ART: Block party, Loft lecture at the AGA

Art on The Block gives us pause.

Not a ton, mind you. The Art Gallery of Alberta still rocks, and all. But it’s worth keeping in mind that the AGA has made its bones, to some degree, on defeating the “why spend $85-million on a building” arguments by being super-accessible to the public.

But the 13th annual edition of the event, on May 12, comes at the rather tony, upper-crust sticker price of $125. Really? For some cocktails and a silent auction? That’s publicly accessible? Well, hey, there is the $1,125 10-for-the-price-of-nine package deal, if you’re frugal about these things.

I mean, sure, the average plebian member of the public surely wouldn’t appreciate any of the 70 works of art on auction enough to pop hundreds — and in some cases thousands — of dollars for them, after all, but shucks, we’s done read all our picture books. We’s wants somethin’ new to looks at. The subtle textures of Eva Bartel’s impressionist watercolours sure is purdy.

You get the drift. It’s kind of snooty, art. That’s how  the public often sees it, anyway. Of course, it’s not, really. If it’s honest, that’s the most you can demand. Everything beyond that is in the eye of the beholder. That makes art the most open of social concepts. Snooty, elitist, cocktail parties? Not so much.

They serve the rather important purpose of helping fund the AGA. There’s nothing wrong with that; quite the contrary: at least they’re using some of that loot for something useful. Let’s just keep some perspective and not pretend it’s the largess of the truffles-and-caviar crowd that keeps the doors open and the heat on, OK?

In the meantime, at the radically more affordable price of $15 ($10 for members), the gallery has an intriguing presentation scheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m. Steven Loft, the former curator-in-residence of the quite amazing Indigenous Art section of the National Gallery of Canada is discussing the use of abstraction in aboriginal art. Common to many Canadians in the works on non-aboriginals like Emily Carr, Loft will instead focus on the direct references from aboriginal culture including ancient symbology and different uses of form.

Loft was named Trudeau National Visiting Fellow at Ryerson University in Toronto, where he will be continuing his research in Indigenous art and aesthetics.

Tickets are available at the AGA website, here.