Canada Council Art Bank Celebrates Its First 50 Years of Sharing Art

The Canada Council Art Bank turns 50 this year. It’s not only a moment to celebrate but to look ahead to grow the appreciation of Canadian contemporary art through a series of festive events in 2022.

Founded in 1972 with a mission to support Canada’s emerging visual arts community, the Art Bank now holds more than 17,000 works by over 3,000 Canadian artists. It is Canada’s largest contemporary art collection. But what makes it truly unique is the way it’s shared with Canadians across the country through art rentals, loans to museums and public exhibitions and outreach.

On June 16, the Art Bank kicked off its 50th anniversary with the opening of Looking the World in the Face, a public exhibit featuring Art Bank artworks, and the Art Bank’s first major call for purchases since 2011.


On view in the exhibition, Cécilia Bracmort, Peau nature morte, sans titre III, 2020.

Looking the World in the Face

On view until January 3, 2023

Curated by Amin Alsaden, the exhibition Looking the World in the Face examines cultural representation in the Art Bank collection and presents a sweeping selection of works by Indigenous and racialized artists.

The exhibition features the works of Barry Ace, Shuvinai Ashoona, Shelly Bahl, Carl Beam, Rebecca Belmore, Raphael Bendahan, Cécilia Bracmort, Reg Davidson, Sarindar Dhaliwal, Sherry Farrell Racette, Sunil Gupta, Jamelie Hassan, Jérôme Havre, Joanne Hui, Emily Illuitok, Gloria Inugaq Putumiraqtuq, Pedro Isztin, Serapio Ittusardjuat, Erik Jerezano, Sanaz Mazinani, Anna Jane McIntyre, Meryl McMaster, Norval Morrisseau, Indira Nair, Louise Noguchi, Julie Oh, Abdi Osman, Christina Peters, Ed Pien, Ramona Ramlochand, Paul Robles, Noboru Sawai, Ranjan Sen, Skawennati, Sam Tata, Jeff Thomas, Howie Tsui, Qavaroak Tunnillie, and Chih-Chien Wang.

By focusing on faces, the exhibition demonstrates how artists from marginalized communities defy the gaze of the dominant culture by representing themselves, telling their stories, and challenging stereotypes. From self-portraits to depictions of kin, comics to allegories, and historical figures to contemporary groups, the works convey a range of preoccupations, aspirations, and world views in unvarnished, critical, and creative ways.

If you want to learn more about the exhibit, read the full curatorial statement here.

The Canada Council’s Âjagemô Exhibition Space is located at 150 Elgin Street in Ottawa. Open daily from 7am to 9pm. Free Admission. Accessible.


View of the Art Bank warehouse

Submissions now open for the 50th Anniversary Call for Purchase

Deadline: September 14, 2022

To continue the celebration, the Canada Council Art Bank has launched a new purchase program with a budget of $600,000 for new acquisitions. Given that this constitutes the first major Art Bank open call for purchases since 2011, it is an important moment in the evolution of the Art Bank collection and an opportunity to represent the changing face of contemporary art in Canada.

In keeping with the Canada Council’s current strategic direction, priority will be given to the acquisition of artworks by artists who self-identify as Indigenous, Black, racialized, Deaf or having a disability, from official language minority communities, youth, 2SLGBTQ, gender-diverse and women, including artists at the intersections of these identities. In addition, the Art Bank will prioritize acquisitions of artworks by artists who are not currently in the Art Bank collection.

All interested artists—emerging or established, individuals, groups, or collaborations—as well as artists’ representatives, such as art dealers, gallery owners and artist cooperatives, will be considered. The information required to complete a submission can be found in the Art Bank Purchase Program Guidelines.

The deadline for artwork submissions is September 14, 2022.

The 2022 Call for Purchase is an exciting program that will have far reaching impacts in all corners of Canada’s art world.

For more information about the program, read the Guidelines and download the Declaration and Application forms.


Do you have an Art Bank story?
Are you an artist whose art has been collected or a client of the art rental service? Have you had the opportunity to experience the collection in galleries or public spaces? Share your Art Bank stories using the hashtag #ArtBank50 on Instagram and Facebook, or email us directly.

For more information on upcoming events related to the Art Bank 50th anniversary, please keep in touch with the Art Bank via Instagram and Facebook.

Keep an eye on the hashtag #ArtBank50!

The Canada Council Art Bank, located in Ottawa, is on the unceded, unsurrendered Territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation whose whole presence here reaches back to time immemorial.

Art Bank
921 St Laurent Blvd, Ottawa, ON K1K 3B1
Email: artbank@canadacouncil.ca