The National Arts Centre has commissioned a large-scale sculpture titled Dawn by the internationally recognized, multidisciplinary artist Rebecca Belmore. Initiated and funded by Canadian art historian Reesa Greenberg, the permanent artwork was unveiled on July 6, 2022, in the NAC’s new public O’Brien Atrium in Ottawa.
Rebecca Belmore is a member of Lac Seul First Nation (Anishinaabe). Her works are rooted in the political and social realities of Indigenous communities and make evocative connections between bodies, land and language.
Rebecca Belmore said Dawn evokes early morning, “a beautiful time of day, full of hope after rest and dreams, a better day ahead of us.”
She created the large-scale artwork in Toronto, Vancouver and Thunder Bay. The sculpture establishes a material connection to the land and makes visual links to the NAC site through the use of wood and hundreds of cone-shaped copper forms. The work was inspired by the jingle dress, regalia worn by women and girls at pow wows. Through these symbols and materials, the artwork addresses the resilience of Indigenous women and the power of healing.
Artwork reflects values of the NAC’s next half-century
The visual arts commission process began in 2017, coinciding with the NAC’s architectural rejuvenation project which saw the construction of a 60,000 square-foot wood and glass public addition facing many of this country’s landmarks such as the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill. The creation of Dawn was repeatedly delayed due to a series of unforeseen events, including shutdowns caused by the pandemic and extreme weather events that took place across Canada over the past two years.
The sculpture is one of the few visual art pieces commissioned by the NAC since its opening in 1969. At that time, the building featured over 20 commissioned murals, sculptures, paintings and tapestries. These artworks were acquired through a new government policy, allowing public projects to invest in the visual arts and integrate artworks into the architecture of the building. The visual arts collection at the NAC has since grown to over 30 artworks and includes major pieces by some of the most significant artists working in Canada, including artists Jessie Oonark, Micheline Beauchemin, Jack Shadbolt, William Ronald, Dempsey Bob and most recently Emily Brascoupé-Hoefler. Most of the collection is accessible free of charge in the NAC’s public spaces.
“The National Arts Centre is proud to be working with Rebecca Belmore,” said President and CEO Christopher Deacon. “Her work will enhance an already strong collection, while offering a new voice and perspective that explores today’s questions and concerns. Engaging visitors in our public spaces in the heart of our Nation’s Capital, this artwork truly reflects the values of the NAC in the next half-century.”
About the artist: Rebecca Belmore
A major retrospective of Rebecca Belmore’s work, prepared by the Art Gallery of Ontario, toured Canada in 2018-19. Her group exhibitions include: dOCUMENTA 14 (2017), Athens, Greece, Echigo-Tsumari Triennial, Niigata Prefecture, Japan (2015); Global Feminisms, Brooklyn Art Museum, New York (2007); Land, Spirit, Power, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON (1992); and Creation or Death: We will Win, Havana Biennial, Cuba (1991). Belmore was a recipient of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize in 2016 for her outstanding contribution to the visual arts in Canada, Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2013, the Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award in 2009, and Honorary Doctorates from the Ontario College of Art and Design University in 2005, Emily Carr University in 2018, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2019 and the Université Laval in 2021.
About the donor: Reesa Greenberg
Reesa Greenberg is a Canadian art historian and philanthropist and internationally known for her work on exhibition studies. She has taught at various Canadian universities and, in 2018, funded the restoration of the Canada Pavilion at the Giardini in Venice, Italy.