The extraordinary, contemporary Coast Salish art collection of Victoria residents George and Christiane Smyth is featured at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
Running through May 6, Victoria Collects: The Salish Weave Collection is a companion exhibition to Victoria Collects opening at the gallery on Feb. 6.
“Our collection is a noun and a verb,” said George Smyth. “The objects are nouns; what we do with the collection is the verb.” For this reason they call themselves activist collectors. Their mission is to promote the works not just passively acquire and display them.
The seeds of the Smyth’s collection were sewn in the late 1990s with the purchase of Coast Salish art to decorate the walls of their home. Over the years they found that they were consistently drawn to the graphic aesthetic particular to the Coast Salish traditions and began to recognize the specific design elements such as ovals, crescents and trigons that distinguish Coast Salish art from other better known North West coast art. Today they collect in order to share with and educate the public about the significant First Nations artwork specific to this area.
With their 2004 acquisition of Yellow and Red Cedar Weave by Susan Point, the Smyths were inspired to name their collection The Salish Weave Collection to represent the weaving of different artists and art forms.
Important to the Smyth’s philosophy is their direct support of local artists. They support the artists by buying directly from them as well as from the galleries that represent them. They also commission works and purchase large-scale works of art that they loan to institutions, including Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology. Artworks from The Salish Weave Collection have been part of major exhibitions locally, nationally and internationally. In addition, the Smyths have donated art to the National Gallery of Canada, the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University and Stanford University in California, among others.
“Of all of the collectors I have met in Victoria, this couple is the most singularly focused and, possibly, the hardest working,” said AGGV Chief Curator, Mary Jo Hughes. “They collect nothing but Coast Salish art because they really believe in it and feel that for too long it has not received the recognition it deserves.
“What they have done with the collection – commissioning, lending, donating, and supporting educational endeavours – is allowing contemporary Coast Salish artists and their artwork to be recognized locally and around the world.”
Victoria Collects: The Salish Weave Collection includes 20 recent works by Canadian Coast Salish artists Susan Point, lessLIE, Maynard Johnny Jr., Dylan Thomas, John Marston, Luke Marston, Angela Marston and Chris Paul.
In sharing a portion of their large collection for this exhibition, the Smyths hope they can allow further public appreciation of some of the most vibrant contemporary art in the region.
For more information, visit www.aggv.ca or call 250-384-4171.