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Art Gallery of Alberta's quirky exterior | © IQRemix / Flickr
Art Gallery of Alberta's quirky exterior | © IQRemix / Flickr

The Top Art Galleries in Canada

Picture of Hayley Simpson
Updated: 3 May 2017

Across Canada there are various art galleries showcasing the best local, national and international art and design work. Some focus on contemporary pieces, while others feature First Nations art, so whatever the taste, here are some of the top art galleries to discover more about in Canada.

Vancouver Art Gallery

As the largest art gallery in Western Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery has an extensive collection of both historical and contemporary paintings, sculptures, photographs and graphic artwork. The gallery is housed in the former provincial courthouse, where current exhibitions in Spring 2017 include showcases by Susan Point and Howie Tsui, and Pacific Crossings: Hong Kong Artists in Vancouver. Don’t miss Emily Carr’s important works, as she was one of the most influential British Columbia artists.

Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada, +1 604 662 4700

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is the largest art museum in Atlantic Canada. Its main building is in Halifax, while it has a branch gallery in Yarmouth. The gallery has more than 17,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection, which include classic portraits, Inuit stone carvings and Nova Scotia folk art. As the province’s tourism board states: “Its permanent collection and slate of programs tell the story of Canadian art from a Nova Scotian perspective”.

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 1723 Hollis Street, Halifax, NS, Canada, +1 902 424 5280

Art Gallery of Alberta

Art Gallery of Alberta is Edmonton’s largest public art gallery with over 6,000 works of art by Canadian and international artists. In 2010, the gallery reopened after an $88 million renovation by Randall Stout Architects. The renovations doubled the gallery’s space and allowed it to have a dedicated area for its permanent collection. Current exhibitions include Atelier, where visitors can “get inspired by ongoing conversations about Canada’s history and investigate what Canada means to you”.

Art Gallery of Alberta, 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton, AB, Canada, +1 780 422 6223

Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal

For more than 50 years, the Contemporary Art Museum on Montreal has brought together work from local and international artists for the viewing public’s pleasure. The museum says that every form of expression is featured, including installations, paintings, sculptures and digital and sound works. Coming up in June 2017 is an exhibition entitled In Search of Expo 67, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event in Montreal.

Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal, 185 Saint-Catherine Street W, Montreal, QC, Canada, +1 514 847 6226

National Gallery of Canada

Although it does hold some notable works by American and European artists, the National Gallery of Canada’s main focus is Canadian art. Its contemporary art collection even includes some pieces from Andy Warhol. The Canadian collection, which is the nation’s most compressive, includes artwork by Emily Carr, Louis-Philippe Hébert, Alex Colville, Tom Thomson and Jack Bush. The gallery is recognised today for the spider sculpture outside, which is titled Maman and was created by Louise Bourgeois.

National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON, Canada, +1 613 990 1985

Art Gallery of Ontario

Found in Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario has over 80,000 works within its permanent collection, which span from the 1st century to the present day. It has hosted some of the most renowned exhibitions in the world. Today, it has an expansive collection that includes Canadian art (with an emphasis on Toronto and Ontario), pieces from the Renaissance era, paints and drawings, and a large photography collection. Its African and Oceanic artwork collection is the largest of its kind in a Canadian art museum.

Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 979 6648

Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba

The Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba began in 1907 and credits the Brandon community’s enthusiasm for visual arts for its existence. Today, the gallery “remains committed to promoting and nurturing the visual arts in Brandon and southwest Manitoba through outreach, education and exhibition”. Upcoming exhibits include Kelly Jazvak’s Sharp and Numb collection in June 2017, which includes a sample of the work with plastic refuse she has created in the past 10 years.

Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, 710 Rosser Avenue #2, Brandon, MB, Canada, +1 204 727 1036

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Located on Montreal’s historic Golden Square Mile on Sherbrooke Street, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is Montreal’s largest museum and one of the most recognisable in the country. It’s home to the oldest library in Canada dedicated to art, five different pavilions, and over 42,000 works in its permanent collection. In 1972, it was actually the site of the largest art theft robbery in Canada’s history. The pieces (including a Rembrandt) have never been recovered but would be worth over $11 million today. More than one million people visited the museum in 2016.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1380 Sherbrooke Street W, Montreal, QC, Canada, +1 514 285 2000

The Power Plant

Devoted exclusively to contemporary visual art from Canada and the world, The Power Plant is one of Canada’s leading public art galleries. Its Commissioning Program is “an ambitious ongoing program to develop and premier major new works by the most exciting Canadian and international artists at work today”. An interesting upcoming exhibition from October to December 2017 is Urban Now: City Life in Congo. It’s by Sammy Baloji and Filip De Boeck and features both photography and video.

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, 231 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 973 4949