Rebecca Belmore

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Rebecca Belmore
Rebecca Belmore.jpg
Rebecca Belmore performing at Nuit Blanche 2016 in the Art Gallery of Ontario
Born (1960-03-22) March 22, 1960 (age 59)
NationalityLac Seul First Nation (Canadian)
Known forinstallation, Performance art
AwardsGovernor General's Award 2013

Rebecca Belmore (born 1960) is an interdisciplinary Anishinaabekwe artist who is particularly notable for politically conscious and socially aware performance and installation work.[1] She is Ojibwe and member of the Lac Seul First Nation.[2] Belmore currently lives in Montreal, Quebec.[3]

Belmore has performed and exhibited nationally and internationally since 1986, her work focuses on issues of place and identity, and confronts challenges for First Nations People.[4] Her work addresses history, voice and voicelessness, place, and identity. To address the politics of representation, Belmore's art strives to invert or subvert official narratives, while demonstrating a preference for the use of repetitive gesture and natural materials.[1] Belmore's art reveals a long-standing commitment to politics and how they relate to the construction of identity and ideas of representation,[5] she has exhibited across Canada, the US, Mexico, Cuba and Australia. In 2005, OCAD University conferred an honorary doctorate on Belmore in recognition of her career.[4]

She was the first aboriginal woman representing Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2005,[6] she also received Canadian Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2013.[6][7]


Belmore was born on March 22, 1960 in Upsala, Ontario, Canada;[8] until the age of 16, Belmore spent her summers in Northwestern Ontario with her grandparents. During these summers, her grandmother taught her about harvesting native foods from the land.[9] Author Jessica Bradley describes Belmore's adolescence as difficult due to "the custom ingrained through the [Canadian] government imposed assimilation, she was sent to attend high school in Thunder Bay and billeted with a non-Native family." Bradley adds that as a result of her experience as an adolescent, notions of displacement and cultural loss are "reformed into acts or objects of reparation and protest [within her various works]." [10] Belmore attended the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto in 1988 and because of her success at the 2005 Venice Biennale, was awarded an honorary Doctorate degree in 2005.[4]

Belmore's mother was born on a small island in Northern Ontario and her journey to visit her mother's birthplace has had a significant impact on her work.[11]


Rebecca Belmore has presented work in biennial exhibitions throughout her career, she has twice represented Canada at the Sydney Biennale; in 1998 in the exhibition Every Day, and in 2006 in the exhibition Zones of Contact. In 2005 her work Fountain was shown at the Canadian Pavilion of the 51st Venice Biennale, as the first aboriginal artist ever to represent Canada at the event.[3][12] In the same year she exhibited as part of Sweet Taboos at the 3rd Tirana Biennale, Tirana, Albania. In 1991, she exhibited at the IV Bienal de la Habana, Havana, Cuba.[1]

Jolene Rickard's Venice Biennale Catalogue essay[13] describes Belmore's work: "As a First Nations or Aboriginal person, Belmore's homeland is now the modern nation of Canada; yet, there is reluctance by the art world to recognize this condition as a continuous form of cultural and political exile; the inclusion of the First Nations political base is not meant to marginalize Belmore's work, but add depth to it. People think of Belmore as both Canadian and Anishinabe—l think of her as an Anishinabe living in the continuously colonial space of the Americas."

Belmore has had two major solo touring exhibitions, The Named and the Unnamed, a multi-part installation that commemorates women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver (2002); and 33 Pieces, Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto at Mississauga (2001). In 2008, the Vancouver Art Gallery hosted Rising to the Occasion, a mid-career survey of Belmore's artistic production.[1] In 2014, Belmore was commissioned to create an original work for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights[14] The work consists of a blanket of hand pressed clay beads, engaging the community in Winnipeg to help produce them.[6]

In 2010, Belmore was involved in a legal dispute with the Pari Nadimi Gallery of Toronto, that sued her for punitive damages and for lost future revenues to $750,000.[15][16]

In 2017, Belmore's work was exhibited at documenta 14 in Athens, Greece and in Kassel, Germany.[17]


Descriptions of important works[edit]

Belmore's interactive installation Mawa-che-hitoowin: A Gathering of People for Any Purpose (1992), featured a circle of chairs from Belmore's kitchen and kitchen chairs owned by other women close to her, arranged in a circle; each chair had a pair of headphones resting on it. Visitors were invited to sit in each chair, put on the headphones, and listen to the stories of the struggles and triumphs of different indigenous women in Canada, told in their own voices; the work was commissioned for an exhibition of Indigenous art on the 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in Hispanola. As such, it used Indigenous traditions of storytelling and passing on wisdom from elders as a way to push back against Native stereotypes and victimization.[18]

