Arctic exhibit hopes for warm reception at Lowe

The Arctic Spirit: Inuit Art from the Albrecht Collection at the Heard Museum, an exhibit focusing on Canadian Inuit art, opened Saturday at the Lowe Art Museum.

The exhibit includes artwork spanning the last 2,250 years of Canadian arctic culture, including many artists active in the last 50 years. It will be on display, free to students, until April 1.

Inuits came by boat from what is now Russia approximately 6,000 years ago and are now spread from Alaska to Greenland. The artwork on display focuses on natural and cultural themes form their artic environment, including human-animal relationships, hunting and the Inuit relationship to the land.

Ingo Hessel, the exhibit curator, said that, contrary to popular belief, Inuit art is very much a modern invention. He added that Inuit culture produced some decorative objects and jewelry for thousands of years, but the culture’s art only began developing in earnest when art dealers discovered a demand for Inuit sculpture in urban art markets.

While the Inuit are not technically Native Americans, Arctic Spirit was selected by the Lowe to complement the extensive Native American Art collection at the Lowe said Denise Gerson, associate director of curatorial affairs.

A parallel exhibit, Art of the People, displays part of the Lowe’s permanent collection, including several Inuit pieces, some purchased specifically for this exhibit.

The exhibit includes sculpture carved in whalebone, fossilized mammoth ivory and sperm whale tooth. Subject matter of the artworks includes scenes of polar bears, caribou and other facets of life above the Arctic Circle.

“This is very exotic material in Miami,” Gerson said.

Attendees at the exhibit opening on Friday night tended to agree.

“It’s radically different from western culture,” said Navied Mahdevian, a senior, about why the exhibit interested him.

Dan Goldberg, a senior, also enjoyed the exhibit.

“I’d recommend it,” he said, adding that he enjoyed being able to see northern culture at the Lowe.

Like many exhibits at the Lowe, Arctic Spirit not meant to solely be aesthetically pleasing, but also to educate visitors about a culture unfamiliar to many in Miami.

“Art is one of the best ways to learn about a culture. It evokes a response that does not need much interpretation,” said Traci Arden, a professor of anthropology who recently was a guest curator an exhibit on Guatemalan textiles. She plans on bringing her Introduction to Architecture class to study the exhibit.

Gerson said presenting exhibits that give insight into both art and a culture makes sense for a university with history and social science departments.

Despite the attraction to Arctic Spirit based on its novelty or cultural insights, Hessel urged viewers to treat these artworks as individual expressions of the artists who made them.

“What I especially wanted to focus on is the diversity of the individual artist’s imagination,” he said. If you try to keep that in mind when you go through the exhibition, I think have a more enriching experience.”

James Remeika may be contacted at