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We returned from Ottawa a few days ago, it was our first visit in 3 years. A 90 minute quiet flight from Charlottetown. The plane a regional jet 50 seats was half empty and it was the same upon our return, strange it should be full at this time of the year but the weather has been so cold and rainy, not pleasant for tourists or us.

We saw a lot of people in Ottawa and I got to visit the National Gallery of Canada and meet with my old colleagues. Very kindly gave me a 90 minute presentation on the wonderful changes in the museum. Very impressive, the NGC is amongst the top 10 art galleries in the world. The new Canadian and Native wing is spectacular, in the set up of the gallery both the Algonquin and Ojibway people were brought in for consultations on how to display the various artifacts. All of it is displayed with sensitivity amongst Canadian art of the same period. I also visited the other galleries on Renaissance and Baroque art, modern and contemporary. A computer now controls all the LED lights and is programmed to sense when a gallery is empty of people or when people walk in, the computer adjust lighting accordingly. Doors open by themselves as you approach given their size its a good thing. The museum now has 2 restaurants and a coffee shop and a new revamped gift shop with beautiful books.  I do miss the National Gallery.

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On the steps leading to the NGC Director’s Office, words by Joi T. Arcand of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Written in Plains Cree (Y dialect) expressing hope and encouragement to all Indigenous people who struggle to keep their language alive.

Note to readers yesterday was the last day of the 42sd Parliament of Canada, the House rose for the Summer and will not reconvene since we will have a general election in October. The House and Senate passed bill C-91 a new law to protect 60 Native languages in Canada. This will give official recognition to indigenous languages and create a position of Native language commissioner similar to the one we have for French and English, Canada’s 2 Official non-indigenous languages. Also today in Montreal, Amherst street in the downtown core named after a British General who committed crimes against humanity in the 1750’s against Native groups in Canada by distributing contagious smallpox infected blankets to natives in an act of genocide. The street will now bare a Iroquois name ATATEKEN, meaning peace and brotherhood.

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Entrance to the renovated and re-organized gallery. Well worth a visit and take an audio-guide, so you understand what is on display. This multi-million dollar project was part of the Canada 150 Celebration.

I also visited the other galleries of renaissance, baroque and modern art. Many things have changed and it was a pleasure to see many of the art works I knew well and had presented in the past.

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This work is entitled: Olive Garden of Eden by Chloe Wise of Montreal. Using a marble podium it becomes the overwrought support for a toppled Cesar salad – an ”Italian” food stuff invented by émigré Cesar Cardini in Mexico in 1920. Wise who is known for her realistic sculptures, here plays on notion of artifice and authenticity in our Western consumer society, obsessed with branding and marketing.

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Charles Meynier, 1810, Wisdom (Minerva) defending youth from the arrows of Love. This French painting done at the height of Napoleon’s Empire presents the young hero  poised between a life of empty sensual pleasure at the sight of the sleeping Venus and one of struggle and glory. Minerva shield defends him from the arrows of love. The idea of his sacrifice to duty resonates here with the Empire’s cult of military virtue and service to the Nation. Hopefully he makes the right choice.

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The Court of the reflecting pool whose bottom is the ceiling to the other hall entrance to the museum below.

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The garden Courtyard re-imagined in a Japanese style design.

My colleagues also invited me to visit the Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) exhibit of self-portraits. It gave a good background on his life and family, he was married and had 5 kids, though his wife left him and returned with said children to Denmark when he decided to quit his job as an investment banker and become a full time painter travelling around the world and dying at 54 in French Polynesia.

It is the eye of ignorance that assigns a fixed and unchangeable color to every object; beware of this stumbling block.
I was not aware that he worked with many French artists like Monet, Césanne, Matisse but also with Van Gogh. He was a friend of French poet Mallarmé.
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Gauguin self-portrait with yellow Christ, c.1897