Private art collection becomes public treasure
Quebec fine arts museum acquires 2,635 pieces from collector Raymond Brousseau
A exceptional collection of Inuit art has a new permanent home in Quebec City.
Last week, Quebec’s fine arts museum, le Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec announced that it has acquired the entire Inuit art collection of Raymond Brousseau.
The mayor of Quebec City, Jean-Paul L’Allier, said he was pleased “this jewel of Quebec’s heritage” is remaining in the city.
Brousseau gave half his collection to the museum as a gift so the entire collection, recently recognized as having “an exceptional interest and national importance” by Heritage Canada, would stay in Quebec. The Quebec government, the City of Quebec and Hydro-Québec all gave money to the museum so it could acquire the collection.
Throughout his career as an art collector and seller, Brousseau defended Inuit art and tried to combat the market for imitation art.
“I think it’s terrible to fool people, and rip off Inuit,” Brousseau said.
From April 1999 until last March, Brousseau’s privately-run museum in Quebec City’s Old Town featured a permanent display of more than 450 works on the Dorset and Thule Inuit, and the impact of explorers, whalers, missionaries, RCMP and co-operatives on the evolution of Inuit art.
“The development of Inuit art across time and space is without any equal in the world and the history of art,” Brousseau said. “Hunters became artists who created works of art, which are both strong and inspiring, and witness to those qualities that were necessary for daily survival.”
His collection includes ancient examples of carving, scrimshaw, and even an engraving from 1776 showing the “crew of Captain Cook shooting sea horses [walrus] on the ice of the Northern Sea in order to supply the want of fresh provisions.”
The works of many well-known artists, such as George Arluk from Arviat, Kalluq Pallituq from Clyde River, and Ivujivik’s Mattiusi Iyaituk are also in the collection.
The entire collection contains 2,635 works of art and objects: 2,107 carvings, 121 drawings, 100 prints, 18 pieces of jewelry, 11 wooden carvings, 18 traditional outfits, 52 ivory miniatures, 23 toys, 29 metal objects, 17 wall hangings, 117 items used in daily life, a book of prints and one photo.
The Brousseau collection of Inuit art is Canada’s fourth largest.
Brousseau started collecting Inuit art nearly 50 years ago when he was a student. He bought one carving, then another, and another, until, finally, 30 years ago, he opened a boutique in Quebec City to sell the overflow from his collection. Brousseau ended up owning three galleries in Quebec City that sold Inuit art, and became the largest retail seller of Inuit art in Canada.
Brousseau bought his works almost exclusively from the co-operatives: the Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Quebec, the West Baffin Cooperative in Cape Dorset and Arctic Co-operatives Limited.
Brousseau’s entire collection won’t be unveiled in the museum until next June, but two smaller exhibits open at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec early next year.