Canadian-based Gallery Executive’s Vision for Remai
New Zealander Gregory Burke, executive director and CEO of the new Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan, Canada, discusses his first week on the job, his past, his challenges and his vision for the largest art gallery in the province. Star Phoenix reporter Charles Hamilton asks Burke: “From the beginning, this project has been both a [residential and] destination centre for [the development project] River Landing and also an art gallery. How heavy will the focus be on art as opposed to a destination centre?” “Art needs to define that building,” Burke responds. “The identity needs to be very clear. However, for the gallery to be successful it should impact everyone’s lives. If you come down to brass tacks and say, ‘What about staging weddings there?’ an institution of that size does need to find diverse streams of revenue, but I would hope that the conference room is not just seen as a wedding party room. I hope that we are able to define the total experience through the exhibitions or through the art that we can use as backdrops for those occasions.” “How do you ensure that large permanent collections – like the $20-million Picasso prints donated by Ellen Remai – or travelling shows don’t overshadow the talent of local Saskatchewan artists?” “In terms of what will make the Art Gallery of Saskatchewan distinct, certainly it has to have a connection to the artists of Saskatchewan. It goes without saying. Currently, one piece that needs to be addressed in my view is the current acquisitions budget at the Mendel is nowhere near the level it should be to match the aspirations of the building and the aspirations of the program. That is something I am going to be focusing on.” Burke was formerly director of contemporary gallery, The Power Plant in Toronto. He is a current founding board member at New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Foundation.