By Paul Gessell
Pierre Theberge stood in the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina mesmerized by a new sculpture on exhibit in the Saskatchewan capital. It was September 2007, and Theberge was the director of the National Gallery of Canada. The sculpture in question was Joe Fafard’s Running Horses, a dozen life-sized, brightly painted, laser-cut steel sculptures of galloping horses.
“You look like you want to buy this,” I told Theberge upon encountering the enthralled-looking director.
His constant sidekick, gallery executive Mayo Graham, answered for him: “We just might buy it.”
And buy they did, acquiring a definite crowd-pleaser from Saskatchewan’s most celebrated living artist. Running Horses was exhibited in 2008 at the National Gallery as part of a giant Fafard retrospective, went on as part of a triumphant national tour, and was later borrowed by the Canadian Museum of Civilization for an exhibition on horses in Canadian life.
The horses now gallop permanently outside the National Gallery along Sussex Drive. Marc Mayer, the current gallery director, arranged that placement, ensuring the horses become a popular national capital landmark, just like Louise Bourgeois’s giant spider Maman by the gallery’s front door. Maman and Running Horses are probably two of the savviest purchases by the National Gallery during Theberge’s rein.
Now, Canada Post has become enthralled with Running Horses. A maquette of three of those horses, called Capillary, appears on a new postage stamp as part of the corporation’s 2012 Art Canada series. The stamp is valued at $1.80 and is used for overseas mail.
Two other Fafard sculptures also appear on new stamps. Smoothly She Shifted, a friendly looking cow seen at an odd angle, graces what Canada Post calls its domestic permanent stamp, its value always corresponding to whatever is the current cost of mailing an ordinary letter. And, just in time for the National Gallery’s summer-long Van Gogh exhibition, Fafard’s playful sculpture of the Dutch artist appears on the $1.05 stamp for U.S.-bound letters.
Find out more about the Joe Fafard series, and order uncut sheets and other special products, here.