7 Cool New Canadian Art Exhibitions to Explore

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Museums and art galleries are finally opening up across the country with inspiring new work from some of the Canada’s most innovative artists.

We finally get to experience the buzz of going to an art gallery again – and there’s no better way to start than by visiting some exciting new works by homegrown talent. Whether you’re passionate about pastels or mad about mixed media, these seven new Canadian art exhibitions are sure to educate, inspire and delight.

December 2, 2021
Installation view of SPOTLIGHT: Sandeep Johal, exhibition in the Vancouver Art Gallery lobby, October 24, 2021 to October 16, 2022
Installation view of Spotlight: Sandeep Johal, exhibition in the Vancouver Art Gallery lobby, October 24, 2021 to October 16, 2022   Photo: Ian Lefebvre, Vancouver Art Gallery

Spotlight: Sandeep Johal, Vancouver Art Gallery,
October 24, 2021 – October 16, 2022

Rising visual artist Sandeep Johal creates brilliantly bright murals and mixed media art. She uses her Indo‑folk feminine aesthetic, featuring fantastical goddess‑like women, to tackle issues of gendered violence and cultural identity. Johal’s work has been selected for Vancouver Art Gallery’s new Spotlight series and one of her murals will be featured in the gallery’s lobby. Johal is the first in a lineup of local artists who have been invited to participate in the project, designed to provide a platform for emerging artists based in B.C.

Installation view of SPOTLIGHT
Installation view of Spotlight: Sandeep Johal, exhibition in the Vancouver Art Gallery lobby, October 24, 2021 to October 16, 2022.   Photo: Jessica Jacobson, Vancouver Art Gallery
colourful coral reef sculpture
BRINK, Angela Hansen, Kelowna Art Gallery.   Photo: Kelowna Art Gallery

BRINK, Kelowna Art Gallery,
October 5, 2021 – January 16, 2022
Lake Country‑based artist Angela Hansen creates whimsical sculptures to highlight the impact human activity has on the planet. Her vibrant sculptures of colourful coral reefs are made using encaustic (paint mixed with beeswax) and biodegradable materials. Angela’s work takes gallery visitors beneath the ocean’s surface to appreciate the astonishing beauty and fragility of the flora and fauna found below.

person standing outside in front of modern art piece
Rebecca Belmore, "Ayum‑ee‑aawach Oomama‑mowan": Speaking to Their Mother, 1991, Johnson Lake, Banff National Park, Banff, Alberta.   Photo: Courtesy of Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, purchased with the support of the York Wilson Endowment Award, administered by the Canada Council for the Arts. Photo Sarah Ciurysek. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

How long does it take for one voice to reach another?, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts,
September 11, 2021 – February 13, 2022
This multi‑media art exhibition, which features everything from a massive wooden megaphone to costumes made by French designer Thierry Mugler, explores the idea of finding connection after the long stretch of isolation that we have collectively endured. Love, loss, listening and reconciliation are some of the themes of this brand new permanent collection, which features contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds, including Betty Goodwin, Stanley Février, Rebecca Belmore and Niap (Nancy Saunders).

painting on white wall
Kareem‑Anthony Ferreira, Untitled, 2021, Oil, mixed media, canvas.   Photo: Courtesy the artist, Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles and Towards Gallery, Toronto. Photo Toni Hafkenscheid (installation view MOCA Toronto)

Greater Toronto Art 2021 (GTA21), Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto,
September 29, 2021 – January 9, 2022
In this museum‑wide art exhibition in Toronto, 21 artists from the GTA were asked to consider the question: What feels most urgent to you today? Out of this came GTA21, a display of artists whose imaginings of the city, society and world around them are as diverse as they are (80 percent identify as BIPOC). The art explores all that the metropolitan city is, and what it could be, expressed through various mediums, including architectural models, film, painting, printmaking and sculptures.

series of paintings
Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, Dynasty, 2021, Pencil, acrylic and oil on wood, linen and canvas.   Photo: Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, Cape Town and London. Photo Toni Hafkenscheid (installation view MOCA Toronto)
red painting
Robert Houle. Red is Beautiful, 1970. Acrylic on canvas, 45.5 x 61 cm. Canadian Museum of History, V‑F‑174.   Photo: © Robert Houle

Robert Houle: Red is Beautiful, Art Gallery of Ontario,
December 3, 2021 – April 17, 2022
A masterful modern artist and creator of some of the most influential contemporary Indigenous art in Canada, the AGO retrospective of Robert Houle's work over the past 50 years is a must‑see. Through the use of organic materials – wood, rawhide, natural dyes – and Anishinaabe geometry, Houle highlights First Nations art histories and aesthetics while challenging the commercial appropriation of First Nations names and cultural performances by reworking colonial artworks from his own point of view. Houle also highlights Indigenous land rights and his personal experiences as a residential school survivor through a series of visceral paintings and drawings.

Robert Houle's painting We Were Told
Robert Houle. O‑ween du muh waun (We Were Told), 2017. Oil on canvas, triptych, 213.4 x 365.8 cm. Confederation Centre Art Gallery, CAG 2017.1. Commissioned with the A.G. and Eliza Jane Ramsden Endowment Fund, 2017.   Photo: © Robert Houle
Harley Morman’s art exhibition
1295: Installation view of Harley Morman: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, 2021.   Photography by Charles Cousins, courtesy of the Art Gallery of Alberta

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again, Art Gallery of Alberta,
October 9, 2021 – January 30, 2022
Time and repetition are at the forefront of Harley Morman’s nostalgic exhibition that nods to Gen X middle school memories. The focus of the playful exhibition is retro “animations” of people made with lenticular imagery (the layering of two images to make it appear as though the image is moving) housed inside light boxes. As you walk through the gallery the images shift, illustrating how a change in perspective can alter how, and what, you see.

Related: Sarain Fox on Preserving Indigenous Knowledge in Canada and Abroad

Tunkien exhibition
   Photo: Nova Scotia Art Gallery. Photos: Raw Photography

Tukien (Awaken), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia,
October 16, 2021 – February 13, 2022
Through his bright and colourful pop‑style portraits, Nelson White, a member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band in Flat Bay, Newfoundland, celebrates Indigenous life through a contemporary lens. His vibrant brushwork and intricate line details showcase prominent Indigenous people, such as DJ Kookum and Meagan Musseau, with the goal of dissolving misinterpretations about the Mi’kmaq people. The exhibition’s name, Tukien, a Mi’kmaw word meaning “awaken” or a collective raising of consciousness, reflects White’s goal to establish a broader awareness of the creatives, activists and leaders featured in his exhibition.