Canada’s Most Hated Painting

Despite being purchased 24 years ago, Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire is Canada’s most polarizing artwork.

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ABOVE: Barnett Newman, Voice of Fire, 1967, acrylic on canvas, 212.6 x 94.5 inches, National Gallery of Canada

“You know that painting the National Gallery of Canada spent…like…millions of dollars on? I don’t get it. It’s just a line down a canvas. What a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

If you live in Canada, chances are, you’ve heard some variation of the above statement – maybe, someone’s heard you say it.

The painting in question is Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire, and despite being purchased 24 years ago, it is Canada’s most polarizing artwork.

I could get all nerdy and explain why Voice of Fire is an important piece.

I could point out that never, has an artwork commanded such a prominent place in the national conversation.

I could go on and on, but I doubt it would change anyone’s mind.

Instead, I will leave you with this:

In 1989, the National Gallery of Canada purchased Voice of Fire for $1.8 million. In 2013, Sotheby’s sold a similar painting by the same artist for $43.8 million.

A great work of art? Debatable. A waste of taxpayers’ money? Absolutely not!