The province’s most prominent public art artists have warned the provincial government not to “slander” the province’s rich cultural heritage and to “get back to basics”.
The Art Gallery of Alberta, the province-run organization that manages the Alberta Museum of Contemporary Art, also said it would look at the issue again in two years.
“The art world is just as diverse, we have a lot of diverse artists, and we’re very passionate about the arts,” said David E. Bannister, the group’s executive director.
“I think the real issue is that, at the end of the day, this is about Alberta’s identity and identity as a nation.”
The province has had to contend with the recent surge in interest in art, both in Alberta and internationally, thanks to the emergence of online fundraising and online art markets.
Art galleries have also come under fire in recent years for offering free exhibitions and tours of their buildings and collections.
“We have a very unique identity that’s built upon the foundation of an art community that is extremely loyal to the arts, very loyal to Alberta,” said E.S. Gurney, executive director of the Calgary Museum of Art.
Art gallery attendance is also on the rise.
Last year, the number of art shows and events in Alberta was up 15 per cent compared to 2015.
But E.G.B.A. president and CEO Stephen J. Prentice said he doesn’t believe art should be politicized.
“There is no doubt that we need to be very careful about what we say,” he said.
“That’s the nature of politics.
That’s the place where people can come up with things they would like to see happen.
But I don’t think we should politicize this or make it a political issue.”
The Alberta Art Gallery’s advisory panel on artistic integrity issued a report in February that said there is no need to politicize art.
“When the public wants to talk about art, the public should not be subject to public pressure to change its image,” said the report by University of Alberta law professor Alan Mayfield.
“A democratic society cannot afford to be in a political moment where one side of an issue is given undue advantage.
That is not a democratic society.”
Alberta’s provincial government has been criticized by artists for its handling of the recent art boom.
Artists say it has been too slow to regulate galleries and have complained of the lack of oversight by the province.
The Art Museum of Alberta has also been criticized for failing to do enough to address complaints about the exhibition schedule.
The gallery has said it plans to launch a national “show-and-tell” initiative next year that would allow visitors to tour the gallery without a reservation.
In a statement, the Art Gallery said it was exploring ways to strengthen its governance, including increasing its ability to issue permits and curatorships.
“As we strive to create a culture that celebrates our artists and our values, we recognize the importance of maintaining and improving our culture in a way that promotes a culture of care and concern for our heritage,” the statement said.
The Alberta Museum will hold a special exhibition in 2017 called “Art and the Future,” which will focus on art history, the importance and legacy of Alberta’s artistic heritage and the ways it can be taught in schools and museums.