As Saskatoon gets ready to step into the new Remai Modern art museum, staff are putting the finishing touches together for the ultimate experience.
On Thursday, media were given a sneak peek inside the centre, which is situated at River Landing and connected to Persephone Theatre.
“The building is just mesmerizing. It is the most beautiful art gallery in Canada,” said Gregory Burke, Remai Modern CEO and executive director.
There are already 7,000 visitors confirmed for the museum’s free admission opening weekend this Saturday and Sunday. Those who didn’t secure a ticket with a slated time of entry can still wait in a stand-by line, however, entry will be based on occupancy at a given time.
Visitors this weekend can see all 11 galleries in the 130,000 square feet museum, which includes a permanent collection of about 8,000 works on four levels.
One of the most talked about spaces is the Picasso Gallery on the third floor. Visitors can see 406 Picasso linocuts – the world’s largest collection of Picasso linocut prints – and a related collection of 23 ceramic works by the famed artist.
Nearby, guests can enjoy a stunning view of Saskatoon’s River Landing in the Gordon and Jill Rawlinson Gallery Lounge. While people in Saskatoon have already noticed metal cladding covering a bulk of the windows, Burke explained the design addresses important climate factors for an art museum.
“Because we’re south facing, we get very intense direct sun,” he said. “Without a climate control system – including all of the mesh – this probably would be going up to about 60 degrees.”
‘A very dynamic institution’
Burke said a lot of attention will be given to the museum’s function as a gathering place, with ample opportunities for live performances, big events and private functions.
“It will be a very dynamic institution,” Burke said. “With 11 galleries, there will always be something changing.”
One aspect that won’t change is an ode to Saskatoon’s first art gallery. The Remai Modern will showcase five collection galleries, including one featuring the original gift of 13 paintings given to the Mendel Art Gallery in 1965.
“It is important to recognize the legacy. The Remai Modern would not be here without the Mendel Art Gallery,” Burke said.
While located in the same city, the two spaces couldn’t be further apart.
The Remai Modern is more than five times the size of the former Mendel Art Gallery. Aside from housing art, the space also accommodates a restaurant, gift shop, Riverview Room and Foyer for special events and a children’s play area.
Conference rooms, offices and a seasonal rooftop terrace make up the fourth floor.
Young people are expected to make the most use of the Cameco Learning Centre located on the first floor. Dozens of students were already creating art projects in the space Thursday.
“It’s a fabulous opportunity for youth to engage their artistic side and let their minds wander,” said Jonathan Huntington, director of community investment with Cameco.
“You’re right on the doorstep of some communities that might not think that the opportunity is there for them to come to a world-class facility like this.”
The Remai Modern was a touchstone for controversy, as construction delays left an opening date hanging in the balance. The museum’s board director Alain Gaucher said some of that came from wanting to ensure a finished facility, with complete galleries, for guests on their first visit.
“That took some fundraising after the project had started and didn’t really delay the project, but added to the work that had to be done,” he said. “We’re hoping that people find the wait was worth it.”
Gaucher said the full value of the Remai Modern will likely be seen in the form of attracting international artists, sharing knowledge and building the city’s reputation as a centre for arts and culture.
“I’m hoping that when we look back in history, it will be very kind and this will be a monumental game-changer for Saskatoon,” he said.
The Remai Modern will be closed Mondays, except for stat holidays. As such, the museum will reopen for general admission on Tuesday at 10 a.m.
– With files from 650 CKOM’s Chris Carr.