Art installations

Though it is best known for its outstanding productions on its stages, the National Arts Centre has a strong collection of visual art that is presented throughout its building. The majority of artworks were commissioned for the opening of the building in 1969 through a new funding opportunity that allowed for a portion of the construction budget to be attributed to the “decorative arts” in public buildings. Since then, the collection has slowly grown through donations and a few recent acquisitions.

The NAC’s art collection has a particularly strong representation of mid-century Canadian art. This reflects the selection criteria of the Visual Arts Committee that was formed in the mid-1960s to oversee the original acquisition process. This Committee was formed of experts from across Canada and was guided by the building’s architect, Fred Lebensold, and the NAC’s founder, Hamilton Southam. Since its opening, the NAC’s art collection has slowly grown to better reflect the diversity of Canada and acknowledge the land upon which it stands.

In 2022, the NAC unveiled Heartbeat of Mother Earth by Emily Brascoupé-Hoefler. This commissioned artwork is a visual land acknowledgment and welcome from the Algonquin People to visitors of the National Arts Centre. This artwork encompasses Algonquin culture and tradition that has been passed from community Elders to the artist. While it serves as a welcome to the building, it also invites visitors to explore the art collection from afar through this virtual exhibition.