Kanguq - Automne / Fall 2013 - Page 15

Nouvelles de la FCNQ / FCNQ News\r\nArt Nunavik\r\n\r\ngood that the Canadian government,\r\neager to create economic development in\r\nthe north, increased its efforts to promote this emerging art through existing\r\nsouthern companies like the Hudson Bay\r\nCompany. Inuit also got involved in the\r\npromotion of Inuit art, they wanted to\r\ngain some control of their future so the\r\nlate 1950s saw the arrival of cooperatives.\r\nIn 1967, after five of Nunavik’s 14 communities had established co-ops, they\r\ncreated La Fédération des Coopératives\r\ndu Nouveau-Québec (FCNQ). At Expo\r\n67 in Montreal, FCNQ presented Inuit\r\nartists and their artworks at the Canadian\r\npavilion to bolster Inuit art’s international\r\nreputation.\r\nI remember when I was 7, my father,\r\nPeter, had let me tag along with a group of\r\ncarvers on one of the trips to Expo 67 and\r\nI still remember seeing a carving there by\r\nIsah Smiler. In my late teens, summers\r\nwere spent unpacking carvings at FCNQ.\r\nThis gave me a chance to learn and appreciate the level of craftsmanship involved\r\ncarving soapstone. Later I would be good\r\nenough to repair damaged carvings and\r\nalso work in the sales department. During\r\nall that time I was lucky to have mentors\r\nsuch as Jim McDonagh, Mary Craig, Peter\r\nand Bernard Murdoch. They would all\r\nunderline the importance of ensuring a\r\nhealthy future for the Nunavik art market\r\nin all aspects of selling or promoting Inuit\r\nart.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nInuit art had its golden years in the 60’s\r\nand 70’s. Many artists were producing\r\nartworks but soon there were too many\r\ncarvings on the market. Attempting to\r\nmaintain sales, the coops and FCNQ\r\ndecided to open showrooms in New York\r\nand Toronto and also a retail outlet in\r\nMontreal. All this was very expensive to\r\noperate and for a short time, sales did improve. Unfortunately, even these measures\r\nwere not enough and sales began to fall\r\nagain and we now have one showroom in\r\nMontreal.\r\n\r\nIn 1948, the Canadian Guild of Crafts\r\nin Montreal was the first to organize a\r\nsh ow of Inuit art. The response was so\r\n\r\nIt was decided early on that carvers\r\nwere to be paid for the artwork at the\r\nco-op and the financial burden of the\r\ninventory is carried by the co-ops. This is\r\n\r\nNunavik Art\r\nunlike the south where artists are generally paid only when their artwork is sold.\r\nSince the co-op purchases the carving, the\r\nartist does not have the responsibility of\r\nrepresenting himself to the market, transporting the artwork and collecting his\r\ndue. With the co-op as an agent, not only\r\nis an artist free to devote his time to his\r\nart, the profit from art sales would return\r\nto the community. In their early years,\r\ncarving sales fueled the growth of other\r\nservices in the community, all the while\r\nproviding good incomes for artists.\r\nArtists today face a market where older\r\ncarvings are returning on the market\r\ncompeting with recent artworks, buyers\r\nare much more discriminating and world\r\neconomies have forced many to cut back\r\nand downsize.\r\nQuality artwork is needed. The carvings entered in the 2013 legend contest\r\nare not only of good quality, they show a\r\nvariety of moods. Thanks to the story accompanying each carving, it is possible to\r\nunderstand the artwork and the rationale\r\nbehind it. The Canadian Arctic Gallery of\r\nSwitzerland was impressed and has purchased the majority of the collection.\r\nAlong with the promotion and selling\r\nof Nunavik art, Art Nunavik manages the\r\ncarving inventory and facilitates communications between the north and south\r\nart market. As an example: during the\r\n“Northern scenes” event, Mattiusi Iyaituk\r\nhad a one man show at Axeneo7 Gallery\r\nin Gatineau. On our web site, we plan\r\nto add tools for our retailers and update\r\nbiographies. Another activity we supervise is the eider down harvest. These past\r\nyears, despite a very poor market, harvesters have still been able to continue selling\r\neider down at the co-op. This activity is\r\nconsidered important and thankfully the\r\nmarket is recuperating.\r\nFor the Inuit, art has helped them\r\ndevelop economically and provided an\r\noutlet by which they can share their rich\r\ncultural heritage. Even though art sales\r\nare not profitable for the coops now, the\r\ncoop movement is committed to maintaining and improving conditions for\r\nartists in Nunavik.\r\n\r\n\r\n