December 08, 2023

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Left to right: Michel de la Chenelière, Vice-President, MMFA; Robert Fréchette, Director General, Avataq Cultural Institute; Nathalie Bondil, Director General and Chief Curator, MMFA; Josepi Padlayat, President, Avataq Cultural Institute. Photo: Pierre Longtin

Montreal, QC – A new collaboration between two major players on the Canadian art scene bodes well for the promotion of Inuit art and culture. Josepi Padlayat, President of the Avataq Cultural Institute (Avataq), and Nathalie Bondil, Director General and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), are proud to announce that the two institutions have reached an agreement in principle to build an innovative long-term partnership that will include Avataq’s forthcoming move into buildings owned by the Museum.

Founded in 1980 and established in Inukjuak, the Avataq Cultural Institute is a leader of Nunavik Inuit culture and a model of Inuit culture in Canada and beyond. Its mission is to ensure that the Inuit culture and language thrive indefinitely, so that future generations may benefit from the rich traditions inherited from their ancestors and passed down by the elders.

“I am extremely pleased to announce this agreement with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I am convinced that this partnership will foster an even wider awareness of Inuit art treasures among Montreal’s general public and visitors from around the world. The heart of Montreal is set to be home to an Inuit cultural embassy. In tandem with our presence in this city, we will continue the important work of preserving and disseminating our culture in Nunavik, which will entail moving some of our services to the region,”declared Josepi Padlayat.

Nathalie Bondil added: We are delighted to bring Avataq Institute and its team physically and intellectually closer to the MMFA, so that we may gain from the insights of its experts, better promote Inuit art and facilitate our intercultural and educational exchanges. I firmly believe that such a partnership will be mutually beneficial to both organizations and to all our clienteles, in the North and Montreal alike. The implementation of numerous collaborative projects will strengthen dialogue within our network of specialists and community organizations. Soon, we will be undertaking renovations to accommodate our expanding Inuit art collection. Incidentally, ours is one of the oldest such collections in Canada and was recently enhanced by major donations.” 

In fact, the Museum’s collection of Inuit art was initiated in 1953 by F. Cleveland Morgan, the institution’s first curator. It is one of the most prestigious in Canada and includes over 700 works – sculptures, works on paper, jewellery and adornments – created by 300 artists­. Recently, generous donations from the now-closed Museum of Inuit Art and from Rothmans, Benson & Hedges have enabled the MMFA to pursue its efforts to diversify its collection, with the acquisition of 40 sculptures and textile works. The collection will continue to grow, backed by a dynamic acquisition policy focused on purchases and donations. Its current location in the Hydro-Québec Hall, on the top floor of the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art, is not large enough.

For its part, Avataq has succeeded in building impressive collections of archeological artefacts, artworks and ethnographic objects. Its collection comprises over 300,000 heritage objects that constitute what could be called “Nunavik’s national collection.” Its archives are composed of numerous important documents, historic photographs, genealogical files and sound recordings that attest to the Inuit’s long oral tradition. Avataq’s document centre is unequivocally one of the most comprehensive on an Indigenous culture in Canada.

The objectives of the present agreement are to:

  • Secure Avataq’s long-term presence in Montreal, adjacent to the MMFA
  • Promote Inuit art and culture
  • Foster dialogue and research on Inuit art among a large network of experts and community organizations
  • Establish knowledge sharing between Montreal and Nunavik organizations and experts
  • Pursue the MMFA’s educational mission and its promotion of togetherness
  • Offer educational and community activities for members of the Inuit community and the general public
Avataq will help the Museum establish lasting relationships with Nunavik communities. In turn, the MMFA will, by means of a 30-year emphyteutic lease, make available to Avataq various buildings adjacent to and owned by the Museum. This proximity will help further the reach of Inuit art and culture in Montreal and pave the way for future collaborations. Discussions are continuing between the two institutions to finalize the collaboration agreement that will frame joint activities and future, so as to ensure that they align with the two parties’ respective mandates.
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