Qaumajuq’s translation from Inuktitut to English means, “It is bright, it is lit," and that has certainly been exemplified in its architecture, as light pours through skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows in every exhibit.
This was of course part of architect Michael Maltzan’s ethos when designing this brand-new $65-million centre, which opened to the public March 2021.
The architect, who co-presented during a media sneak peek of Qaumajuq (KOW-ma-yourq), had been inspired by the “light, scale and vastness” of the Arctic landscape when designing this building, while also admitting being “mesmerized by the quality of light in Winnipeg” itself, which you can now see at play on the south side of the building where the scalloped exterior holds shadows and plays with the sunlight like ice on the tundra.
His other central task was to create an addition to Gustavo da Roza’s iconic 1971 façade of the Winnipeg Art Gallery that wouldn’t separate, but rather strengthen both buildings—which he has certainly achieved.
According to the WAG’s director and CEO Stephen Borys, each floor of Qaumajuq connects directly and often runs right into the WAG’s own galleries, further emphasizing the interconnectivity of it all.
Qaumajuq’s exhibitions themselves are connected via corridors with contours that roll like snowdrifts, mimicking the land where this art was created.
From the street, Qaumajuq beckons. There is a continuous glass façade that runs the whole ground floor, allowing everyone to see its massive three-storey glass vault, where more than 5,000 carvings are now on display.
When you approach this vault in the building’s foyer its flowing shape gets you so close to the sculptures; at some sections, it even envelopes you within the works.
The ground floor also contains a theatre that will foster dialogue between the North and the South, a connection between cultures and a place of learning. The goal is to bring Inuit art to a larger audience by finding a respectful, celebratory way of presenting it here in Winnipeg.
The top floor of Qaumajuq is dedicated to studio spaces, where artists, educators and students can work in a variety of mediums, including a studio solely dedicated to sculpture.
Altogether, there is nothing like Qaumajuq, which gives us all an opportunity to view the world’s largest collection of contemporary Inuit art in a setting that truly celebrates its origins. Qaumajuq holds in trust close to 14,000 pieces of Inuit art, including carvings, drawings, prints, textiles and new media. Each piece has its own story to tell.
What International publications are saying
Qaumajuq has already been celebrated for its groundbreaking mandate and striking design by the likes of Forbes, Travel + Leisure, The Globe and Mail, Wallpaper*, AZURE and enRoute magazine.
Forbes describes it as, “an extraordinary new museum that is home to the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world” noting the “one-of-a-kind, space-sharing design” which constitutes a “185,000-square-foot (4.24 acres, the size of four football fields) cultural campus in the vibrant centre of downtown Winnipeg.”
AZURE, in an article titled “Michael Maltzan Unveils a New Centre for Inuit Art in Winnipeg,” celebrates the architecture and points to the innovative curatorial process at Qaumajuq. “As much as “INUA” is a landmark exhibition itself,” writes Evan Pavka for AZURE, referring to the inaugural exhibit, “the presentation is only the first in a series of projects in which the new centre will be foundational in supporting and elevating the ever-evolving work and ingenuity of contemporary Inuit artists.”
For enRoute, Bert Archer celebrates Qaumajuq’s mandate further: “The significance of Qaumajuq cannot be overstated… Up to this point, the WAG’s Inuit collection has been mostly acquired and curated by settlers… But with Qaumajuq this is changing, and with this change will come others, including an increased awareness across the country that collections should be curated by people who share a cultural heritage with the art.”
- Qaumajuq’s first floor is always FREE to visit, hang out, grab food, visit ShopWAG and explore nearly 5,000 artworks in Eckhardt Hall and the Visible Vault.
- Guests may bring their own food and drinks to enjoy on the main floor of WAG-Qaumajuq, the outdoor patio on St. Mary Ave, and on the Rooftop Sculpture Garden. Katita Cafe is available for food, drinks and coffee. Bring a sketchbook! Pencils are welcome in the Gallery.
- Facility Rentals: With two iconic buildings connected on all four levels, the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq is an inspiring venue that offers a variety of spaces for services and receptions of all kinds. Learn more: https://www.wag.ca/events/rentals/
- School tours: School groups (K to 12) are welcome at WAG-Qaumajuq for exciting interactive, curriculum-based tours, lesson and workshops available in English or French. Learn more: https://www.wag.ca/learn/schools-teachers/
WAG-Qaumajuq is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm and Friday until 9 pm. For more information, visit wag.ca.