The Founders of the McMichael originally sought to collect works exclusively by the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, but as they learned more about the art of Canada and fell in love with the work of painters like Norval Morrisseau and Doris McCarthy, their collection expanded beyond its initial specifications.
In 2011, the Gallery’s mandate was broadened further and finally: the McMichaels’ surviving relatives, Penny and Jack Fenwick, joined with the Ontario government and Bill 188, passed that year, gave the Gallery an unrestricted mandate for exhibitions and acquisitions. The bill maintained a focus on Group of Seven and their contemporaries as well as by Indigenous and Inuit artists, but the priority was to “preserve and modernize” the gallery.
In the years since, the McMichael has exhibited many contemporary artists, to much critical acclaim: Mary Pratt, Kim Dorland, Terence Koh, Sarah Anne Johnson, Steve Driscoll, Jack Bush, and Colleen Heslin, for example.
The McMichael’s collection continues to grow and evolve, too, as we attempt to reflect the work of artists who have influenced – and continue to influence – the ideas, context, and direction of the Art of Canada.