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January 15, 2010

Last week’s cold snap prompted me to submerge myself into Station Gallery’s collection storage and get better acquainted with our Inuit prints. The gallery’s holdings of work by northern artists is an outcome of a perfect storm between supply and demand several years ago. Many of the pieces came into the permanent collection at a time when the exchange between northern art production and southern acquisition funding was at a premium. 

Free market capitalism is so deeply entrenched and ubiquitous in our consumer-based society, it’s almost impossible to imagine another economic model in Canada. And yet in the North, traditional modes of exchange are still within lived memory – up there capitalism is the new kid on the block. 

A book that grapples with this topic was recently published and launched at YYZ, an artist-run centre in Toronto. Art and Cold Cash combines the collective efforts of artists Jack Butler, Sheila Butler, Patrick Mahon, Myrah Kukiiyaut, William Noah and writer Ruby Arngna’naaq. Graphic designer, Dale Barrett skillfully combined bilingual text (Inuktitut and English) and image. This publication is a substantial record of essays, interviews and studio production investigating capitalism’s overlap with artistic practice in Canada’s Arctic. Art and Cold Cash is a publication chronicling decades of discourse between artists living near the 49th parallel and those who live well beyond the tree line. Decade by decade, the North is slowly becoming like the South. Just as its climate changes, so too does its land and people. As the distinctions between Canada’s north and south become increasingly blurred, explorations like Art and Cold Cash hold more currency than ever.