by Stevie Wilson | Earlier this year it was announced that the Vancouver Art Gallery would be relocated from its current home to a brand-new structure at West Georgia and Cambie Streets. With this news came a second ruling that the 48 year-old Centennial Fountain out front of the gallery would not be preserved. The decision was met with a variety of perspectives, most arguing that the large fountain wasn’t conducive to the flow of pedestrians in the common area, and was no longer valuable as a gathering place – not to mention it had become prone to leaks. Others pointed out its historic character, and its value as a work of art itself, constructed of small, hand-chosen mosaic tiles by artist Alex von Svoboda. Whatever your thoughts on the fountain may be, there’s no denying that it’s a big piece (both literally and figuratively) of the Downtown core’s history.
Prior to its official unveiling in 1966, Premier W.A.C. Bennett wished to have the fountain’s construction kept hidden in order for it to be a surprise for the public. The fountain was intended to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the colonial union between BC and Vancouver Island in 1886. In 1966 the grounds were still home to the provincial courthouse – the VAG didn’t take it over until 1983. A memorial drinking fountain honouring King Edward VII was also sharing the ground out front on Georgia Street; it was moved to the side of the courthouse building in 1972.
Bennett requested the construction hoarding around the fountain site to be painted green and white, which conveniently enough were the colours of his BC Social Credit Party. However, this simply wouldn’t do for the more creative types at City Hall. Despite not being the renowned tourist attraction it is today, the location was nonetheless at the center of a growing cultural epicenter and therefore was a prime location for Mayor William Rathie’s alternative proposal to allow local artists to paint the hoarding instead.
The “Paint-In”, held on April 6th, 1966, featured over 100 local amateur and professional artists and displayed a wide range of styles and subjects. Artists had been encouraged to sign up and individual spots along the hoarding were assigned. Georgia and Howe Streets were closed as a large, curious crowd watched the painters get to work. The newly-formed Vancouver Life magazine even featured a photo of the artworks on the cover of their May issue.
The artists’ murals remained on view until the centennial fountain’s unveiling in December; what became of the artists’ work isn’t clear. Regardless, the creative stunt is not without its legacy. In 1968, the British Columbia Provincial Museum in Victoria staged a similar gathering and invited several local artists to paint on the hoarding around its construction zone. Check out the gallery below to view some of the unique works that helped add a little extra fleeting colour to our city.
Vancouver Life and BC Motorist magazine images courtesy of Jason Vanderhill. Archival photography of the murals is the work of Ernie H. Reksten and Leslie F. Sheraton.
Local firm Peter Cardew Architects just sent us an email and video link countering the already accepted and established plans for the new Vancouver Art Gallery. “How can we ensure the public supports a new VAG? Ask them.” Food for thought:
In the search for alternate sites on which to construct a new Vancouver Art Gallery there was little public participation to ensure the best site was chosen for a major public building in the city. Also, in an economic climate that is far less robust than when the idea of a totally new gallery was first proposed, it is critical that public money be seen to be wisely spent. Only through actively encouraging open dialogue about such issues can governments, the public and potential donors be assured of enthusiastic public support. This video is intended to stimulate that dialogue and that enthusiasm.
This morning, the Vancouver Art Gallery put forward an open Request for Qualifications (“RFQ”) to launch the process of choosing the architect who will design its new building…
“After years of research and planning for a new Gallery, we are thrilled to be at the stage where we can move forward with our vision to create an innovative and inspiring visual art museum.” says Gallery director Kathleen S. Bartels. “It will enrich lives and play a pivotal role in enhancing Vancouver and British Columbia’s reputation as a vibrant, creative, and desirable place to live, work and visit.”
Responses are invited from all interested architects who meet the qualifications outlined in the RFQ. Submissions from architects will be received by the Gallery from September 5 through October 4, 2013.
“The Vancouver Art Gallery now stands at the threshold of one of the most exciting moments in our 82-year history,” says Gallery Chair Bruce Munro Wright. “Our search now begins for a visionary design that will influence the artistic landscape of Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada and attract the attention of the world.”
In April 2013, Vancouver City Council voted unanimously to designate two-thirds of a city-owned site at West Georgia and Cambie Streets for the new Vancouver Art Gallery. Artists, community leaders and representatives from arts organizations lauded the historic decision.
The new Vancouver Art Gallery will create and strengthen links between artists, contemporary and historical art, and diverse communities throughout the city, province and around the world. The Gallery will tie the past to the present, make visible Vancouver’s connections to other places in the world, and enhance Vancouver’s reputation as one of the most important international centres for contemporary art production. It will also expand services to the community by dramatically increasing the number and breadth of education and public programs for children, families and adults throughout the region.
Founded in 1931, the Vancouver Art Gallery is recognized as one of Canada’s most respected and exciting visual arts institutions. In the past two decades alone, the Gallery has welcomed nearly 4.5 million visitors. Beyond the borders of British Columbia, the Gallery draws significant tourist audiences from across North America, Europe and Asia.”
