Photo of Gerald Mcmaster
Photo of Gerald Mcmaster
Gerald Mcmaster
Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Graduate Studies
416-977-6000, Ext. 4587

Area(s) of Expertise

Curatorial Studies, Indigenous Visual History and Aesthetics, Contemporary Indigenous Art (First Nations, Inuit)


Dr. McMaster has over 30 years international work and expertise in contemporary art, critical theory, museology and Indigenous aesthetics. His experience as an artist and curator in art and ethnology museums researching and collecting art, as well as producing exhibitions has given him a thorough understanding of transnational Indigenous visual culture and curatorial practice. His early interests concerned the ways in which culturally sensitive objects were displayed in ethnology museums, as well as the lack of representation of Indigenous artists in art museums. As a practicing artist, he offered a way of staging hitherto decontextualized objects different from the traditional formats favoured by exhibition designers trained in Western traditions; instead, his was an approach that rested on Indigenous epistemologies. These early stages in developing an –Indigenous visuality led him to study concepts in visual, experiential and spatial composition. His exhibition Savage Graces (1992) challenged long held views, and played a major role in breaking down conventional barriers around where art should be practiced, while also demonstrating that art is not tied to ethnicity. As a curator, he focused on advancing the intellectual landscape for Indigenous curatorship through the foundational concept of voice. He curated, for example, an exhibition called Indigena (1992) that brought together unfiltered Indigenous voices for the first time. Until then, non-Indigenous scholars had dominated discussions of Indigenous art, history and culture. McMaster made the point that Indigenous artists and writers were more than capable of representing themselves in articulate, eloquent ways. Over the past 20 years, he has continued to refine the idea of voice, leading him to ask: How can Indigenous voices continue providing new perspectives on well-researched subjects such as art, history and anthropology? Throughout his career, his championing of the mainstream value of Indigenous art, among other things, has led to his being chosen to represent Canada at a number of prestigious international events. These include his serving as Canadian Commissioner for the 1995 Venice Biennale, and as artistic director of the 2012 Biennale of Sydney. McMaster is currently collaborating on three major international projects in Europe, South America, and Australia.


Gerald McMaster curator, artist, author, and professor of Indigenous Visual Culture and Critical Curatorial Studies studied fine arts at the Institute of American Indian Art (Santa Fe, New Mexico) and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (BFA 1977). After receiving his MA in anthropology from Carleton University, he went on to defend his doctoral dissertation The New Tribe: Critical Perspectives and Practices in Aboriginal Contemporary Art at the University of Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, Theory, and Interpretation (1999).

Professional Experience

- 2014 Professor, Ontario College of Art and Design University, Toronto - 2012–2015 Independent Curator, Philadelphia - 2005–2012 Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto - 2002–2005 Director's Special Assistant for Mall Exhibitions, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), Washington, DC - 2000–2002 Deputy Assistant Director for Cultural Resources, NMAI, Washington, DC - 1995–2000 Curator-in-Charge for First Peoples Hall project, Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC), Gatineau, Quebec - 1981–2000 Curator of Contemporary Indian Art, CMC, Gatineau, Quebec - 1977–1981 Program Head, Indian Art Program, Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan

