TORONTO — The Gardiner Museum in Toronto will undergo a major transformation thanks to a $9 million donation from The Radlett Foundation in honour of the late William B.G. Humphries, who established the foundation.
The contribution will allow for a full-scale reimagining of the Gardiner Museum’s ground floor which will be led by Montgomery Sisam Architects and Andrew Jones Design and guided by the principles of connectivity, access and “Indigeneity” and includes the construction of a new fully equipped makerspace, a community engagement centre, and an Indigenous gallery space.
The plans for the 8,952-square-foot space integrate the warmth and tactility of clay into the fabric of the visitor experience.
The capital costs of the project are estimated to be $14 million and construction is expected to begin in summer 2024.
The gift, which reflects Humphries’s lifelong commitment to the collection and presentation of ceramics and his support of Indigenous communities through the arts, is the largest in the museum’s history by an individual other than its founders, George and Helen Gardiner.
It also includes more than 250 objects from Humphries’s collection of ceramics and decorative arts, with a focus on 18th-century English porcelain. The objects will join 62 pieces previously donated by Humphries to the museum during his lifetime.
The prioritizing of Indigenous ceramics also reflects Humphries’s legacy of support for Indigenous communities, particularly in the final two decades of his life, through arts, education and health care initiatives in Ontario which included the founding and funding of the Ignite the Spirit of Education Foundation, now part of The Radlett Foundation.
An Indigenous gallery space will sit at the heart of the ground floor permanent collection galleries, which are being reimagined to centre Canadian and Indigenous stories and highlight connections between cultures and ceramic traditions across time and geographies.
The Indigenous Advisory Circle, consisting of Mary Anne Barkhouse, Kent Monkman, Andre Morriseau, Duke Redbird, Tekaronhiáhkhwa/Santee Smith, and Catherine Taomesre Tàmmaro, helped to guide the project.
“This project offers the Gardiner Museum a singular opportunity to transform both its physical space and the ways it engages with diverse audiences. The addition of a gallery of Indigenous ceramics at the centre of the museum embodies the Gardiner’s commitment to working with communities to reflect and explore Indigenous cultural practices of the past and present,” said artist Kent Monkman, a member of the Gardiner board and the Indigenous Advisory Circle, in a statement.