North America

12 Art Exhibitions to Discover in Canada this Summer

by Paul Joseph  |  Published June 22, 2023

Across the length and breadth of Canada are a huge number of museums and cultural venues that will be hosting a diverse programme of exhibitions throughout summer.

(Photo: Ruth Cuthand, ADHD, RCH82, 2022, glass beads, thread, backing, 11 1/4″ x 11 1/4″)

Centuries of immigration to Canada together with a vast and enduring indigenous population have produced a hugely diverse country that spans multiple nationalities, races, religions and heritage. This melting pot has given rise to an equally varied cultural landscape that can be best seen in the country’s myriad of museums and their regular exhibitions and displays. We’ve picked out 10 of the best Canadian exhibitions due to run through summer 2023.

Brain Scans/Neurotransmitting

One in five Canadians will struggle with mental health before age 25, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, and only 25 per cent of children and teens have access to treatment, for reasons that range from socio-economic status to location to parental consent. This exhibition seeks to explore the difficulty of facing mental health challenges, and how families unite in support of one another. Among the items on display are a series of intricately beaded reproductions of MRI brain scans of people with ADHD, depression, PTSD, and more, as well as a short film by the exhibition’s creator’s son capturing a conversation about his latest manic episode.

Nelson Museum, Archives & Gallery, Nelson / 23 June – 21 October 2023

Robotic Clay: New Methods in Architectural Ceramics

(Photo: Tara Cooper, ” The 8 Second Brick Project” (left). Glazed stoneware, salvaged bricks, wood, steel.)

This exhibition brings together academic institutions from across North America to showcase novel, 3D printed architectural ceramics. Combining traditional ceramic craft and robotic fabrication, the exhibition explores how attuning emergent technologies to the unique properties of clay can create new form and spatial languages. These formal and spatial explorations are displayed through a series of ceramic 3D printed walls and functional ceramic components at multiple scales.

The Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery, Waterloo / Through 10 September 2023

Manabu Ikeda: Flowers from the Wreckage

Manabu Ikeda, 誕生 Rebirth, 2013–2016 pen, acrylic ink, and transparent watercolour on paper, mounted on board 300 × 400 cm (Photo:  Collection of Saga Prefectural Art Museum, Saga, Japan Digital Archive by Toppan Printing Co., Ltd)

This exhibition features Japanese artist Manabu Ikeda’s meticulously detailed pen-and-ink drawings that are filled with astonishing images. Through his everyday observations, the artist renders entangled fragments to create a spectacular whole that prompts viewers to look deeply into his visual expression. Curated by Kiriko Watanabe, the Audain Art Museum’s Gail & Stephen A. Jarislowsky Curator, this is Ikeda’s first solo retrospective in North America showcasing over sixty works from national and international collections. As a special feature, visitors will have the opportunity to observe the process of Ikeda drawing, and interact with him during open studio hours in the Museum’s Upper Galleries on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from 3pm to 4.30pm until 30 August.

Audain Art Museum, Whistler / 24 June – 9 October 2023

Emergence: A Recent Gift of Indigenous Art

This exhibition highlights important early and mid-career works of art by contemporary Indigenous artists from across Turtle Island, North and South. As a collection, thee works serve to provide a cohesive vision of the approaches and concerns of artists working in the 1970s – a period during which both emerging and elder artists experimented with various media, in drawings, paintings, prints, sculpture, and textiles. During that formative decade, chosen materials and techniques resulted in art forms championed through established community centres, craft guilds, and art galleries. These artists shaped new artistic markets and became influential advocates and innovators in the field of contemporary and Indigenous art, forging paths for future generations of artists.

Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queens University, Kingston / 1 July – 12 November 2023

Wolfgang Tillmans: To Look Without Fear

Icestorm (2001). (Photo: Courtesy of the artist, David Zwirner, New York / Hong Kong, Galerie Buchholz, Berlin / Cologne, Maureen Paley, London)

German artist Wolfgang Tillmans’ photography ranges from intimate observations to incisive commentary on the shape of our world today. A major retrospective of the artist, this exhibition features photographs, video projections, sound installations, including images of nightlife, sensitive portraits, architectural studies, documents of social movements, still lifes, astronomical phenomena and cameraless abstractions, all serving to reveal the full breadth of Tillmans’ creative output. The exhibition also includes his ongoing project Truth Study Center.

Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto / Through 1 October 2023


An echo is a continuation that needs a physical body on which to resound. This exhibition contemplates ways recurrences traverse generational and geographical expanses, with the works on display exploring the physical and embodied ways in which memory appears and continues to resonate within individuals and across generations. Through practices such as ceremony and revisitations of the voyages of one’s ancestors, the artists whose work is featured call upon knowledge systems that do not rely on the written word, but rather assert a continuity and interconnectedness between body, land, and water.

Kamloops Art Gallery, Kamloops / 15 July – 9 September 2023

Entwined & Entangled 

Dr. Cynthia Stratulat, “Stop Dragging my Heart Around,” 2023, wool, silk, cotton, beads and buttons, 37″ x 27”. (Photo: Courtesy of Leighton Art Centre)

For millennia, fibre artists have entangled their personal dreams and schemes into fabric, entwining yarn and other fibres with needles, hooks, and looms into beauty and functionality. The artists of the Sheep Creek Weavers fibre arts guild continue this tradition. This exhibition celebrates contemporary fibre arts, creative collaboration, and a half-century of shared history between the Guild and Leighton Art Centre. It features works by individual guild artists as well as collaborative group pieces and installations, with the diverse inspiration for the pieces ranging from the ever-changing landscape of the Alberta foothills to personal memories, shared experiences, myths, and even dreams.

Leighton Art Centre, Foothills, Alberta / 24 June – 27 August 2023

Thought and Splendour of Indigenous Colombia

Circular House, Colombia, Calima Region, 100 BCE – 800 CE (Yotoco Goldwork Style) tumbaga (gold-copper alloy), 10.8 x 10.2 cm Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. (Photo: © The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)

By presenting a fresh perspective on Colombian art, this large-scale exhibition proposes new ways of approaching the world around us. It brings together close to 400 works, dating from about 1500 BCE to the present day, which reveal the diversity and richness of Colombia’s Indigenous cultures. Included are intricately cast gold pendants, hammered gold masks, offerings, ceramic effigies of mystical creatures, rare ancient textiles and a series of contemporary watercolours, each contextualised with image projections and a soundscape featuring music played on ancient ocarinas.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Art, Montreal / Through 1 October 2023

Canadian Modern

Canada’s modern design and craft movement has been a dynamic part of the country’s narrative from the early 20th century right up to today. By showcasing dozens of examples of culturally significant, limited-edition and mass-produced objects designed and crafted in Canada, this exhibition explores Canada’s innovative and lasting contributions to modern design and craft, and the stories of insight, experimentation, and innovation behind them. Interviews, advertising, and digital media in the exhibition provide greater context.

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto / Through 15 October 2023

Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Moment

Paraskeva Clark, Myself (detail), 1933. Oil on canvas, 101.6 × 76.7 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Purchased 1974 © Estate of Paraskeva Clark. (Photo: NGC)

Delivering a snapshot of female creativity during the dynamic interwar period, this exhibition celebrates a generation of extraordinary women painters, photographers, weavers, beadworkers and sculptors from a century ago, who together opened up new frontiers for women artists in Canada. Incorporating the work of settler and Indigenous visual artists, the exhibition challenges the notion of the quintessential Canadian artist, exploring the diversity of women creators from coast to coast to coast, many of whom have been neglected by traditional art history.

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa / Through 20 October 2023

Ratios: Dionne Lee

The work of American visual artist Dionne Lee engages closely with photographic methodologies to pursue forms of knowledge counter to the assumptions that underlie the conventions of North American landscape photography. Central to Lee’s practice is the body’s experience of the world at a close distance, a scale that she highlights in her work to help us understand the relationship between people and land. In this exhibition, Lee utilises small rocks and her own hand as tools to measure each other, serving to explore the relationship between human bodies and land, and the asymmetry of their impacts on one another.

Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver / Through 3 September 2023

The Children Have to Hear Another Story: Alanis Obomsawin

Alanis Obomsawin at Mariposa Rock Festival, 1970, (Photo: Courtesy York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC05824)

Abenaki filmmaker and activist Alanis Obomsawin was born into a dark period of Indigenous history when social and political agency were systemically foreclosed. Despite this, she managed to consistently access public platforms to advance Indigenous concerns. Her commitment has made her a beloved figure within Indigenous communities and celebrated in Canada and internationally. This exhibition shines a light on her remarkable achievements spanning education, music, documentary cinema and activism that have mobilised Indigenous voices and ideas to transform society.

Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver / Through 7 August 2023