Arctic Beauty: Inuit Art from Canada

This exhibition presents 87 works of art made by the Inuit people of Canada. Formerly known as Eskimo, the Inuit are descended from cultures that have inhabited the Arctic regions of Canada, the United States, Greenland, and Russia for over a thousand years.

Works in the exhibition reflect traditional Inuit ways of life and culture, particularly their close observation of Arctic animals, with whom they share the frozen environment. Although contemporary Inuit no longer rely solely on hunting for food, in the recent past, land and sea mammals provided not only a main source of food, but fur and skins for clothing, and sinews and bone for tools. A wide variety of animals and birds are represented in the exhibition, including bears, walrus, seals, muskoxen, wild hares, and loons.

There are also sculptures of people, families, hunters, fishermen, and an igloo with an interior scene. Some sculptures depict transformational figures, spirits, and shamans—religious practitioners who are responsible for maintaining the proper relationship and balance between the human community and spirits that inhabit and govern the natural world.

The works of sculpture and prints, created by men and women, date primarily from the second half of the 20th century. As modern culture has increasingly encroached on Inuit communities and ways of life, sculpture and print-making have emerged not only as a way to augment family resources, but to guard history, stories, beliefs, and life-ways, and transmit them to younger generations and the broader public.

Modern and contemporary Inuit art is sought after by collectors and museums, and is exhibited internationally. Artists in the installation include Pauta Saila (1916–2009), Lucy Tasseor (b. 1934), Barnabus Arnasungaaq (b. 1924), Karoo Ashevak (1940–1974), John Kavik (1897–1993), and Andy Miki (1918–1983), among many others. The exhibition, installed in the Museum’s Native American gallery, is drawn from a single, internationally recognized, private collection in Alabama.