Art Galleries Walking Tour (Self Guided), Ottawa

Ottawa is home to a large number of excellent galleries that offer something to all art lovers. Be it a small family-owned gallery or a large national institution, each of them is illustrative of the Canadian art and its evolution. Presented here is a list of best art galleries in downtown Ottawa for your enjoyment. Take this self-guided walking tour to explore and discover the art pieces that the Canadian capital has to offer.
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Art Galleries Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Art Galleries Walking Tour
Guide Location: Canada » Ottawa (See other walking tours in Ottawa)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: helenp
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • National Gallery of Canada
  • Galerie d'Art Jean-Claude-Bergeron
  • L.A. Pai Art & Jewelry Gallery
  • Alpha Art Gallery
  • SAW Gallery
  • Ottawa Art Gallery
National Gallery of Canada

1) National Gallery of Canada (must see)

The National Gallery of Canada is one of the most acclaimed art institutions in the world and contains the most exceptional collection of artworks. Designed by Moshe Safdie, the Gallery building is one of the most beautiful in Ottawa. Completed in 1988, it houses a huge and diverse collection of paintings, drawings and other works of art, created by both Canadian and prominent European masters.

For years, Canadians had wanted a national gallery of their own where they could display Canadian art, as well as preserve, learn and educate people about their country’s cultural heritage. In the course of the centuries, the country has accumulated wonderful works of art from around the globe – sculptures, paintings, photographs etc. – belonging to various historical periods.

A tour of the Gallery reveals how it came into being as such a magnificent cultural institution. Among other interesting things, The National Gallery presents a captivating story of Canadian Civilization in the form of visual arts. From here, one can also enjoy a stunning view of the Ottawa River and the skyline of the Canadian capital.

In 2000, the National Gallery was chosen by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada as one of the top 500 buildings created in the country over the past millennium. Many exhibitions are hosted by the Gallery in collaboration with other national art galleries and museums. Many of the items held in the Canadian National Gallery have been purposely donated or purchased. The sculpture of a giant spider was mounted in front of the Gallery in 2005.

A remarkable piece of architecture, The National Gallery of Canada is a site worth seeing, not only for the huge collection of artistic masterpieces. It is a definite must-see for everyone visiting the city. Time seems to fly by when you are here!

Why You Should Visit:
The place to understand and learn about Canadian artists, both native and contemporary.
Many excellent paintings of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists artists as well: Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Matisse...
As a bonus the show of the Danish Golden Age is superb; there are many fine paintings of Eckersberg and Hammershøi.

The gallery is free on Thursdays after 17:00.
Includes a cafeteria with a "view" and a coffee shop.
For more upscale food options and wine, check out the excellent 7 Tapas bar in the Great Hall.

Opening Hours:
Oct 1 – Apr 30: Tue-Sun: 10:00-17:00; Thu: 10:00-20:00;
May 1 – Sep 30: Daily: 10:00-18:00; Thu: 10:00-20:00
Galerie d'Art Jean-Claude-Bergeron

2) Galerie d'Art Jean-Claude-Bergeron

Located in downtown Ottawa, the Galerie d'art Jean-Claude-Bergeron is a very famous art gallery in Ottawa. It was founded in 1992 by Jean-Claude Bergeron, an established artist and owner of the gallery. His vast knowledge and experience in visual arts and printmaking have enabled him to garner such a wonderful collection of modern Canadian and international art works. Today, the owner eagerly assists visitors with finding a suitable piece of art for their interiors or a corporate gift, which is a living proof of his dedication.

The Galerie d'art Jean-Claude-Bergeron is situated near Byward Market and is just a stone’s throw away from the National Gallery of Canada. Located in an old Victorian house, known as "La Maison Rochon", the gallery is named in honour of one of the renowned wood carvers of Notre-Dame Basilica present in the close vicinity of the gallery.

