York’s University’s Art collection is visible yet hardly seen in a coherent way. Some of it hangs on public display, some of it graces the walls of offices and some is stored in protective vaults. In most institutions it is the fate of collections to bide their time until individual works see the light of day in exhibition. There is always more art in collections than can at any one moment be displayed—at least safely and securely. A collection has a pattern that is dependent on its history, and such is York’s.
Collections are really about time. They are the sedimented histories of their institutions. The Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) stirs up this history with its new exhibit, Biding Time: The Collection Strikes Back. And it’s about time: York University’s art collection has never been shown at the AGYU in its 26-year history. The York University community is invited to come out and celebrate this unprecedented exhibition at a free, public reception on Wednesday Jan. 14, from 6 to 9pm.
Biding Time complements what is on display around the University’s Keele campus with a view of what is in the AGYU’s vaults. Biding Time is a tour through key moments of York University’s art collection. It shows how the collection developed in the interests of the moment such as phenomenon of Inuit art, a collection created at one fell swoop in 1970 through the purchase of two private collections. Some of these nearly 200 works are on permanent display in The Centre for Aboriginal Student Services in York Lanes. But it was the decision in 1959 that .5 per cent of building costs were to be allocated for public display of art in the new buildings that kick-started the general collection.
Included in the collection are the 76 paintings, sculpture and works on paper that were generously donated to the University by Joan and Martin Goldfarb in 2001. The donation rectified absences in the collection giving weight to Quebec art (paintings by Paul-Emile Borduas and Jean-Paul Riopelle) and American art (Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, and Frank Stella), First Nations work by Norval Morrisseau, but also adding sculptures by Inuit artist David Ruben Piqtoukun, and Degas and Moore bronzes.
And then there are the oddities that are captured in Biding Time. What is authentic and what was produced for the tourist trade in the Papua New Guinea collection of sculpture? Why is York the repository for a huge collection of works by outsider artist Alma Rumball? Bringing a collection to the light of day perhaps asks more questions than it settles.
Make time to drop by the gallery to view Biding Time: The Collection Strikes Back. The exhibition continues until March 15.
The Art Gallery of York University is a university-affiliated public non-profit contemporary art gallery supported by York University, The Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, and our membership.
The AGYU is located in the Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele Street, Keele campus. Gallery hours are: Monday to Friday, from 10am to 4pm; Wednesday, from 10am to 8pm; Sunday, from 12 to 5pm; and closed Saturday.
For more information on the AGYU: Biding Time exhibit, visit the gallery’s website at www.theAGYUisOutThere.org.
With notes from AGYU Director and Curator Philip Monk and Emelie Chhangur, assistant director and curator.