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Sobey collection gives Islanders rare chance to see great Canadian art

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view some of the finest Canadian at Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
Kent Monkman, Wooden Boat People: Resurgence of the People.

A rare, some may say, once in a lifetime, opportunity for art lovers is coming to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV) this summer as they present ‘Generations: The Sobey Family and Canadian Art’.

For those unfamiliar with the collection, a little background may be in order.

The Sobey Art Foundation was established in 1981 with a mandate to carry on the work of Canadian business leader, Frank H. Sobey. Sobey was a dedicated supporter, collector and investor in Canadian art. The family collection of works has been assembled for three generations, preserving some of the finest examples of 19th, 20th, and 21st-century Canadian art.

Now some of the best works are on tour and, as the final stop on their cross-country journey, they will be on display at the AGGV between June 29 and October 27.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to see some of the best, privately owned Canadian art in the world,” said Steven McNeil, AGGV Chief Curator and Director of Collections & Exhibitions. “The Sobey family’s efforts have resulted in a truly overwhelming collection of wonders – filled with over 120 works by some of Canada’s best-known and most celebrated artists, including Emily Carr, the Group of Seven and Kent Monkman.”

The Sobey Family and Canadian Art is curated by McMichael Canadian Art Collection executive director and chief curator Sarah Milroy. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, edited by Milroy, and featuring contributions from past McMichael executive director Ian A.C. Dejardin, artist Kent Monkman, and art historians John Geoghegan, Jocelyn Anderson and Michèle Grandbois.

The catalogue will be available at the AGGV Gallery Shop.

Generally, these works are hung either in the corporate offices or at Crombie House, the former home of Frank Sobey and his wife Irene in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.

“This is an incredible opportunity as Victoria is the only BC venue for the show and it will be here for a full four months," said McNeil.

The show opens on June 29 and runs through to October 27.

There will be a free public open house for Generations: The Sobey Family and Canadian Art on Saturday, July 6, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. The special free day for the exhibition is thanks to Feel Free, generously supported by TD Bank Group.

For the remainder of the show, the admission fees will be a very reasonable $15, or art lovers will be able to buy a seasonal art pass for only $30.

As well, admission is free for anyone under 25 years of age and for Indigenous visitors.

“The 25 and under guideline is designed to make art accessible for younger people, particularly students, who may have finished their studies, but haven’t yet established themselves financially,” said McNeil.

Of course, the Sobey family continues its support of the arts to this day and, in 2002, the Sobey Art Foundation created the Sobey Art Award. Since that time the award has become Canada’s preeminent award for contemporary Canadian art. It is an annual prize given to emerging artists of any age. Over $200,000 in prize money is awarded annually; $100,000 to the winner and $25,000 each to the short-listed artists.

More information on the show, and on the activities of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, visit