At the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, there is an extraordinary exhibit of the major works of Manasie Akpaliapik, one of the most heralded Inuit artists of the past 50 years. The work is primarily made of whale bone and sculpted by Akpaliapik as he “discovers” what the piece wants to be. The exhibit is vast and comprised of work all owned by long time collector and supporter Raymond Brousseau, who died in July.
The exhibit is titled MANASIE AKPALIAPIKINUIT UNIVERSE. THE RAYMOND BROUSSEAU COLLECTION. While viewing the work, it struck me as a somewhat strange, old world model of arts patronage to celebrate the white man who collected Akpaliapik’s art as much as the artist and art himself. As we move forward, it seems important for all museums to keep the focus on the artist rather than the donor or collector, especially when supporting and celebrating artists of color or artists of First Nations, who for too long have lived in the shadow of those with the resources to purchase their art.
CORRECTION: The original post referred to the material as wood. It is in fact whale bone.