As reported by the Winnipeg Free Press, at the edge of the observation deck, Michael Maltzan pauses, his bright yellow safety vest glaring bright amid the lines of soaring steel bars and flat concrete floors. He looks down over the gallery below, or what will soon become the gallery, for now exhibiting only a tangle of cables and crates waiting to be opened.
It is Saturday afternoon at the site of the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s new Inuit Art Centre, the gleaming new facility rising at the corner of Memorial Boulevard and St. Mary Avenue. The construction that buzzes most days is quiet for the time being, so as to allow three tours of the site for a small group of WAG donors and journalists.
The tour rose from the entry atrium, dominated by the serpentine steel frame of the three-storey visible vault, where the gallery’s archived collection of Inuit art will be visible to all who enter. It’s a rare feature for an art gallery: usually, works not on display are locked away in the back of house.
But here, Maltzan explains, all of these things will be in conversation. The artwork, the curation, the second-floor learning centre and the vast main exhibition hall: all of it is intended to flow together, inviting visitors to stream into and through and around it.
He gestures 30 feet over his head, to the curving ovals of 22 recessed skylights that will bathe the gallery in what he calls “diffused and suffused light.” They will give light back to the city, too: at night, Maltzan says, they will glow like a “lantern for the neighbourhood.”
“It has a huge scale, as you can see,” he says.
It is the first time media has gotten a peek inside the new $65-million centre. When it opens next fall, it will house the world’s largest collection of Inuit art in 40,000 square feet of space spanning four levels.