Posted Sep 6, 2009 in Arts | 0 Comments

the WAR Museum – Ottawa National Gallery


The first stop for most art lovers that visit Ottawa is the National Gallery, and with good reason, but I really have to recommend a couple hours spent at the Canadian War Museum.


First of all, the architecture itself is stunning. Architect Raymond Moriyama uses raw concrete in a variety of finishes to express the ravages of war. Before entering the gallery itself I suggest taking the pathway just to the right of the entrance that leads up over the middle of the roof of the building. The rough concrete and slanted walls give the impression of being in a bunker or a ruined building, while emerging on the rooftop, one surprisingly encounters a grassy field.


The day I was there, poppies were blooming in the grass as I looked towards the rooftops of the parliament buildings, a fitting tribute. The path itself continues on to the river, but back inside be sure not to miss the Memorial Hall before heading to the main exhibition areas. This is where the lines between architecture and sculpture become blurred.


The Hall is designed so that once a year, on Remembrance Day, the sun coming in a small window lights up the headstone of the Unknown Soldier.


The main exhibition halls are stuffed with images, objects, artifacts, videos, and installations. I particularly enjoyed the many massive paintings culled from public and government buildings that could be read as both historical artifacts and propaganda pieces.


The last stop is the LeBreton Gallery, a huge open space that houses everything from old horse-drawn carriages to giant tanks. For the most part the vehicles are jammed together with small spaces to wander around, and very little descriptions, one of the most unusual gallery setups I’ve seen, but really interesting. Most disturbing was the jeep riddled with bullet holes- you remember these vehicles weren’t always sitting in the quiet space of a museum gallery.


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