Galerie d'art Jean-Claude-Bergeron houses the widest range of original works. On average ten exhibitions are organized here every year. One of such exhibitions is traditionally dedicated to the work of an artist of international repute. The gallery also arranges a national competition of works on paper every two years. A Collectors' Club also works under this gallery roof and offers special packages to its more than 150 members.

A multitude works of arts displayed in this gallery include paintings on silk, canvas, woodcuts and many other materials. This gallery in Ottawa is worth seeing and definitely requires some time to appreciate its splendour.

Operating hours: Wed-Sun: 12 pm - 5:30 pm.
L.A. Pai Art & Jewelry Gallery

3) L.A. Pai Art & Jewelry Gallery

A walking tour of the Byward Market neighborhood of Ottawa should always include the L.A. Pai Art & Jewelry Gallery. This gallery is a short distance from other notable places on a walking tour, including the Alpha Art Gallery, the SAW Gallery and the statue of the Three Watchmen.

The L.A. Pai Art & Jewelry Gallery features permanent installations along with exhibitions that change on a regular basis. The artwork that is featured at the gallery changes, but generally includes jewelry, pottery, glasswork and sculptures. Visitors can view the items on display while also shopping for new art to take home.

The gallery is open every day except Monday from noon to 5 PM, though some days extended hours are available. The gallery will schedule advance reservations for those who know when they will be near the area.

Operating hours: Sunday - Tuesday: 12 pm - 5 pm; Wednesday - Friday: 11 am - 6 pm; Saturday: 10 am - 5 pm.
Alpha Art Gallery

4) Alpha Art Gallery

Alpha Art Gallery is a gallery located in the Byward Market neighborhood of downtown Ottawa. The gallery features work from Canadian artists who specialize in a variety of mediums and styles. The gallery also serves as a meeting place for local artists. Visitors may see musicians, poets or dancers displaying their skills. Many allow and encourage public interaction.

The gallery is located near Major's Hill Park, which is across the canal from Parliament Hill. For those who want to make a day of their appreciation of art, other galleries and museums are in the area. The L.A. Pai Art & Jewelry Gallery is only a four minute walk from the Alpha Art Gallery. Public art displays and the National Gallery of Canada are also nearby.
SAW Gallery

5) SAW Gallery

The SAW Gallery is one of many art galleries in Ottawa's Byward Market neighborhood. It is located in the basement level of Arts Court, which is housed in what was once the Carleton County Courthouse. Visitors will be surprised to see an edgy art gallery in a building that dates to 1871. The Italianate architecture of the building gives way to a punk-infused artist's space with ever-changing exhibits and public performances.

SAW is unique from the other galleries in this arts area as it is an artist-run gallery with a focus on social and political issues. Tourists are welcome to stop by the gallery to view art installations that grapple with pressing current issues. They can also take part in lectures and performance art. SAW offers space to artists who specialize in unique and new media.

The SAW Gallery is located north of the University of Ottawa campus and across Nicholas Street from the Old City Registry office.
Ottawa Art Gallery

6) Ottawa Art Gallery

The Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) is an art gallery committed to the production, distribution, interpretation and acquirement of modern art. It is an independent non-profit institution dedicated to benefiting the local arts community. Its main focus lies on the presentation of Canadian culture through the works of art, pursuant to which objective it regularly organizes exhibitions, tours, lectures, publications and many programs for young people.

OAG is not allied with the federal government but is owned and operated by the City of Ottawa. One of its most important collections is known as the Firestone Collection. It is a first class exhibition that features works by Paul Émile Borduas and Emily Carr. Overall, the collection of Ottawa Art Gallery consists of over 1,600 works of art brought together by O.J. and Isobel Firestone.

The OAG is unique in terms of making available for rent any of its art pieces, including those from the Firestone Gallery, to various functions, corporate events, parties etc.

The OAG is doing the utmost to become the most important modern visual arts gallery in Ottawa. It has become a cultural meeting place and strives to foster relationships between artists and broader Canadian community.

Operating hours: Daily from 9 am till 9 pm.

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