Home » VoCA Recommends…Ottawa: the Firestone Collection, the Viewer as Performer, Gian Luca Bernini

VoCA Recommends…Ottawa: the Firestone Collection, the Viewer as Performer, Gian Luca Bernini


The Ottawa Art Gallery

2 August to 9 November 2008

Jean-Paul Riopelle, Perspectives, 1956. Image: tate.org.uk

The Firestone Collection of Canadian Art is a significant art collection that spans the modern period (1900-1980). Originally established by collectors O. J. and Isobel Firestone in the early 1950s, the collection contains approximately 1,600 works by a number of influential Canadian artists.

Celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Firestone Collection, this exhibition features key works by some of Canada’s most influential artists, including:

Edmund Alleyn, Maxwell Bates, Paul-Émile Borduas, Frank Carmichael, Emily Carr, A.J. Casson, Stanley Cosgrove, Clarence Gagnon, Bruce Garner, Lawren S. Harris, Edwin Holgate, A.Y. Jackson, David Milne, Norval Morrisseau, Toni Onley, Alfred Pellan, Claude Picher, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Anne Savage, Jack Shadbolt and Harold Town.

Lawren Harris, Untitled (mountains near Jasper), c. 1926 -30 (Not in Firestone Collection) Image: mendel.ca

Dr. Firestone traveled across the country, often accompanied by his wife Isobel, and personally visited many of the artists represented in the Collection.

The Firestones viewed collecting as the development of a public art resource, and they donated most of their holdings to the Ontario Heritage Foundation in 1972. Still in their private residence, their collection was shared with the public through tours conducted by Dr. Firestone.

In 1992 it was transferred to the City of Ottawa.

More on the collection and the gallery, right HERE.

Speaking of Ottawa, how much do you know about the National Gallery?

It’s a great place with amazingly prescient exhibitions yet suffers from geographical remove. (Carsten Höller in 2007, Cai Guo-Qiang: Long Scroll, 2006, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: The Paradise Institute, 2005, Napachie Pootoogook, 2005, Attila Richard Lukacs in 2005, Peter Doig, 2001 and Mark Lewis - Films 1995-2000, in 2001 are only some great examples)

In the interest of helping the National Gallery spread the word about it’s fantastic programming, here are two upcoming shows that we recommend checking out:

2. Caught in the Act: The Viewer as Performer

18 OCTOBER 2008 – 15 FEBRUARY 2009

Max Dean, Raffaello D’Andrea and Matt Donovan, The Robotic Chair (1984 – 2006)


A group exhibition of Canadian artists that presents sculptural work that engage, and even rely on, the active spectator.

The histories of performance, installation, environmental, minimal, and body art combine to foreground the interaction between art object and viewing subject.

These sculptures and installations emphatically declare the role of the participant over the authorial role of the artist – all of these works may be considered in relation to the recent interest in participatory art practices.

Jennifer Marman & Daniel Borins, In Sit You, 2006. Image: ccca.ca

Featuring work by Max Dean, Mowry Baden, Rebecca Belmore, Jana Sterbak, BGL, Geoffrey Farmer, Massimo Guerrera, Rodney LaTourelle, Kent Monkman, Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins.

3. Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture

28 NOVEMBER 2008 – 8 MARCH 2009

Bernini, Bust of Louis XIV, 1665. Image: arts.auckland.ac.nz

Organized in collaborations with the J. Paul Getty Museum, this exhibition explores the remarkable development of the sculptural portrait in early 17th century Rome. Under the influence of Gian Lorenzo Bernini and others in his wake – Alessandro Algardi, Giuliano Finelli, François Duquesnoy, and Francesco Mochi – the portrait bust once again became an innovative and groundbreaking art form.

These sculptors were able to capture a person’s appearance not simply by portraying what is visible but rather by depicting character through a more animated, living, and breathing rendering.

Gian Luca Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, 1622–24. Image: britannica.com

An exhibition on this topic has never been mounted before and it is expected to raise a number of issues such as the trajectory of Bernini’s career, persistent questions of attribution, theories of portraiture, and the critical response to this production. These topics are of interest to both scholars and the general public.

Click HERE for the Getty museum website, and HERE for the National Gallery of Canada.

And speaking of little-known Canadian artists, look for VoCA’s review of the forthcoming book Independent Spirit, a celebration of Canadian women artists from the 18th to mid-20th century, out in the fall in Quill & Quire.

In the meantime, stay tuned for tomorrow’s Underrated Canadian Artist!

2 Responses to “VoCA Recommends…Ottawa: the Firestone Collection, the Viewer as Performer, Gian Luca Bernini”

  1. Phil says:

    I am always speechless when I see a Bernini piece.

  2. Andrea says:

    Me too – I think Apollo and Daphne may be the most beautiful thing ever..

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