Select works:[1][edit]

  • Twelve Angry Crinolines (1987), parade and video performance, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Collaboration with Ana Demetrakopoulos, Kim Erickson, Lori Gilbert, Joane Lachapelle-Bayak, Glenn McLeod, Karen Maki, Sandy Pandia and Lynne Sharman; organized by Lynne Sharman
  • Artifact #671B (1988), protest in support of the Lubicon Cree and against the Olympic Flame celebrations, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
  • High-tech Teepee Trauma Mama (1988), performance installation, Indian Days Native Student Association Winter Carnival, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay Ontario, Canada
  • HOWUH! (1988), music based performance project with Allen De Leary, Definitely Superior Art Gallery and Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
  • Nah-doe-tah-moe-win: Means an Object That You Listen To (1989), Niagara Artists Centre, Saint Catharines, Ontario, Canada; Galerie SAW Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Multi-media Works: A Native Perspective, AKA, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • August 29, 1990 (1990), performance, Première Biennale d'art actuel de Québec, Le Lieu, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  • Ayum-ee-aawach Oomama-mowan: Speaking to Their Mother (1991), performance, Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta, Canada; toured to numerous locations across Canada (1991-1996)
  • Creation or Death: We Will Win (1991), performance, IV Bienal de la Habana, Havana, Cuba
  • Mawa-che-hitoowin: A Gathering of People for Any Purpose (1992), mixed-media installation, "Land/Spirit/Power" exhibition, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • I am not a Fucken Squaw! (1993), performance, Distance education program student graduation banquet, Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada
  • Affiliation/Affliction (1994), collaboration with Reona Brass, Rencontre internationale d'art performance (RIAP) de Quebec, Le Lieu, Quebec, Canada
  • Tourist Act #1 (1995), participatory performance, Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A
  • Interview with the Ghost of Luna (1997), performance, "Apocalypso" artist's residency, The Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta, Canada
  • Garden of Eden (1998), performance, Five New Works (untitled), Canadian Performance Art Tour, Germany
  • Manifesto (1999), performance, TIME TIME TIME performance art festival, Fado Performance, Inc., Zsa Zsa Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • The Indian Factory (2000), performance making an installation, High-tech Storytellers: An Interdisciplinary Aboriginal Art Project, Tribe/AKA Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Wild (2001), House Guests: Contemporary Artists in the Grange, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Vigil (2002), performance, Talking Stick Aboriginal Art Festival, Full Circle First Nations Performance, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • Tongue River (2003), performance collaboration with Bently Spang, Fado Performance, Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Back to the Garden (2006), performance, Urban Shaman/ Ace Art, Inc., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  • "Freeze" with Osvaldo Yero (2006), Nuit Blanche, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Painted Road (2007), performance, gravel road behind the Art Gallery of Sudbury, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
  • Making Always War (2008), performance, performance assistant: Daina Warren, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Select solo exhibitions:[1][edit]

  • Wana-na-wang-ong (1993), Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • I Wait for the Sun (1994), Faret Tachikawa Art Project, Art Front Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
  • Dreamers (1999), Keyano College Art Gallery, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada
  • Many/One (1999), Optica, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • on this ground (2000), Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.A
  • Private Collection (2001), Pari Nadimi Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 33 Pieces (2001), organized by Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; toured to Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (2002); Parry Sound Station Gallery, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada (2002); Definitely Superior Gallery, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada (2003); W.K.P. Kennedy Public Art Gallery, Capitol Centre, North Bay, Ontario, Canada (2003)
  • The Named and the Unnamed (2002), organized by Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; toured to Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (2003); Kamloops Art Gallery, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada (2004); Confederation Art Centre, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada (2004); McMaster Museum of Art, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (2006)
  • Extreme (2003), Pari Nadimi Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Temperance (2004), Tribe, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Untitled 1, 2, 3 (2005), grunt gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • The Capture of Mary March, Pari Nadimi Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada`
  • Parallel (2006), Urban Shaman/ Ace Art, Inc., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  • cosi in cielo, cosi in terra (2006), Franco Soffiantino Arte Contemporanea, Turin, Italy
  • Rebecca Belmore: Rising to the Occasion (2008), Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • March 5, 1819 (2008), The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada

Awards, honours and residencies[edit]

Belmore has been awarded membership in the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.[19] In 2004, Belmore completed a residency with MAWA (Mentoring Artists for Women's Art) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she is also a Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts (2013),[7] as well as the recipient of the 2016 Gershon Iskowitz Prize.[20]