Selected Exhibitions

- 2014 Before and After the Horizon, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Co-curated with David Penney. - 2012 All Our Relations, 18th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, Australia. Co-curated with Catherine de Zegher. - 2010 Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection of Inuit Art, AGO. Co-curated with Ingo Hessel. - 2010 A Good Night, Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, Toronto, Ontario. - 2008 McLean Centre for Canadian Art Reinstallation, Art Gallery of Ontario. - 2007 Remix: Multiple Modernities in a Post-Indian World, NMAI and the Heard Museum. Co-curated with Joe Baker. - 2007 Arthur Renwick: First Nations Churches in British Columbia, AGO, Toronto, in conjunction with Emily Carr: New Perspectives on a Canadian Icon. - 2005 New Tribe: New York. A series of four mid-career exhibitions, featuring the works of From Tradition to Transcendence: Mario Martinez; Daughters from the Stars: Spiderwoman Theater; Revealing the Absent Indian: Alan Michelson; and, Expeditions of the Spirit: Lorenzo Clayton. George Gustav Heye Center, New York, NMAI. - 2004 First American Art: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of American Indian Art. George Gustav Heye Center, New York, NMAI. Co-curated with Bruce Bernstein. - 2002 First Peoples Hall project, CMC, Gatineau. - 2001 Draw and Tell: Lines of Transformation by Norval Morrisseau/Copper Thunderbird, The Drawing Center, New York. - 1998 Reservation X: The Power of Place in Aboriginal Contemporary Art, CMC, Gatineau. Assisted by Arthur Renwick. - 1997 Robert Houle/Don Hall: Ghostwriter Series, A-Space, Toronto, Ontario. - 1996 Plains Indian Drawings 1865-1935: Pages from a Visual History, The Drawing Center, New York. Co-curated with Janet Berlo. - 1995 Edward Poitras: The Venice Project. The XLVI Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy. - 1992 INDIGENA: Indigenous Perspectives on 500 Years, CMC, Gatineau. Co-curated with Lee-Ann Martin. - 1988 In the Shadow of the Sun, Museum f–r Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Dortmund, Germany; traveled to CMC in 1989. Co-curated with Odette Leroux. - 1985 Challenges, de Meervaart Cultural Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Awards \ Grants

- 2016 Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture & Curatorial Practice - 2014 Honorary Doctor of Letters, Emily Carr University of Art & Design, Vancouver, BC - 2013 Joan Yvonne Lowndes Award in recognition of excellence and meritorious achievement in critical or curatorial writing on contemporary Canadian visual art - 2010 Canadian Commissioner to the 17th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, Australia - 2007 Order of Canada (Officer) - 2005 National Aboriginal Achievement Award (now called –Indspire–) - 2001 ICOM-Canada 2001 Prize, for contributions to national and international museology - 1995 Canadian Commissioner to the XLVI 1995 Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy

Selected Publications

- Before and After the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes. Co-edited with David Penney. Washington, DC: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), 2013. - All Our Relations: 18th Biennale of Sydney. Co-edited with Catherine de Zegher. Sydney, Australia: Biennale of Sydney, 2012. - Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection of Inuit Art. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2010. - Remix: Multiple Modernities in a Post-Indian World. Co-edited with Joe Baker. Washington, DC: NMAI and Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona, 2007. - Vision, Space, Desire: Global Perspectives and Cultural Hybridity. Washington, DC: NMAI, 2006. - New Tribe: New York. Washington, DC: NMAI, 2005. - The Native Universe: Voices of Indian America. Co-edited with Clifford Trafzer. Washington, DC: NMAI and National Geographic, 2004. - First American Art: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of American Indian Art. Co-edited with Bruce Bernstein. Washington, DC and Seattle: NMAI in association with the University of Washington Press, 2004. - Reservation X: The Power of Place in Aboriginal Contemporary Art. Gatineau, Quebec: CMC; Fredericton: Goose Lane, 1998. - Edward Poitras Canada XLVI Biennale di Venezia. Gatineau, Quebec: CMC, 1995. - Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives. Co-edited with Lee-Ann Martin. Douglas & McIntyre: Vancouver, 1992. - Challenges. The Netherlands: de Meervaart Cultural Centre, 1985.

Professional Affiliations / Boards / Juries

- 2016– Editorial Board, ab-Original: Journal of Indigenous Studies, First Peoples and First Nations Cultures - 2009–2010 Member of the Board, Red Sky, Toronto, Ontario - 2008– Member of the Board, Indspire (previously the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation), Toronto, Ontario - 2002–2007 Editorial Board, National Museum of the American Indian Magazine, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC - 1998–2000 Member of the Board, Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario - 1997–2004 Member of the Otsego Institute for Native American Art History, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York - 1996–2000 Board, Native Americas: Akwe:kon Journal of Indigenous Issues. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York - 1996 Editorial Board, Aboriginal Voices. Toronto, Ontario - 1995–2000 Member of the Board of Trustees, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC - 1995–1998 Member, College Art Association - 1992–1995 Member of the Board, ICOM-Canada - 1991–1994 Member of the Board, Ontario Arts Council - 1991–1993 Member of the Board, Canadian Museums Association - 1991–1993 Member of the Board, Inuit Art Foundation - 1988–1989 President, Native Art Studies Association of Canada - 1987 Vice-President, Native Art Studies Association of Canada