Inuit Art commands international respect. It may be the best-known face of Canadian art on the world stage. As with all artwork, however, not every piece is at the same standard. Here are a few tips to make sure you buy genuine, well-built, quality northern art you’ll be able to love for years.
1. Shop at a reputable gallery
Gallery staff can answer questions about the artwork, and the selection will already have pared down the very best.
Department stores that only sell Inuit art as part of a varied inventory, on the other hand, usually haven’t had time to make informed acquisitions.
2. Buy genuine Inuit Art
Just because a piece looks like Inuit Art doesn’t mean it’s genuine. There are a lot of imitations on the market.
Here’s what to look for to make sure you’re really buying Inuit Art:
• The artist’s signature
• The Igloo tag or the Authentic Nunavut tag attached to on the base of sculptures
Plastic and ceramic sculptures are probably not genuine art.
3. Check the stability of sculptures.
Before buying a sculpture, make sure that it’s in good condition. Check for the following:
• Parts pegged to the base are properly finished
• Additional materials, like bone and ivory, are well-attached
• Any scratches are just natural lines and not signs of cracking
• No broken pieces have been glued back on
If you have any doubts or questions, don’t be afraid to ask gallery staff.
4. Check paper quality on prints.
Not all paper lasts forever. When shopping for prints, ask about the paper. Acid-free paper composed of 50% rag will preserve the longest.
Bear in mind, though, that not every northern artists has access to expensive paper. A good print is still a good purchase and can be conserved.
5. When in Nunavut, visit a gallery first.
When purchasing art in Nunavut, start by visiting a gallery. See the artwork the community has to offer and learn the retail prices to make a more informed purchase later on.
You can also buy from artists directly. You’ll get to meet the artist and will usually get a lower price than at the gallery.
6. Buy what you like.
In the end, the main thing is to buy what appeals to you. These are great tips to keep from getting surprised by an imitation or piece in poor condition. However, a great piece of art is worth a little extra care.
Expose yourself to more northern art before you leave the gallery, too. Ask about up-and-coming talent and look up new artists in our Artists Database.