Image courtesy Allen Sapp Gallery
We join Remai Modern and others in expressing condolences to the family of Cree artist Allen Sapp, who died Monday at his home in North Battleford. He was 87.
“Allen Sapp’s story is an inspiring one,” said Gregory Burke, Remai Modern’s Executive Director & CEO.
Drawing on his childhood memories of life on a reserve, Sapp became an internationally celebrated artist, the focus of a North Battleford gallery, and the recipient of many honours.
“He played a significant role in the shaping of the visual arts in this province and beyond,” Burke said, noting Remai Modern has 11 paintings by Allen Sapp in the permanent collection.
The gentle and unassuming Sapp was recognized as one of Saskatchewan’s first professional indigenous artists, a trailblazer who by example encouraged many other artists to follow their own paths. He was also an avid singer and drummer at powwows and other cultural celebrations.
Sapp was in his 40s when his career blossomed under the influence of a North Battleford patron, Dr. Allan Gonor. Sapp was trying to make a living selling his artworks—at that time inspired by mountain landscapes and other calendar scenes— door to door. Recognizing Sapp’s potential, Gonor arranged for him to take some lessons with noted Saskatoon artist Wynona Mulcaster, then an art professor at the University of Saskatchewan.
As a result, he was encouraged to relate his own stories on canvas. He developed a poignant narrative style that documented Saskatchewan’s history and served as an authentic lens on indigenous culture.
In 1969, the Mendel Art Gallery organized Sapp’s first major solo exhibition, attracting 13,000 visitors. All 60 paintings were subsequently sold. The artist’s career then soared; in a little more than a year, he had several successful exhibitions, including ones in London, England and Los Angeles and New York. A 1994 retrospective, organized by Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery, travelled across Canada.
Collection of Remai Modern. Gift of the artist 1993.
Allen Sapp, "A Nice Sunset", 1990
Allen Sapp, "A Nice Sunset", 1990, acrylic.
Sapp was an Officer of the Order of Canada, a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and a recipient of the Saskatchewan Award of Merit and a Lifetime Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Saskatchewan Arts Board.
Report courtesy of Remai Modern.