The first time that I ever went to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia I was still a child, it would have been in the early 1970s, and the Gallery was in a powder magazine on Citadel Hill. A visitor from New Brunswick, I remember thinking that it was pretty “cool.”
My second trip was as a student, an undergraduate in Halifax, and I went to see a David Blackwood print exhibition. A few months later I went to see an exhibition of prints by Henri Matisse. The Gallery was on Coburg Road, in what had been the location of the school I was attending: NSCAD. I took a girl to that one – and I remember thinking that I was pretty cool.
Finally, in 1988, the new AGNS opened in what was its first permanent home – I still remember going to see 80/20 there, the exhibition that chronicled the first 100 years of NSCAD, and I also remember having to work the night of the grand opening when a bunch of my art student friends dressed to the nines and crashed the party. They had a blast, while I did inventory. Oh well – who has the last laugh now?
1988 was a beginning, certainly, but it also definitively marked the end of an era that had really ended in 1975 when the Nova Scotia Museum of Fine Arts transferred its assets to the newly incorporated Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Fittingly for an institution in Halifax in the 1970s, there was an element of Conceptual art to this: the NSMFA had never, in its 67-year history, had a permanent home. Actually, it never had even a temporary home. In 1975 the AGNS was based on what was to become part of Dalhousie University’s campus – it was a very temporary tenant – and it wasn’t until 1988 that the provincial art museum was properly sited.
Of course, twenty years on, that “proper” site is feeling more than a little cramped. Over the past few years we have had such an increase in temporary exhibitions that much of our permanent collection has been off view. This summer, we’re working to address that by bringing some old
favourites out of the vaults, in several exhibitions.
2008 marks the one-hundredth year since the founding of the Nova Scotia Museum of Fine Arts. What better way to mark this milestone than to hang many of the treasures so carefully cared for by the dedicated volunteers of the NSMFA and by the staff of the AGNS over the years?
With works by Helen McNicoll, Ernest Lawson, Arthur Lismer, John O’Brien, Edith Smith, Henry Rosenberg, Elizabeth Styring Nutt, Stanley Royle, Lewis Smith, Gyrth Russell and more, this exhibition, a visual snapshot of our last hundred years, is sure to spark memories for many of you, and, hopefully, create some new ones for many more.
Director and CEO