Beaverbrook Art Gallery makeover to be unveiled soon

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It’s been two years and now the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton is about to pull back the curtain on the changes inside and out with a new ‘hit’ exhibition.

Tom Smart, director of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, said when visitors are welcomed back into the gallery on April 2, they will be treated to the work of renowned Quebec painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, who died in 2002.

The exhibition, titled Riopelle: the call of northern landscapes and indigenous culturescontains 180 paintings, drawings, prints, ceremonial objects and archival documents.

“He’s only been seen in Montreal and out west in Whistler, and that’s his only location in Eastern Canada,” Smart said.

“It’s a wonderful exhibit.”

Rendering of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery expansion. (Beaverbrook Art Gallery)

Riopelle’s opening will be free to the public, with remarks by the artist’s daughter, Yseult Riopelle.

There will be several other new exhibits, including Larry Fink vs. Gary Weekes: The Boxing Portfolios, Len and Cub: A Queer Storyand Cathy ross: ministers island in small pieces.

Construction of the building began a little over two years ago. One of the major changes is to the facade of the 63-year-old building, extended closer to Queen Street with a new entrance.

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery will reopen with a blockbuster Riopelle exhibition

The Fredericton gallery is set to unveil a $6 million renovation, exhibition by Jean-Paul Riopelle on opening day, April 2. 3:43

There are a number of new spaces inside the gallery, Smart said, including a new wing dedicated to the late Harrison McCain, the Florenceville-Bristol businessman and co-founder of McCain Foods. Although the gallery reopens on April 2, the extension will not open until the fall.

Smart said the gallery has also improved accessibility.

“The Harrison McCain Pavilion is a fully accessible building that will allow people to access the galleries smoothly and safely,” said Smart. “Everyone goes through the front door. Once in the galleries, they are fully accessible. We have a new wheelchair accessible restroom.”

Tom Smart, director of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, said accessibility has been improved in the gallery. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Smart said he’s excited about a new digital strategy that will showcase the galley’s collections online. Each artwork has been photographed in high resolution and will be on the new website which will be launched in a few weeks.

There is also a new education center where the cafe used to be.

Shirley Blumberg of KPMB Architects was hired to design the expansion. This is the second major renovation of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in the past five years.

Crates contain works by Quebec artist Jean-Paul Riopelle. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The big goal was to make the institution more accessible, Smart said, and he thinks people missed the gallery.

“Judging from the feedback I’ve received over the past two years, people… [are] can’t wait to come back and visit their old friends here, the works of art.

“I think people are very keen to come back here and be a community in an art gallery again.”

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