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Audain Art Museum acquires new Emily Carr painting

Survival has only been exhibited three times, including at Canada's debut in the 1952 Venice Biennale
Survival by Emily Carr is now part of the Audain Art Museum's permanent collection.

The Audain Art Museum has added a new Emily Carr painting to its collection, thanks to its founders, Michael Audain and his wife Yoshiko Karasawa.

The pair provided the funds for the museum to acquire the piece, titled Survival.

“The museum has an excellent Emily Carr collection already,” Audain told Pique. “We've got probably one of the top three Emily Carr collections in the country. I thought we had enough, but when this painting became available last Christmastime, the provenance of the painting was explained to me, and I was able to see an image of it I thought, ‘Wow, this is a very important painting.’”

Purchased from a private collection in Quebec, when the painting goes on display at the museum next month, it will mark the first time in more than 60 years that members of the public will have a chance to see it.

“It’s only been exhibited [three times]: once in Vancouver 80 years ago in 1943, and once in Montreal in 1959,” Audain said. “It’s amazing that the painting helped represent Canada at the 1952 Venice Biennale—that’s where the art world meets every couple of years. It was the first time Canada had been invited to participate at Venice. I think that in itself is of great historical interest.”

A 28-by-23-inch oil on canvas, which Carr signed in 1940, the piece depicts a British Columbian forest—more specifically, a lone tree standing in the middle of what appears to be a clearcut—making its new West Coast home fitting.

“There was a chance to return it to the West Coast, so I thought we should try to help in that regard,” Audain said.

The new acquisition marks the 33rd Carr in the museum’s collection. Audain and Karasawa donated 22 from their collection. They have also provided the funds for another 11 to be purchased since the museum’s opening in 2016.

“I wanted the museum to have one of the best Carr collections in the country,” Audain said. “I value her. I love her work so much. I think it represents so much of what British Columbia is all about, given her concern about the environment, the condition of our forests, and land. And, of course, her connections with the … Indigenous people of our coasts. I felt it would be wonderful to have that collection.” 

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