  • Augaitis, Daina; Kathleen Ritter (2008). Rebecca Belmore: Rising to the Occasion. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery. ISBN 9781895442687.
  • Bradley, Jessica; Jolene Rickard; Scot Watson (2005). Rebecca Belmore: Fountain. Kamloops Art Gallery, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Biennale di Venezia. Vancouver: Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. ISBN 9780888656346.
  • Blondeau, Lori, et al. "On the Fightin’ Side of Me: Lori Blondeau and Lynne Bell in conversation with Rebecca Belmore." Fuse Magazine, Vol. 28, No. 1. pp. 25–34.
  • Bradley, Jessica. "Rebecca Belmore: Art and the Object of Performance." In Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women. Tanya Mars and Johanna Householder, eds. Toronto: YYZ Books, 2004.
  • Enright, Robert. “The Poetics of History: An Interview with Rebecca Belmore”, Border Crossings, Vol. 24, No. 3, 2005.
  • Burgess, Marilyn. "The Imagined Geographies of Rebecca Belmore." Parachute, No. 93, Jan/Feb/March, 1999. pp. 12–20.
  • Fisher, Barbara. 33 Pieces. Mississuaga: Blackwood Gallery, 2001.
  • Hill, Richard William. "It’s Very Interesting if it Works: In Conversation with Rebecca Belmore and James Luna." Fuse Magazine, Vol. 24, No. 1, 2001. pp. 28–33.
  • "Built on Running Water: Rebecca Belmore's Fountain." Fuse Magazine. Vol. 29, No. 1, 2006. pp. 49–51.
  • Martin, Lee-Anne. “The Waters of Venice: Rebecca Belmore at the 51st Biennale.” In Canadian Art, vol. 22, 2005.
  • Mayrhofer, Ingrid (2006). Ephemeral Monuments: The Interventions of Rebecca Belmore and César Saez. Ottawa: Galerie SAW Gallery.
  • Townsend-Gault, Charlotte and James Juna (2002). Rebecca Belmore: The Named and the Unnamed. Vancouver: Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. ISBN 9780888656285.
  • Laurence, Robin (August 2002). Racing Against History: The Art of Rebecca Belmore. Canada: Border Crossing Magazine, Volume 21, Number 3. Figures and Faces (#83). Pages 42-48.

Further reading[edit]

  • Belmore, Florene; Martin, Lee-Ann (1994). Wawa-na-wang-ong: Rebecca Belmore. Vancouver: Contemporary Art Gallery. ISBN 0-920751-49-0.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Augaitis, Daina and Kathleen Ritter, ed. (2008). Rebecca Belmore: Rising to the Occasion. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery. ISBN 9781895442687.
  2. ^ "Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental", Art Gallery of Ontario, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Rebecca Belmore on her gradual trek eastward and life as an artist". Retrieved 2016-09-17.
  4. ^ a b c University, OCAD. "1980s - Alumni Profiles - Our Alumni - Alumni - OCAD U". Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  5. ^ Augaitis, Daina, and Kathleen Ritter (2008). Rebecca Belmore: Rising to the Occasion. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery. p. 14. ISBN 9781895442687.
  6. ^ a b c Charleyboy, Lisa (2014-03-15), First Nations artist Rebecca Belmore creates a blanket of beads, CBC News
  7. ^ a b "The Canada Council for the Arts - Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts". Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Jessica Bradley (2006), Tanya Mars; Johanna Householder (eds.), Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women, Toronto, ON: YYZ Books, pp. 120–129, ISBN 0-920397-84-0
  11. ^ "Rebecca Belmore | Artist Info". Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  12. ^ Martin, Lee-Ann. "The Waters of Venice: Rebecca Belmore at the 51st Biennale". Canadian Art. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  13. ^ Rickard, Jolene. "Rebecca Belmore: Performing Power" (PDF). Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  14. ^ Sandals, Leah (2014-01-24), Rebecca Belmore to Make Major Human Rights Museum Piece, Canadian Art
  15. ^ Griffin, Kevin (2010-09-15), "Rebecca Belmore Takes Legal Case to The Street", The Vancouver Sun
  16. ^ Lederman, Marsha (2010-09-22), "The story behind Rebecca Belmore's "I quit" performance", The Globe and Mail
  17. ^ "Rebecca Belmore". Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  18. ^ Catherine., Berlo, Janet (1998). Native North American art. Phillips, Ruth B. (Ruth Bliss), 1945-. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 236–237. ISBN 0192842668. OCLC 40139820.
  19. ^ "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  20. ^ "'Consistently provocative' Rebecca Belmore wins $50K visual arts prize". CBC News. Retrieved 16 November 2016.