook’s existence,” said Cronin. 

“Here we are 70 years later and we’re still adding things … we’re still having the collection speak over time to and across cultures to the people who are lucky enough to come and see this.”

Two paintings side by side. The one on the left features a nude figure on a red surface and the one on the right is of a landscape.
Nude on Red Cloth by Goodridge Roberts, left, was donated to the gallery by art historian Sandra Paikowsky. The painting next to it, also painted by Roberts and donated by Paikowsky, can be seen in the background of Nude on Red Cloth. (Pat Richard/CBC)

But like the original works from Lord Beaverbrook, Cronin said much of a gallery’s collection consists of gifts and donations, including some of the artworks in the most recent acquisition.

One of those is Nude on Red Cloth by Montreal painter Goodridge Roberts, who grew up in Fredericton, which Cronin said was given to the gallery by well-known art historian Sandra Paikowsky.

Several other pieces were added to the collection, including a mixed-media sound installation by Jean-Pierre Gauthier called Chants de Travail and Blanket 2 by Zeke Moores, which used a process called sand casting. 

In a room of historical paintings at Beaverbrook, a newer work hangs among them. It’s a piece by Cree artist Kent Monkman. The Trapper’s Bride shows Monkman’s alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, painted in the style of an 18th century artwork of Napoleon.

“Because his practice is all about taking the form of history painting, and then retelling the history to be one that’s more conducive to the way he thinks history should be, I thought it was really great to have it in this room filled with historical paintings,” said Cronin.

A painting of a man and a woman on a horse
Contemporary painting The Trapper’s Bride by Kent Monkman hangs in a room with historical paintings at the Beaverbook. (Pat Richard/CBC)

“There’s no rule that says, you know, I as curator have to show things chronologically or only put things together in certain ways.

“We have the ability to add little elements that add new senses of, I think, depth to the historical work … because art is a conversation and it’s a conversation that takes place over centuries.”