New online database makes York’s art collection accessible

Three paintings hung on an orange wall, part of the York University art collection

The Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) recently announced the official launch of the York University Art Collection Online, a searchable database providing students, scholars and the public with access to York’s valued art collection. This digital resource houses nearly 2,000 artworks by local, national and international artists, spanning a wide range of artistic mediums, including painting, sculpture, prints, photography and new media.

The launch of the online database signifies a milestone in York’s commitment to making its art collection accessible to a broader audience. The user-friendly digital platform allows students, faculty, art historians and art enthusiasts to explore the collection’s holdings.

Jenifer Papararo, director and curator of the AGYU, remarks that “making the University’s collection accessible for research has been an important priority over the last three years and marks a future-oriented vision of art acquisition that is tied not only to building legacy for the University but also with a responsibility to assemble a pedagogical resource.”

Access to the online database is free and open to the public, aligning with the AGYU’s commitment to fostering cultural appreciation and accessibility.

Corresponding with the founding of the University, the York University art collection has played a pivotal role in enriching the academic and cultural experience at York. With the transformation of the AGYU into a publicly funded gallery in the late ’80s, the collection came under the gallery’s supervision and care, and with its transformation into the Joan & Martin Goldfarb Gallery in Fall 2024, the University’s art collection will be further elevated, as the new stand-alone building allows for the transformation of the current gallery space into a visible vault for the art collection, increasing its accessibility and significance within the University’s cultural landscape.

The University’s commitment to collecting and preserving art is reflected in the diverse and eclectic range of artworks found within the collection. In the late 1960s, York University made significant acquisitions, adding pioneering works by Canadian abstractionists to its holdings, including iconic pieces by Montreal-based non-figurative artists such as Guido Molinari, Claude Tousignant and Yves Gaucher. York is also home to an impressive collection of over 300 Inuit prints and stone carvings produced in the 1960s by artists from the Kinngait Co-operative (Cape Dorset) in Nunavut, acquired in the early ’70s. Featuring work by Pitseolak Ashoona, Kenojuak Ashevak, Johnny Inukpuk and Qaqak Ashoona, among others, these prints and sculptures represent an important body of work produced by founding artists of the longest running and most influential artists co-operative in the North.

The collection has continued to expand over the years with generous donations, notably a major gift of sculptures, paintings, and works on paper by Joan and Martin Goldfarb. That significant donation of 65 artworks includes a selection of Andy Warhol silk screen portraits, an iconic painting by Helen Frankenthaler and paradigmatic works by Norval Morrisseau, founder of the Woodland School. The collection also reflects the AGYU’s program, including commissioned works such as RISE by Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, a film featuring 30 performers from Toronto’s Jane-Finch and Scarborough neighbourhoods, as well as an LED sculpture, Politics, that was part of Hannah Black’s exhibition, The Meaning of Life.

To explore the York University Art Collection Online, visit For more information about the database, contact Michael Maranda, assistant curator of publications, at For queries related to the collection, contact Allyson Adley, education and community engagement coordinator, at