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Most go to art galleries to see art, but it’s also where most collectors and art-buyers show their support for artists by purchasing their work.
Plenty of art galleries offer diverse discovery and purchasing opportunities, bridging the public with art that can enrich their experiences or add value to their collections.
Cities are hotspots for a variety of options when it comes to galleries, and Ottawa is no exception. Below is a list of the best art galleries in Ottawa.
How Much Do Art Schools in Ottawa Cost?
Galleries for viewing museum-style galleries usually charge a small fee for people to enter, while art galleries showcasing pieces for sale are typically free to visit.
Some galleries also have an appointment-only policy or a membership fee where members can get first discounts on workshops, lectures, books, and arts events.
The table below summarizes the average fees of art galleries in Ottawa.
|Membership fee (for adults)||$50 – $100 per year|
|Membership fee (for students)||$30 – $50 per year|
|One-time entrance fee for one||Free – $20|
|Group tours||$100 – $200|
|Family entrance fee (up to 6 family members)||$80 – $150|
The Best Art Galleries in Ottawa
Now that you’re informed about the cost of art galleries, here is our list of the top art galleries in Ottawa.
1. National Gallery of Canada
|SERVICES||European Painting, Sculpture, Photographs, Canadian Prints, Drawings, Early Canadian and Modern Art, Contemporary International and Inuit Art, Indigenous Art|
|ADDRESS||380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa Ontario, Canada K1N 9N4|
|CONTACT DETAILS||Phone: +1 613 990 1985|
Email: [email protected]
|OPERATING HOURS||Wednesdays to Sundays: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM|
Mondays, Tuesdays, Special Holidays: Closed
Founded in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada houses the country’s most important collection of contemporary Indigenous, Canadian and European art. They attract over 400,000 visitors annually, making them the number one art gallery in the city.
The gallery also has cultivated its role in crafting and sharing community stories and histories through visual media. Apart from holding Canada’s most extensive art collection, the gallery hosts a slate of exciting exhibitions highlighting various themes, issues, and artistic movements.
In addition to the art collections and experiences available, people come here to appreciate the beautiful postmodern architecture of the gallery itself. The expansive halls, courtyard, and indoor gardens are also attractions on their own.
For those interested in seeing an exhibition at the comforts of their homes, a virtual exhibition is available on their website. Interactive learning events for different age groups are also available.
These learning events include talks and tours for adults, as well as art activities with games and drawing lessons for families with kids.
The gallery also has a varied selection of books, stationery, and exhibition merchandise for those looking to take home gifts. They also have a coffee shop ready by the entrance and is open during gallery hours for refreshments.
A review from tshep42 via TripAdvisor reads:
“Even if you’re not an artist or a real art lover (like me), it’s worth a visit. They do have some big name artist displayed there that even I recognized. I wish galleries could figure out how to make the building design intuitive so you don’t end up backtracking and always feeling like you may have missed something. There’s nothing easy about the layout of this museum. The gift shop is great with lots of unique gift ideas for the artist or art lover in your family. Interesting kids stuff too. It wasn’t busy when I was there in a Thursday afternoon and it was free after 5:00 PM (otherwise, just over $18). You’ll pass by “Maman,” the large spider, on your way in but do walk around the back of the building for the neat outdoor sculptures. Keep going up the hill and you’ll get a great view of the Ottawa River and the back of the Parliament Building. Also, don’t miss Notre Dame Basilica across the street from the National Gallery. The location is just past Byward Market a long Sussex Street. I only spent an hour and focused on the European and Canadian galleries, but to do it properly, you’d need 2-3 hours. There is a tapas bar and a Second Cup.”
Another review from RVDoe via TripAdvisor says:
“This gallery is world class. It always has fascinating displays, well thought out. Some are a combination of photos and film ( such as Anthroppocene, one of the best we have ever seen). There is a collection of group of 7 paintings, modern art, photography. There is something here for everyone. Highly recommended.”
