Visit The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa – Indigenous Art

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It had been nearly ten years since we visited the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa as a family, so l was excited to return recently. Just as last time, we managed to waive both the entry and parking fees because one day a month is free (see details below). But the real bonus was we had much of this iconic fine art museum to ourselves.

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The National Gallery of Canada

Our first stop (and what is becoming a priority for me) were the Indigenous and Canadian Galleries opened in 2017. The galleries are wide and spacious with boldly coloured accent walls making individual pieces stand out. Exhibited are garments, tools, furniture and Indigenous ceremonial panels. Almost 800 paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, and decorative art objects from across Canada are on view, dating from 5,000 years ago to 1967.

Indeginous Gallery at the National Gallery of Canada
The Indigenous Gallery

Visitors can rediscover iconic artworks from the national collection – many of which have been recently restored – or find a new favourite among the objects featured here for the first time. There are 225 additional works to see in the reconfigured Galleries, including recent acquisitions by artists such as A.Y. Jackson, Lawren S. Harris, George T. Berthon, Ruben Komangapik, Tim Pitsiulak, and Emily Carr, among others. Also on view is an impressive selection of objects on temporary loan: among them, close to 100 stunning works by Indigenous artists.

National Gallery of Canada website
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Artist and Shaman between Two Worlds ~ Norval Morisseau

The Indigenous Gallery

The Canadian Gallery

A visit to The National Gallery of Canada would not be complete without a visit with The Group of Seven. These 7 Canadian men studied, sketched and painted small-town life, forests, lakes and landscapes of the Canadian Sheild between 1920 and 1933. The definition of national treasures, their works of art are simply beautiful. Rarely will you have such an abundant grouping of large paintings.

National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa - Group of Seven collage
Group of Seven – The Canadian Gallery

On our last visit we saw the Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens exhibit.  There is an impressive amount of old masters paintings in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa bit on this trip, we focused solely on the Indigenous and Canadian Galleries.

Frank Stella, Firuzabad (Variation) I, 1970.
National Gallery of Canada

The painting above was by far my favourite piece on my first visit.  Although the picture may seem like a giant graphic, it was in fact a huge painting.  It spanned the better part of  the room.  The three of us just sat at the bench in front of this work of art and were mesmerized by the optical illusions that  the patterns created.  It was w.o.n.d.e.r.f.u.l. 

Maman by Louise Bourgeois DownshiftingPRO
Maman ~ Louise Bourgeois

Things that give you nightmares.

“Maman” by Louise Bourgeois patiently stands outside The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. The sculpture, which depicts a spider, is among the world’s largest, measuring 30 ft high and 33 ft wide. It includes a sac containing 32 marble eggs, and its abdomen and thorax are made of ribbed bronze.

I’m 100% sure some people will not approach this sculpture for any reason. I overheard a boy saying to the dad, “I’m staying here; mom can go see THAT BY HERSELF.”

I have seen this structure before. There is a similar one at the  Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and my daughter saw another at the New Orleans Museum of Art.


National Gallery of Canada

380 Sussex Drive,
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1N 9N4

Public Transportation

Hours of operation

  • Monday Closed
  • Tuesday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Wednesday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission is free on Thursday evenings after 5 pm. As of Thursday, January 26, tickets required. Remember to book in advance.

There is not question that the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is a must-see museum.  I am a huge fan of museums, are you?

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for and other online media outlets.

20 thoughts on “Visit The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa – Indigenous Art”

  1. That looks like a lot of fun, I bet my older daughter would love it there. If we’re ever in the area I think we will have to check it out!

  2. *sigh* You’ve made me miss this fine city! I lived in Ottawa for 10 years from 95 to 2005. Got married while we were there, bought our first home, had our babies there, and started my daycare business there. Love love love that city!

  3. I haven’t been there since I was a teenager; I really should make the effort, since I live here and all. Thanks for posting about it!

  4. Yes, I also like museums because everyone can hone in on the things that catch their particular interest. Bummer that you didn’t get to see the building in all its glory, but who’s to say there can’t be a next time!

  5. We are right across the water from Canada (in Michigan) and while I’ve visited there before I’ve never actually been to any of the museums. They look very cool and I will definitely try to check them out soon!

  6. Oh my goodness, that is so neat! Looks like so much to see and do! I’ll for sure check that out if we find ourselves in Ottawa anytime soon 🙂

  7. I’ve never been to Ottawa, but I have seen and heard so many wonderful things about it. I love going to exhibits and learning new things.

    Love the photo of the painting. I’ve always been attracted to creative art like that.

    My girlfriend is in Ottawa right now visiting friends and family for the next two weeks. Gosh now I wish I went with her! LOL. I will have to take a visit one day and take in the free museums 🙂

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