‘Agnes Reimagined’ moving forward as architect announced

Curator-led tour of the Agnes in 2021. Image via Queen’s University.

Agnes Etherington Art Centre announced that the internationally renowned Toronto-based KPMB Architects will oversee the design phase of Agnes Reimagined, an initiative that Queen’s said will breathe new energy — and a revolutionary new mission — into this public, university-affiliated art museum.

According to a release from Queen’s University, Georgina Riel, Indigenous Affairs Consultant of RIEL Cultural Consulting, will work with KPMB and bring deep knowledge of Kingston and Queen’s University and guide Agnes’s commitment to Indigenization, and Jennifer Nagai of PFS Studio will oversee landscape integration.

“The museum of the 21st century can no longer simply be a container of history, as if history has no bearing on our changing contemporary world,” said Agnes’s Director and Curator, Emelie Chhangur. “Agnes will thrive equally on her deep community roots and global reach, and importantly, innovate within their intersection, mobilizing the transformative power of art to create more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable worlds.”

“Agnes Reimagined offers a rare opportunity for a paradigm shift in museums in Canada, and the world, through clear-sighted collaboration, a commitment to innovation, all through the journey of decolonization and the recovery of Indigenized worldviews,” echoed KPMB founding partner Bruce Kuwabara.

KPMB has realized significant museums and galleries, including the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Gardiner Museum in Toronto, Remai Modern in Saskatoon, and the Ottawa Art Gallery, according to the release. According to Queen’s, the architectural firm also has experience balancing Indigenous perspectives with heritage buildings, which will be a focus of the Agnes Reimagined project.

Agnes Etherington Art Centre has been a vital part of the Queen’s campus since it opened its doors in 1957, the university stated. Agnes Etherington, the museum’s namesake was a longstanding patron of the arts in Kingston, who bequeathed her home to Queen’s “in order to further the cause of art in community.” Agnes now houses a collection of more than 17,000 works of art.

According to Queen’s the gallery’s collections grew thanks to the generosity of many loyal donors, including Dr. Alfred Bader, BSc’45, BA’46, MSc;47, LLD’86, who donated more than 500 paintings, sculptures and works on paper that span the 14th through the mid-19th centuries, including three Rembrandt paintings. Alfred’s son Daniel, who, together with his wife, Linda, donated a fourth Rembrandt in 2019. Alfred’s wife, Dr. Isabel Bader, LLD’07, continues to donate works from her and her husband’s extensive collection, and recently funded the creation of a new Bader Chair in Art Conservation that will support the Department of Art History and Art Conservation become world leaders in the field of imaging science.

Continuing this legacy, in 2020, the family’s charitable foundation, Bader Philanthropies, Inc., made a transformational donation of $54 million to launch the Agnes Reimagined campaign. In addition, the university said that the foundation has funded a new Curator, Indigenous Arts and Culture, who will be responsible for Agnes’s significant Indigenous art collection of more than 700 works from all periods and its relationship to other collecting areas at Agnes. This curatorship will help the museum realize its commitment to working alongside Indigenous communities and fostering Indigenous-led access to collections, according to the release.

Programming at Agnes will continue throughout 2022 but will move to a new location when construction begins in the summer of 2023, the university said. More information in Agnes Reimagined is available on Agnes’ website.

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