2. Ottawa Art Gallery
|SERVICES||Graphic Arts, Community Initiatives, Photographs, Sculpture, Paintings, Intimate Screenings|
|ADDRESS||50 Mackenzie King Bridge, Ottawa, ON, K1N 0C5, CANADA|
|CONTACT DETAILS||Phone: +1 613 233 8699|
Email: [email protected]
|OPERATING HOURS||Wednesdays to Sundays: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM|
Mondays and Tuesdays: Closed
The Ottawa Art Gallery positions itself as a pillar in Ottawa’s visual art scene. The gallery has a particular and unique focus on providing a cultural meeting place for different contexts, reflecting the diversity in the community.
Local and regional art are at the heart of the collections, giving a backbone of history and community to the permanent selection. Art from all over Canada and the world is also presented in their seasonal exhibitions.
Apart from core gallery functions, the Ottawa Art Gallery makes contributing to public programs an important endeavor through programs that engage the public and promote art and culture.
Promoting spaces for the community to celebrate art and culture is also one of its core functions.
The gallery has five floors, covering over 55,000 square feet of mixed-use space. Inside is a dedicated gallery for the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, a gallery for the Permanent Collection, rooftop terraces, multipurpose rooms, and an art studio for community-led activities and film screenings.
For those who are interested in taking home some art, the gallery’s gift shop offers ceramics, textiles, jewellery, books, homewares, and art supplies for sale. Their selection of merchandise makes it a point to support Canadian regional makers and artists.
Caroline W via TripAdvisor left a review that says:
“This is the newest public art gallery building in Ottawa. It’s lovely, small, and it’s free! They are currently honouring the Centennial of the Group of Seven, and they have a lovely collection of paintings from the Firestone collection on exhibit. Check out the other exhibits on the other floors too. (Russell Yuristy is a revelation, and Jennifer Dickson’s photos offer peaceful contemplation.) Because it is small, free, and excellent, it’s a good idea for families who are trying to compromise on what everyone wants to do.”
Another review from Barbara E also via TripAdvisor says:
This gallery is within easy walking distance of both the Rideau Center and the Byward Market and is worth an hour or so of your time if you are visiting either of those. Featuring Canadian artists, there are three separate spaces with displays, including a gallery with paintings for sale on the first floor. As well there is a quite nice cafe. Did I mention…admission is free!
3. Orange Art Gallery
|SERVICES||Consultancy, Curation, Event Space Rental, Award-Winning Plays|
|ADDRESS||290 City Centre Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1R 7R7|
|CONTACT DETAILS||Phone: + 1 613 761 1500|
Email: [email protected]
|OPERATING HOURS||Wednesdays to Sundays: 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM |
Mondays and Tuesdays: Closed
Established in 2010, Orange Art Gallery may be young but the gallery has already made itself a fixture in the community art scene, championing local contemporary artists by presenting their work for sale.
What sets Orange Art Gallery apart from other galleries in Ottawa is that the art pieces on display can be purchased by the gallery goers. The gallery curates pieces from artists and connects them to potential buyers via their exhibits in the physical gallery as well as in their virtual gallery.
They have also started the option of being able to browse and buy art online in 2013, making it possible for long-distance buyers to plan and carry out purchases without having to physically travel.
This digital solution is a huge step forward for Orange Art Gallery, opening a much broader audience for its artists and inspiring other local galleries to do the same.
For avid art collectors, there are also special events listed on their website with dates to take note of. These include special exhibits where viewers and buyers get to meet the artists themselves.
The gallery also offers art classes as well as a series of sessions with the gallery artists, available under advanced registration.
Those looking for a unique venue for events like weddings, other celebrations, even corporate receptions, can also consider Orange Art Gallery as an option.
With well-preserved, old-style architecture, lots of natural light, high ceilings, and hardwood floors, the gallery makes for a great place to hold a wide variety of special occasions.
A review from M. Paron via Facebook reads:
“The gallery was the perfect venue for our wedding this past weekend. The Central Exhibition Room transitioned seamlessly from our ceremony space (with guest seating for all) to our cocktail reception area and dance floor. Jon Booth was incredibly responsive and tailored the bar menu to our tastes. Highly recommend [it]!”
Another review from Simon M via TripAdvisor reads:
“Unpretentious and comfortable old building in which to stumble upon a treasure. Exhibits change often with new artists.”
