Yellowknifers snap up tiny art, with no clue who painted it

That new work of art you bought for $80 and excitedly dashed home with? The artist may be your next-door neighbour, your business rival, or your husband.

Or it could be the man across the room, or the woman who brushed past you on her way out of the gallery just now. Or it may have been the mayor.

“Mine has not been bought yet,” said Mayor of Yellowknife Rebecca Alty, “but true art is sometimes difficult to really ingest in a hurry. Everybody is in a frenzy to buy right now.”


Alty contributed one of the 160 or so small, square artworks that line the walls of Yellowknife’s Down to Earth Gallery. This is the eighth annual Anonymous Art Show and Sale.

The premise is simple: you collect a blank canvas and paint it – no matter your skill level or experience – and return it to the gallery, which hangs the work on the wall, minus anything that might identify its author.

Inspired By Pilots' Monument

A piece entitled Inspired By Pilots’ Monument.

Residents then come to check out the collection, spending a flat fee of $80 per canvas on any they like.

All of the art remains on the walls until the last day of the exhibition – this year that was Sunday, October 20 – and only then, when you collect the art you bought, are the artists revealed on the backs of each canvas.


This year, your favourite artwork could have been painted by newly elected MLA Caitlin Cleveland, Barren Ground Coffee founder Eric Binion, or city boss Sheila Bassi-Kellett, among recognized local artists like Alison McCreesh, Fran Hurcomb, and Maddy Tetreault.

“It feels really humbling. You see a hundred amazing pieces,” Tetreault told Cabin Radio. “I can recognize some of the artists in town, but others are new and I’m excited to find out who they are, because they did such a good job.

“We’re extremely lucky as a community. Things like tonight are so special because they show the community really supports the arts.”

YK Gold

This item, YK Gold, contains genuine gold leaf.


Following a format first popularized elsewhere, the show is one of the year’s highest-profile events for the gallery and its owner, Rosalind Mercredi.

“When you open the door at 7pm [on Thursday, the opening night], there’s a line-up out there waiting to get in,” Mercredi said. “They just go right in and start picking up pieces.

Hockey Night In Canada 2

Hockey Night in Canada #2 offers a three-dimensional approach.

Yellowknife residents admire anonymous works of art inside the Down to Earth Gallery

Yellowknife residents admire anonymous works of art inside the Down to Earth Gallery. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

“It’s a good price. You can get some really, really good art for $80. There’s such a variety, and part of the fun is not knowing who made it.”

For those who would rather create than curate, the show is an opportunity to try your hand at art – and display it in public – without the risk of people realizing it was you.

“It’s popular with people who want to do art and are a little nervous, because they don’t have to sign the canvas. Nobody knows who makes it,” said Mercredi.

Yellow (left) and Knife.

Yellow (left) and Knife.

Aurora Fox

Aurora Fox.

“We’ve had kids, we’ve had old people, we’ve had people travelling through and sending them back. We had a couple in from Hay River the other day.”

In this crowded room, only the mayor knows which piece is hers.

“It’s near some really nice ones, so maybe it just needs to be positioned with a different crew,” said Alty, a little nervously.

Tetreault added: “I’ve been purposefully not looking at my wall.

“I like my work, and if it doesn’t sell? I get to keep it.”