Following the tremendous impact the Art Gallery of Alberta had on Edmonton's downtown revitalization, it should be no surprise that one province over in Saskatchewan, a quiet but monumental change was happening to the arts scene in Edmonton's sister city, Saskatoon. On the west bank of the South Saskatchewan River, located at River Landing, the Remai Modern Art Gallery of Saskatchewan is set to open in 2017. Originally scheduled for 2016, the 11,582 square-metre public art museum boasts award winning architecture designed by the Canadian firm KPMB (Kuwabara, Payne, McKenna & Blumberg).
Recognizing an opportunity, lead patron, Ellen Remai donated $30 million to kick start the project. She also ensured the permanent collection of the gallery would sustain for years to come, by donating the most comprehensive collection of Picasso linocuts known in the world, and valued at an estimated $20 million. Such philanthropic gifts rarely go unmatched, and so Saskatchewan born, London, UK based art dealer and print-making specialist Dr. Frederick Mulder donated an additional 23 Picasso ceramics, also valued at nearly $20 million.
The generous donations aside, the vision and design of the gallery would surely have been enough to launch Saskatoon as venerable player in the Canadian art scene, but they did not stop there. Enter Gregory Burke as the director and new CEO for the project. Those unfamiliar with Burke's work as a curator needn't look far. Burke has worked across Canada and as far as New Zealand curating over 90 world class shows and publishing over 100 texts on contemporary art. To say the new Remai Modern is in good hands with its leadership would be an understatement.
With all of this excitement does come some disappointment for those more acquainted with the Mendel Art Gallery and its founder Frederick Salomon Mendel and his family. The Mendel Art Gallery was founded in 1964, and its collection of over 7,700 artworks will find a home as part of the permanent collection of the Remai Modern. Additionally, one of the galleries in the new building will be named in honour of the Mendel as well as a potential international lecture series.
It is a season of change in Saskatoon, as the community will be without the Mendel and without the new Remai under early 2017. CEO, Burke has been quoted saying that the time will be used to develop new programs, assess potential membership options, and prepare for the opening. Expectations are certainly high, after the opening of the AGA in Edmonton, the gallery saw an influx of patrons in the tens of thousands. Those numbers have tapered off over the months and years the gallery has been open, but it remains an iconic piece of architecture in a city not known for its design. Similarly in Saskatoon, the Remai is sure to join the status of the Bessborough hotel as part of the city's growing history and unique architecture.