VISCOUNT GORT ART COLLECTION
By George Siamandas
Visitors to Winnipeg Art Gallery have an opportunity of seeing a special mounting of the Gort Art Collection. Lord Gort was named Robert Standish Gage Prendergast Vereker Gort. Viscount Gort lived in England where he was an Irish peer. He even took out Canadian citizenship in 1963. He first came to Canada in 1911. Gort made his initial investments in Alberta coal mines, but later became involved in Winnipeg real estate. He owned a large parcel of land where the Viscount Gort Hotel and the Kiltarton Apartments now stand. He also owned the Hugo Apartments on Wellington Crescent where a condominium now stands at 255 Wellington Crescent
Gort acquired his art in London during the early part of WW2. Much of it is from the 15th and 16th century and it contains tapestries and many pieces of Northern European Renaissance art. And for safekeeping he had them sent to Canada. A total of 28 pieces depicting religious themes on wooden panels are part of the Gort Collection.
HIS CONNECTION TO WINNIPEG
His connection to art in Winnipeg was provided by Dr. Ferdinand Eckhardt the distinguished Director of Winnipeg's Art Gallery who succeeded in having the WAG move into own new building. Gort had no children and Dr. Eckhardt persuaded Gort to donate the collection to Winnipeg. When the Art Gallery moved to its new home in 1971, one of the Gort tapestries went missing. The Gallery offered a $500 reward for information leading to its return. A ransom note for $6,000 was received prompting the lawyer for the Art Gallery to meet the thieves in a rural location south of Winnipeg. The culprits brought out a sports bag, and they rolled out the tapestry in the snow to confirm its authenticity. The trade was agreed to. The lawyer then had the crooks accompany him to a bank to get the cash where, surprise, surprise, they were arrested!
It is considered a real coup for the Winnipeg Art Gallery to have such a significant collection of artwork. And that Dr. Eckhardt was able to convince Gort to donate them to Winnipeg, is one of Eckhardt's legacies to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. They will likely always be with the Winnipeg Art Gallery. A condition of Gort's gift was that should the Winnipeg Art Gallery ever choose to sell them, that the proceeds must go to the Winnipeg Zoo.
Gort died in 1975 at age 84, and his title was passed on to the next nearest male relative in the Vereker clan. (His own son had been killed in WW2). The eighth Viscount Gort came to Winnipeg in September 1984 and participated in Medieval Feast which the Viscount Gort hotel was doing as a promotion. Our Gort had in fact earlier established a restaurant in an old Irish castle which he called the Shanon Shamrock Inn. It was later sold to pay taxes.