It’s going to be a carnival fit for a king.
The Estevan Art Gallery and Museum is holding a soiree for Andrew King next weekend, hoping to raise money that will go to the preservation and promotion of King’s work.
Amber Andersen, the EAGM’s curator, noted that it isn’t just a piece of Estevan’s history they are preserving but a piece of Canada’s.
“Things like Andrew King are extremely important not just to Estevan but to the history of Canadian printmaking and advertising, because he was very much a maverick in the sense that ‘I am going to do woodcarving blocks,’” said Andersen.
At the time, lithography, which used stone or metal, was the general form for advertising because it could be used in newspapers, said Andersen. King always owned newspapers and developed his poster-printing business on the side.
“He would always use what was accessible in terms of papers, and that was newsprint, and anyone who is an archivist can tell you newsprint is the most difficult thing in terms of preservation because it doesn’t age well,” she said.
King’s posters are printed on a mix of newsprint and cardboard.
“He wasn’t making the Sistine Chapel. He was in business, and it has turned into so much more now.”
Andersen noted the Derksen family donated more than 1,000 pieces making up the King collection. That included more than 200 poster prints as well as the wood blocks.
“That’s such an exciting collection, and we basically need a vault,” she said about how they need to store the pieces, but added that is something that is far down the road.
While the gallery moves forward without a vault however, Andersen added that it’s important for them to get the pieces framed in archival matting, and so they can’t be damaged. She’d also like to see some of the funding going toward getting the King collection on the road.
She noted that King printed posters for the Calgary Stampede one year and the Brandon Winter Fair, so because of the work’s connection to many other places in the West, exhibiting the work in other galleries could be something they can do in the future.
“It’s great to have it in a vault, but it’s also great for it to have a life,” said Andersen. “It’s something that we want to take so much further. It would be nice to put together a show and start getting it out there so King can have a second life, so to speak.”
The other side of preservation is rediscovering the stories behind the artistic pieces. There are stories behind each woodblock, so Andersen is interested in when the blocks were made, who owned each piece after King, and how they changed hands from person to person. Herb Ashley, she noted, did the drawings and paintings and she said there’s more to explore in that relationship, which lasted 20 years.
“As with all heritage pieces, that’s what gives it significance.”
The proceeds raised from the soiree will go toward the King collection, as Andersen noted it takes precedence in their permanent collection because of the frail nature of the paper the posters are printed on.
“Paper is an amazing medium,” she added. “It’s the most fragile, but it’s the strongest material. It’s very intriguing. It does age, if you look at the oldest pieces of paper coming out of Asia. You can rip it, you can tear, but it’s also very versatile and strong.”
Now she wants their storage rooms organized and functional, maybe installing slots so one can slide the images in and out. Finding best practices for storage of other items like the wood blocks is also something she wants to look into.
For the soiree on Oct. 20, Andersen said they decided to host it in the main gallery itself to gain as much awareness as possible of what they do. With the Andrew King exhibit currently dominating the main gallery room, it will be easy for everyone attending to see the collection displayed.
The soiree is carnival-themed in honour of King’s many prints advertising carnivals and fairs.
She noted that for the auction, because King printed multiple posters, they are able to auction off actual prints, while keeping their own originals as well. The second edition prints, Andersen added, were printed using King’s original blocks.
Those looking to purchase a ticket or a table may contact Andersen at 634-7644.