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From visitor to curator

April 9th, 2018

Photo of Renée van der Avoird.

Renée van der Avoird. Image by the AGO.

For the newest member of the Department of Indigenous and Canadian Art, visiting the Gallery has been a lifelong activity. Raised in Brampton, Renée van der Avoird has been coming to the AGO since she was a child, racing up the stairs to see Claes Oldenburg’s Floor Burger. In 2012, she spent the summer as an AGO intern, working in the Director’s Office. Now a specialist in post-war Canadian art, she is joining the team in the role of Assistant Curator of Canadian Art.

We caught up with Renée to learn more about her work and why she’s excited to be at the Gallery.

AGO: Tell us about your first job at the AGO.   
Renée: In the summer of 2012, just after graduate school, I interned in the Director’s Office, helping prepare documents for board meetings, researching best practices for records management systems, and various other projects. The internship was a great introduction to the important behind-the-scenes work that happens at the Gallery.

AGO: Now that you’re back at the AGO, what changes to the Gallery are most notable?
Renée: It’s wonderful to see that these days, the Gallery is pushing for greater accessibility, equality and inclusiveness — the experimental programming as part of First Thursdays and the renaming of the Canadian Department to Indigenous and Canadian are examples of this.

AGO: What are you working on right now?
Renée: My first major project is to assist curators Wanda Nanibush and Georgiana Uhlyarik with the reinstallation of the J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art. They have selected over eighty exceptional works – both new and familiar – from our Indigenous and Canadian collection, and put them into conversation with each other to better reflect the Nation to Nation relationship which Canada was built upon. The new Centre, set to open July 1, 2018, will also feature extended labels that help us tell stories from new perspectives.

AGO: What works in the AGO collection are you most excited by?
Renée: My latest obsessions are by Canadian painter Kazuo Nakamura. His works from the 1950s and 60s are precise, contemplative abstractions inspired by his interest in science and mathematics. His 1955 painting Inner Structure #5 is currently on view in Gallery 206, as part of the Thomson Canadian Collection.

AGO: You published a book on Canadian artist David Craven in 2014. What drew you to his work?
Renée: Craven’s paintings are energetic and expressive, and they reflect his outgoing personality. He had a strong impact on Canadian art in the 1970s and 80s so I wanted to revisit that early work and contrast it with his more recent paintings, which combine text, saturated colours and flowing lines.

Stay tuned to see Renée’s first project with curators Wanda Nanibush and Georgiana Uhlyarik – the reinstallation of the J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art – opening July 1, 2018!

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