Diana Nemiroff opened her last exhibition as director of the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG) on May 7.
An Embarrassment of Riches: The Collection in Focus, was co-curated with Sandra Dyck, and showcased pieces from the collection CUAG has acquired over the past six years during Nemiroff’s mandate as director. It displayed pieces that the public would not otherwise have an opportunity to view.
The opening featured works from Jocelyne Alloucherie’s ambiguous streetscapes to works like Kent Monkman’s obscenely outlandish video, “Dance to Miss Chief.”
Dyck introduced Nemiroff as guest speaker at the event.
“Your passion for and knowledge of art and your leadership and vision for the gallery and its collection are everywhere present in this exhibition,” Dyck said.
Nemiroff said the exhibition showed how the gallery’s collection grew and changed during her mandate, while offering “some indication of its future direction.”
“Our original idea reflected in the title of An Embarassment of Riches was to hang works salon style, floor to ceiling, in order to make a visual argument for a new gallery that would give CUAG the space and visibility that it needs,” Nemiroff said in her address.
Nemiroff has yet to lose her charm as she compared the choices made for the exhibition to getting dressed up for a party. She was the same witty curator who once appeared on CBC Newsworld, dressed as Newman’s Voice of Fire during a time of hot debate over the purchase.
“That’s where the word ‘riches’ comes into our title. We’re not apologizing. It’s not that kind of embarrassment. It’s having a lot, almost too much of a good thing, and that’s our situation” Nemiroff explained.
As part of the new direction envisioned by Nemiroff, the gallery will begin to put a stronger emphasis on purchases. In the past, CUAG has relied on donations such as those from Lorraine Gilbert, artist of Le Patrimoine. Gilbert said she donated because “Carleton is very important in supporting the arts in Ottawa – the visual arts.”
Several pieces were bought with the aid of endowment funds and a grant that allowed the CUAG staff to select works that strengthened the already existing collection. Nemiroff said she appreciates donations, however purchases will give the freedom needed to focus the collection.
With many lasting contributions to the gallery Nemiroff said she looks forward to the three R’s in retirement: rest, relaxation and research. She plans to write a book about the three female directors of the past forty years at the National Gallery.
She said she hopes Carleton’s gallery will receive a new building in the future and looks forward to seeing the new director “hit her stride.”
“I will miss the gallery in many ways but I feel that I will come back as a visitor so I won’t leave it behind entirely,” Nemiroff said.
“But I won’t be sad to give up my very heavy work.”
Diana Nemiroff at a previous CUAG exhibit (photo courtesy of Justin WonaCott)