Inuit Art

September 16, 2020

LOT 25

Lot 25

OVILOO TUNNILLIE, R.C.A. (1949-2014)

OVILOO TUNNILLIE, R.C.A. (1949-2014)
Lot 25 Details
OVILOO TUNNILLIE, R.C.A. (1949-2014), Cape Dorset / Kinngait


signed in syllabics
5 x 17 x 3.5 in — 12.7 x 43.2 x 8.9 cm

Estimate $2,000-$3,000

Realised: $1,800
Price Includes Buyer's Premium ?

Lot Report

Additional Images
OVILOO TUNNILLIE, R.C.A. (1949-2014)
  • OVILOO TUNNILLIE, R.C.A. (1949-2014)
  • OVILOO TUNNILLIE, R.C.A. (1949-2014)
  • OVILOO TUNNILLIE, R.C.A. (1949-2014)

Private Collection, Toronto, ON


Beginning in the 1970's, the nude female body is a central motif for artist Oviloo Tunnillie. Though she made several experiments with the form, she is widely recognized as the first Inuit sculptor to produce works representing the naked female body. The unorthodoxy of this distinction is largely due to the lack of nudity throughout the Inuit carving tradition, in addition to the systemic suppression of sexuality among Indigenous populations by colonial governments since European Contact.

From 2002 to 2005, Tunnillie lived between Montreal and Toronto. During this time, she produced this remarkable work, Female Torso (2004), in serpentine rock. The work closely follows her trajectory of examining unconventional subject matter, in particularly social taboos such as masturbation or going to the toilet. Yet Female Torso clearly harkens back to classical antiquity and its emphasis on archetypal body types. To this end, Tunnillie draws on the Western art historical canon and merges it with the Inuit cultural tradition. And this veritable collision of two dissimilar cultures unsettles art history’s Eurocentric bias. It also shrewdly positions the Inuit female body as a powerful source of beauty and sexuality.

Though critically underrepresented, Tunnillie remains one of the most uncompromising Inuk artists of her generation.

Matthew Ryan Smith, Ph.D., is the Curator and Head of Collections at Glenhyrst Art Gallery in Brantford, Ontario.


For condition information please contact the specialist.

LOT 25

About Condition Ratings

  • 5 Stars: Excellent - No discernable damage, flaws or imperfections
  • 4 Stars: Very Good - Minor flaws or imperfections visible only under close inspection using specialised instruments or black light
  • 3 Stars: Good - Minor flaws visible upon inspection under standard lighting
  • 2 Stars: Fair - Exhibits flaws or damage that may draw the eye under standard lighting
  • 1 Star: Poor - Flaws or damage immediately apparent under standard lighting (examples: missing components, rips, broken glass, damaged surfaces, etc.)

Note: Condition ratings and condition details are the subjective opinions of our specialists and should be used as a guide only. Waddington’s uses due care when preparing condition details, however, our staff are not professional restorers or conservators. Condition details and reports are not warranties and each lot is sold “as is” in accordance with the buyer’s terms and conditions of sale. In all cases the prospective purchaser is responsible for inspecting the property themselves prior to placing a bid.