Collections

The National Gallery of Canada is the nation’s pre-eminent showcase of artistic achievement, presenting Canada’s artists to the world and bringing the world’s greatest artists to Canadians. With a mandate to collect, preserve, and exhibit the finest works of art, from historic to contemporary, Canadian to international, the Gallery has achieved recognition as one of the most respected national art museums in the world.

Collections are at the heart of our programs and activities. From its earliest acquisitions by Canadian painters in the 1880s, and with an extensive history of exceptional patronage, the Gallery has built a renowned collection spanning all periods of art history, which reflect the wide breadth and diversity of historic and contemporary art, and with notable holdings in photography, European, and Indigenous art.

Our holdings consist of more than 60,000 works of art including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and photographs. With the historic founding of the Canadian Photography Institute (CPI), built on the foundation of the Gallery’s Photograph Collection, our holdings will be among the world’s most comprehensive collections of photographs and related materials, representing the entire history of the medium. Your continued patronage empowers the growth of this exceptional collection.

The Gallery’s curators expand our knowledge and understanding of our collection through their meticulous research, careful interpretation, and the publication of innovative texts. Our collections are brought to life through essential scholarly activities.

Public Programs and Outreach

Groundbreaking exhibitions, and exhilarating programming, attracts audiences and creates new art lovers. With their associated research and publications, original exhibition projects, in addition to their visual splendor, often serve as the authoritative source on a given subject for decades to come.

At the Gallery, our exhibitions are vibrant and diverse, taking on various forms. Whether art works are drawn from our rich collection, or loaned from other major institutions, our exhibitions engage with historical and contemporary art, and focus on seminal Canadian and international artists.

Contemporary art exhibitions are at the forefront of our programming. At the Venice Biennale, founded in 1895 and among the most significant global contemporary art events, the Canadian pavilion was inaugurated in 1958 under the auspices of the Gallery. Today, the Gallery organizes the Venice Biennale representation of a preeminent contemporary Canadian artist. Similarly, our Canadian Biennial showcases exceptional acquisitions from emerging to established contemporary Canadian artists made to our Contemporary, Indigenous, and Photographs collections.

Sharing our national collection across Canada is at the core of our mission. This practice dates back to 1919 and continues to thrive today through a variety of exhibitions, loans, and unique collaborations. Museum partnerships support the dissemination of art-historical knowledge and scholarly research, and they enthrall our audiences with masterpieces from private and public collections. We have also collaborated on exhibitions with renowned museums; recent partnerships have included the Grand Palais, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Musée d’Orsay, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Tate Modern.

Special Projects and Research

Patrons can empower scholarly research and expand the intellectual reach of the Gallery. Contributions made to our special projects and research initiatives would benefit the establishment of dedicated specialty research centres, conservation of seminal and fragile works, and the digitization technology to make our exceptional holdings accessible.

Scholarly research at the Gallery is focused on the national collection, including individual works of art and the cultural, historical, and theoretical contexts in which they were created. Research involves work with original objects —including thorough analysis, proper documentation and publication — and contributes significantly to the advancement of art history and the public understanding of art.

The Library and Archives houses the country’s largest collection of artists’ archival papers and research material on the visual arts, facilitating research projects carried out by Canadian and international scholars. Our conservators tend to the preservation of works in our collection, unearth the technical methods of artists, and through their meticulous examinations often encounter novel scholarly findings.

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