mulberry piccadilly Bessborough painting pulled after concerns over colonial context

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A painting that has hung on the walls of Saskatoon iconic Delta Bessborough hotel for decades has been removed.

On the second floor of the hotel on Thursday, a massive black sheet was draped over the large space where a painting by the artist Leon V. Solon used to hang.

The painting, which depicts French explorer Samuel de Champlain looking over the Chaudiere Falls on the Ottawa River, standing with one hand on his hip and the other on his rifle, occupied an entire wall at the hotel.

The other subjects in the painting are three Indigenous men. Contained to the right corner and shown sitting on the ground wearing what experts say is incorrect traditional dress for the region, they appear to serve as a backdrop to the Frenchmen.

The 1912 painting is a example of Eurocentric colonial notions of superiority of the time period, University of Saskatchewan Art and Art History associate professor Mary Longman wrote in an email.

In mid November, the painting was covered during a workshop hosted by the Tamarack Institute, after an attendee raised concerns about its nature. Many conversations taking place at the conference were focused on reconciliation in Canada.

Martin Gilbert, general manager of the Delta Bessborough, said the hotel main focus after staff heard concerns was to cover, and later remove, the painting. He said the Bessborough considers creating an inclusive, diverse and welcoming space a top priority.

Sabrina Bhangoo, director of public relations for Marriott Canada, said in a statement that diversity and inclusion are fundamental to the chain values and strategic business goals. The painting was removed after staff were made aware by a guest that it be perceived as offensive, she wrote.

Gilbert was unable to provide further information on what will happen to the painting, but said it won return to its previous location.

Longman, an award winning artist and a Saulteaux band member of Gordon First Nation, said these types of paintings advanced the perception that European settlers arrived on unoccupied lands, furthering inequality and myths around Indigenous people.

types of images are found all around the world in colonial countries and it was very much a way of constructing,
mulberry piccadilly Bessborough painting pulled after concerns over colonial context
creating a colonial ideology and displacing the Indigenous presence. Solon at the Delta Bessborough Hotel was covered up and removed after concerns were raised by a conference attendee in Mid November.

The origins of the painting and how it came to the Bessborough are not entirely clear.

In 2010, Stefan Deprez, who was director of sales and marketing for the hotel at the time, told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix that he thought the painting originated in Eastern Canada and eventually made its way to the hotel a CN building somewhere, after it was commissioned by the railway when Solon was a secretary at the Art Students League in New York.

The piece was the focus of a meeting between several people, including representatives from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC) and hotel staff on Wednesday.

Following that meeting, Rhett Sangster, the OTC director of reconciliation and community partnerships, said he felt the Bessborough took the concerns seriously.

Sangster said the Bessborough covering the painting with the black sheet was a signal, and that an institution like the hotel taking immediate action on the concerns may set an example for other businesses in the city.

He said parties involved didn want conversations around the painting to be divisive, but want the situation to be an opportunity for education and learning.

all have a role in reconciliation and the corporate community is definitely part of that, he said, noting he feels it a positive that the Bessborough is taking a approach in trying to find the right way to address the situation.

don think anyone knows exactly what is, but they seem open minded, respectful and modest, and I think that the right approach to take when working on these things, he said.

He was not immediately available for comment on Thursday after the painting was removed.

Longman said she pleased it gone.

really commend them for that, she said.

is a first impression for all sorts of visitors, especially for Indigenous people. It goes to show that they given it some careful deliberation, had some discussions around it and obviously understood the racial impact of that painting. noted the space is large enough to accommodate several pieces, and she like to see the painting replaced with art by Saskatchewan people,
mulberry piccadilly Bessborough painting pulled after concerns over colonial context
including Indigenous artists.