Written by Alli Hames
(Reading time 2.5 minutes)
Did you know Steffich Fine Art has a “thing” for the Shamanic Art of Norval Morrisseau? I did, but until today I never knew why.
If you look around our gallery you will see a little bit of Norval everywhere, he is omnipresent, in fact he is our most requested artist. Despite this, I had never heard the story behind our gallery’s Morrisseau obsession.
Today I sat down with the owner of Steffich Fine Art, Matt Steffich, to ask him about how we became intertwined with this legendary Canadian artist….
On April 1st 1992 Steffich Fine Art opened its doors, the first painting he hung on the wall was a Norval Morrisseau. Even then it was obvious, Matt was in love with Morrisseau’s art, and it showed throughout the gallery... there is nothing like your first crush.
I asked Matt why Norval's painting was the first painting he hung on the wall. Matt surprised me by answering that Morrisseau was also the first artist he purchased before he got into the gallery business, and the first painting he sold.
He share this story about the first time he noticed Morrisseau’s work. It all happened around the same period, several years before he dreamed of opening the gallery. In the late 1980’s Matt saw a documentary about the artist. This particular documentary focused on Norval’s amazing life, battling alcoholism, homelessness and drug addiction, all the while never losing sight of who he was as an artist. Matt was mesmerized by the difficult story and the powerful artist born from the struggle.
(Norval and his wife holding one of the artists early works.)
About this same time a friend had used Matt’s East Vancouver home as drop point for a beautiful earth toned, Norval Morrisseau painting. The painting stayed with Matt for several weeks. During this time Matt realized this was the legendary Morrisseau he had seen in the documentary The time came for the painting to change hands again, it was hard, but Matt had to let that one go. He had grown deeply connected to the work, it spoke to him and he vowed he wouldn't let the next Morrisseau slip through his fingers.
That same year Matt bought his first Morrisseau. When he sold it he used the proceeds to buy another. Not only did it introduce him to buying a selling art, but got him into the world of Norval Morrisseau. In years to come he would buy and sell countless Morrisseau original paintings and silkscreens. In 2006 Steffich Fine Art was honored to hosted a solo show of Morrisseau's work that had never been exhibited before.
(Gabe Vadas, Norval Morrissea and Matt Steffich during the show in 2006)
Fast Forward 25 years, and Norval continues to be an obsession in the gallery. I have been working at Steffich Fine Art six years now, art dealers and collectors alike come to us on a weekly basis for appraisals and historical information on Norval Morrisseau. Matt’s passion has lead the gallery down a remarkable road, where today we are regarded as trustworthy experts in the world Norval Morrisseau.
A few weeks back Walker's Auctions contacted Matt requesting written descriptions of four Norval paintings to accompany their April 2017 catalog of Inuit and First Nations Art for auction. Matt spent several days closely studying each painting and researching for this project. It is one of the services we offer, free and accessible to anyone who wants to know more about Morrisseau.