4. L.A. Pai Gallery
|SERVICES||Sculpture, Jewellery, Emerging and Established Artists|
|ADDRESS||13 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N 9M5|
|CONTACT DETAILS||Phone: + 1 613 241 2767|
Email: [email protected]
|OPERATING HOURS||Tuesdays to Fridays: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM |
Saturdays: 11:00AM to 5:00 PM
Sundays: 12:00NN to 5:00 PM
Lisa A. Pai opened the L.A. Pai Gallery in 2000, with the vision of presenting it to groundbreaking artists with multicultural backgrounds. Now running for over twenty years, the gallery focuses on sculpture and jewellery from emerging and established Canadian artists alike.
Like the Orange Gallery above, L.A. Pai also has a roster of artists under its wing whose works are featured for sale on their website. The collection of artists have also stayed diverse and unique, with jewellery and sculpture pieces tactile and three-dimensional.
Their website is also a great resource for art collectors and enthusiasts for upcoming exhibitions. They also host the National Jewellery Student Competition which is helpful for emerging talents in jewellery among Canadian youth.
The gallery also has incredible installations that come and go as featured works in the gallery. Past installations can be seen on the gallery’s site for reference.
Currently, the gallery is open to visitors following strict COVID guidelines of hand hygiene and physical distancing. Visits are also by special appointment only at this time.
Reviews from regular visitors via TripAdvisor can be found below:
“Boutiques, restaurants and galleries come and go particularly in Ottawa’s market yet the L.A. Pai Gallery has been a constant in the capital’s craft scene ever since its opening in 2000. Today it was displaying an eclectic mix of jewellery, sculptures, painting and prints. I particularly enjoyed a variety of porcelain cockerels, Erin Robertson’s sculpture ‘Three Witnesses Holding a Snake’ and Anna Williams’ saucy trio of ‘Dejeuner sur l’Herbe’ prints joined by one ‘Dejeuner sur la Neige’”
“Stunning work beautifully curated. Great staff too. We love shopping here!”
5. Galerie SAW Gallery
|SERVICES||Socially engaged art, performance art, multimedia|
|ADDRESS||SAW 67, rue Nicholas Street Ottawa ON K1N 7B9 CANADA|
|CONTACT DETAILS||Phone: +1 613 236 6181|
Email: [email protected], [email protected]
|OPERATING HOURS||Tuesdays to Saturdays: 11:00AM to 6:00PM|
Born as an artist-run initiative in 1973, the SAW centre focuses on socially aware and politically engaged art. Now located in the heart of downtown Ottawa, the gallery’s name comes from Sussex Annex Works, as the gallery was originally part of the café Le Hibou on Sussex Drive.
With over 30,000 visitors annually, SAW remains to be one of the best galleries in Ottawa. Since its inception, SAW has also envisioned itself as an innovative centre both in content and medium.
What sets the gallery apart is how it presents intersectional contemporary art in various media including photography and film.
For instance, SAW is in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts to open the Nordic Lab, a research and production lab specifically for artists-in-residence from circumpolar nations.
The Nordic Lab initiative aims to promote exchange and collaborations among Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Apart from being a creative lab, it also has educational programs crafted for Indigenous youth.
Another example of contemporary art being pushed forward by SAW is Club SAW, an adjacent venue attracting over a thousand artists and musicians to perform. Club SAW provides a space for artists and audiences to enjoy performances as well as screenings and other meaningful activities revolving around culture and art.
Nicole W. via Facebook left this review:
“An amazing evening surrounded by great people! Staff and organizers were superb! Ladies and I are already planning to come back again soon! Thanks for an epic evening!”
Another review from Amanda D. via Yelp reads:
“SAW Gallery is one of the better Ottawa art galleries to view controversial and innovative contemporary art. The gallery passionately believes in the importance of contemporary art by diverse artists, outsiders, Canadians and those who endeavor to alter how we see the world we live in. A lot of the art is media or performance, but they also have some installations and regular old drawn and painted stuff occasionally. This is definitely not a large gallery, so if you’re in the Arts Court, you may as well view the Ottawa Art Gallery upstairs. Admission is pay what you can.”
FAQs on Art Galleries
And that concludes our list of the best art galleries in Ottawa. We hope the list was able to help you discover a new art gallery to visit.
If you know other art galleries that should be on this list, let us know so we can check if they should be included on this list too!
If all the galleries inspired you to take art classes, check out the best art schools in Ottawa.