Gallery on 47th to host opening of Inuit art collection


The annual release of the Cape Dorset Print Collection takes place this weekend. Yellowknife’s Gallery on 47th is the only place in the NWT to host an opening of the collection.

Operated by the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative in Kinngait, the Nunavut community formerly known as Cape Dorset, the collection of Inuit art has released prints annually since 1959.

Established as Dorset Fine Arts in Toronto in 1978, the co-operative now sells its prints in galleries worldwide.

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Colin Dempsey, owner of the Gallery on 47th with his wife, Ainsley, says he’s excited to be hosting the opening. The Dempseys last participated when they owned a former gallery in Yellowknife six years ago.

2022 Cape Dorset prints at the Gallery on 47th. Photo: Colin Dempsey

“We’ll have 34 prints from the collection and there are 15 artists represented,” he said.

“It’s kind-of cool to bring it back to Yellowknife because it’s been a few years, and it’s always been one of the big features of the arts community, going back for decades.”

Fifty prints of each work are made and distributed to galleries worldwide. The Gallery on 47th is hosting the 18th set of prints.

Dempsey said showing the prints is an honour, relating the story of James Houston, the artist who moved to Baffin Island after the Second World War and is considered instrumental in advancing the Inuit art movement.

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“He ended up on Baffin Island by chance. He went up with a friend who had an extra seat in his plane,” Dempsey said.

“He noticed the little palm-sized carvings that the locals were making and he recognized the potential for them to be doing stone-cut prints.

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“That just spurred this massive, iconic collection of Inuit art, and certainly the best-known collection of Inuit art in the world.”

The formal opening day for this year’s print collection is Saturday, October 15. The Gallery on 47th will showcase the collection from 5pm to 9pm on Friday and 11am to 4pm on Saturday.

More information about the Yellowknife showing can be found on the gallery’s Facebook page, while collection details and history are found on the Dorset Fine Arts website.