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Northern and Inuit influences showcased in new exhibit

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Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002), L’esprit de la ficelle (triptych) 1971 Acrylic on lithograph mounted on canvas, 160 x 360 cm, Private collection © Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2020). Photo Archives Catalogue raisonné Jean Paul Riopelle

 On November 21, 2020, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts launches a major exhibition dedicated to Jean Paul Riopelle. Based on original research, the exhibition explores, the artist’s interest in the North and Indigenous cultures, with nearly 175 works and more than 200 artefacts and archival documents. 

Besides his contacts with Indigenous guides during caribou hunting and fishing trips for Arctic char, it was primarily books and exhibitions, including Inuit and First Nations art, that awakened his interest in Indigenous communities, topographies and cultures. 

Riopelle’s work in the 1970s was influenced by expeditions to Nunavik in 1972 and Nunavut in 1969, 1971, and 1977, as well as by Inuit art, as demonstrated in his Hiboux and Jeux de ficelles series, inspired by Inuit string games (ajaraaq). Northern themes, including cold, snow, ice and white, dominated Riopelle’s output in the 1970s, culminating in such works as: Icebergs and the Rois de Thulé series, based on the legend of those who inhabit the most northerly reaches of present‐day Inuit territories. 

In addition, the exhibition includes works by contemporary Inuit artists, such as Luke Akuptangoak, Noah Arpatuq Echalook, Mattiusi Iyaituk, and Pudlo Pudlat, as well as others. 

Sponsored by Hydro‐Québec, Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures will be on display until March 21, 2021.