In 2011, Saskatoon entrepreneur and philanthropist Ellen Remai donated $30 million CAD to support construction and enhance the exhibition program of a new public art museum in the city. While the 11,582-square-metre facility has been hampered by budget woes and construction delays, a $3 million boost from the Canadian government brings their contribution to a total of $16 million, and hopes to put the project on track towards a fall 2017 opening date.
Remai also donated 405 linocuts by Pablo Picasso — the most comprehensive collection in the world — to the museum, which will house over 7,700 artworks that had been featured at the now-shuttered Mendel Art Gallery. The building on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, designed by Bruce Kuwabara of KPMB Architects, evokes a Prairie modern style that responds to the flat topographic landscape. Predominantly glazed, rectangular sections of the facade will be covered in a mesh screen of copper, borrowing design cues from the nearby historic Bessborough Hotel, one of several Canadian National Railway hotels built in the Prairies.
From an atrium to outdoor terraces, the building hosts intimate spaces and dramatic expanses. The museum's ground floor will be accessible for free, with large-scale art commissions, a flexible gallery space, and an active learning studio setting the tone. Animated gathering places with a fireplace and open lounge areas, a cutting-edge art and design store, and a restaurant will also be included on this level. The second and third floors are set aside for programming, including the Picasso gallery and spaces for rotating exhibitions. A 150-seat theatre will play host to films, performances, and lectures.
The province committed $16.7 million towards the estimated $84.7 million project price tag, while the bulk of the funding came from the City of Saskatoon. The gallery was originally targeting a 2016 completion date, but construction issues have pushed the opening further back. According to the CBC, Remai Modern's Executive Director hopes the museum will begin welcoming patrons in the fall.
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