It’s been two years in the making and now the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton is getting ready to pull back the curtain on changes inside and out with a “blockbuster” new exhibition.
Tom Smart, director of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, said when visitors are welcomed back into the gallery on April 2, they will be treated to the work of renowned Quebec painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, who died in 2002.
The exhibition, titled Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures, contains 180 paintings, drawings, prints, ceremonial objects and archival documents.
“It’s only been seen in Montreal and out west in Whistler, and this is its only Eastern Canadian venue,” said Smart.
“It’s a marvellous exhibition.”
The Riopelle opening will be free to the public, with remarks from the artist’s daughter, Yseult Riopelle.
There will be several other new exhibits, including Larry Fink vs. Gary Weekes: The Boxing Portfolios, Len and Cub: a queer history, and Cathy Ross: Ministers Island in Small Pieces.
Construction on the building began just over two years ago. One of the major changes is to the 63-year-old building’s facade, expanded closer to Queen Street with a new entrance.
There are a number of new spaces inside the gallery, Smart said, including a new wing dedicated to the late Harrison McCain, the Florenceville-Bristol businessman and co-founder of McCain Foods. Although the gallery reopens on April 2, the extension won’t open until the fall.
Smart said the gallery has also improved accessibility.
“The Harrison McCain Pavilion is a fully accessible building that will get people into the galleries smoothly, safely,” Smart said. “Everybody goes through the front door. Once they’re in the galleries, they’re fully accessible. We have new washrooms that are wheelchair accessible.”
Smart said he is excited about a new digital strategy that will showcase the galley’s collections online. Every work of art has been photographed in high resolution and will be on the new website that launches in a few weeks.
There is also a new education centre where the café used to be.
Shirley Blumberg of KPMB Architects was hired to design the expansion. It’s the second major renovation at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in the last five years.
The big goal was to make the institution more accessible, Smart said, and he believes people have missed the gallery.
“Judging from the comments I’ve been getting for the past two years, people … [are] looking forward to coming back and visiting their old friends here, the works of art.
“I think people are pretty keen to get back in here and be a community again in an art gallery.”