The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is finally opening its doors again after being closed for two years due to renovations.
The gallery will host a partial reopening where the public is welcome to enjoy the gallery for free on April 2 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. — including a welcome reception happening at 4 p.m.
“It’s just wonderful to see art back on the walls and artifacts in their cases and all the systems are starting to come together again and it just feels so good,” said Tom Smart, director of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.
Smart said renovations on the new Harrison McCain Pavillion, as well as most of the upper floor galleries, will continue, but people are welcome to explore the lower galleries, the East Wing, the Curry Gallery, the Jane Irving Gallery, half of the Aiken Gallery and the Harriet Irving Gallery.
The rest of the building is expected to continue construction until the summer.
“We expect to get the building handed over to us sometime late July and then we can clean it up and install [the exhibits] and get all the systems up and running,” said Smart. “People can get back from their cottage and we’ll have … the grand opening shortly after Labour Day.”
To celebrate the reopening, the gallery will have several new exhibitions on display, including Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures by Jean Paul Riopell from Montreal; the photography works of Gary Weekes, — who will be the first Black New Brunswick artist to get a show at the Beaverbrook; Lenon and Cub: A Queer History by Leonard “Len” Keith and Joseph “Cub” Coates — a queer couple who shot photography and lived in New Brunswick in the 20th century; a collaborative project with the Atlantic Ballet Theatre; and historical paintings by George Padington.
There is one particular piece that Smart expects will cause audiences to pause and stare.
“We have a very fine painting by an artist named Natalka Husar and she’s a Ukrainian-Canadian artist,” said Smart. “People go through the galleries, they can stand in front of that painting and think about the turmoil, the war that’s going on in Ukraine and have a quiet moment with that painting and with that artist’s work.”
Smart said while the building was closed to the public for two years, the art gallery was never empty. The team at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery worked behind the scenes to implement a digital strategy and launched a new website last week.
The website allows memberships and donations to be made digitally and will soon feature a high-resolution virtual gallery of every item in its collection.
“You’ll be able to see those paintings from our website portal. You can zoom in and you can click on any painting. It’s a searchable database and the fidelity is very, very high,” said Smart.
With the reopening just around the corner, the gallery team is now placing the final touches on all exhibits within the building to have everything in perfect shape for when people fill the halls of the art gallery once more.
“It’s been a very long two years and we’re really, really happy to be open again to welcome the public in and we’re going to stay open now,” said Smart.