You’ve likely heard a lot of talk about the Vancouver Art Gallery moving. We think it’s a great idea if they’ve truly run out of space, and we’re stoked that the Museum of Vancouver might be taking over the old courthouse pile in the city’s navel because, let’s face two facts: (1) the Museum of Vancouver does awesome programming (2) it’s currently located behind the city’s left earlobe (2). Anyway, the City unanimously approved the Art Gallery move back in April and there’s been lots of humming and hawing ever since on where (and if) it should go (the official word is Larwill Park, which is right next to Where The Hell Is Larwill Park*). You might even remember the Condo King, Bob Rennie, weighing in the subject for the CBC: ”If Rennie had his way, the iconic front of the post office would be used to create a 60,000-square-foot gallery space, while the rest of the building would be used for retail and condos.“ I see what you did there, Bob. No thanks.
Why not put the new VAG somewhere where the likes of Rennie and his ilk couldn’t reach it, like in the middle of False Creek, or floating out near Crab Park? No retail, no condos, just art. In China, local architecture firm MAD has proposed a design for the Pingtang Art Museum located on Pingtang island (pictured above). It will “house all of the nation’s prized artifacts and will be part of a hub which serves to facilitate trade and cultural relations between Taiwan.” Think McBarge, only write large and with a much better design and improved food. The dragon boaters might complain about it being a serious obstacle (damned aquatic NIMBYs), but they could paddle around it no problem.
* 688 Cambie St., a 1.8-acre site, located at Cambie and Georgia (and never mind the viaducts).
The Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life exhibitionopens tomorrow at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The show “charts the evolution of the hotel from an isolated and utilitarian structure to a cultural phenomenon that figures prominently around the world.”
The scope of the project is global, an acknowledgement of the pervasive presence of a commercial network that is architecturally formed, geographically distributed and socially defined. The title of the exhibition is in part a reference to the influential 1932 Hollywood film Grand Hotel, in which the lives of individual guests interweave during a brief hotel stay. The film depicts a thoroughly modern condition and demonstrates the potency of the hotel as both a real and symbolic nexus of human movement, interaction and ideas. The exhibition’s four main themes—travel, design, the social and culture—consider the vital role of travel and design in the development of the hotel, as well as the hotel’s important role as a site of social interaction and cultural production. Each theme speaks to a critical force that has given shape and meaning to the hotel. Together they tell the collective story of this important built form, elucidating its prominence in the public consciousness and reflecting the nature of the hotel itself: engaging, innovative, provocative, ephemeral. Quite simply, the hotel is a veritable laboratory of modern life.
We were given a sneak peek at the exhibition yesterday and it was amazing. So many layers. So much going on! Equally impressive are the companion website, blog, and publicationof 336 pages and 452 illustrations edited by Jennifer M. Volland and Bruce Grenville with Stephanie Rebick. Since the only feasible takeaway is the book (and it’s a beautifully put together tome), we wants it.
Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life | Publisher: Hatje Cantz | Available in the VAG Store | $60
If more people put their money where there mouths were, we wouldn’t have to listen to wankers whining about cuts to public arts funding. Scott Hawthorn and Todd Falkowsky have put together something that might help to drown the din: PennySmash. For $2.01, you can can produce a squished penny with your choice of four motifs. I like the design by Natalie Purschwitz. Essentially a button kit, with instructions clearly defining where you need to drill the holes. You can also get “The East Van Cross”, which is sure to be a crowd pleaser. PennySmash is currently on display in the Vancouver Art Gallery, generating funds to help foster creative projects in Vancouver (a capital notion, indeed).
The GOODS from Catalog Gallery
Vancouver, BC | Catalog Gallery and Anteism Publishing are proud to present a collection of new work (paintings, prints, drawings and a new book launch) by Other / Troy Lovegates. The show runs April 1st to the 24th. The gallery is also featuring an Anteism Publishing pop-up shop (with books and prints) for the month. Private showings are available outside gallery hours. Fee free to contact Robert Squire at 604-721-4266 to set up an appointment. Read more
From VAG: “FUSE goes lo-fi with a series of performances and environments designed to let you chill out, get down and take it easy. Get to know your neighbour by sending postcards to a stranger, enjoy free gifts by Natalie Purschwitz, performances by Carol Sawyer, Hello, Blue Roses and more. For more information on the series, visit the FUSE page.” This seriously sounds like one of the better FUSE evenings that the VAG has put on yet – or maybe we’re just all about chilling out these days after our move. Also keep in mind that this will be one of your last chances to catch Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man. We hear the guy was pretty good.
March 19 | 6pm – midnight | VAG | $19.50
In the past month, I visited three art galleries, where I…
- spilled coffee,
- danced all over the gallery floor, and
- drew on a man. In crayon.
I really should have been kicked out. But they all loved it and invited us all to come back for more.
Let me tell you more about these gallery visits and each of their quirky departures from the usual style of art appreciation…
Drink coffee, digest art
at Harrison Galleries
As much as I loved their window displays, I walked by the handsome brick of Yaletown’s Harrison Galleries almost every day for 4 years without daring to step inside. A few weeks ago, I did a double-take at the makeover of its corner window:
Intrigued, I paid a visit to their new cafe, The Buzz, for a cup of 49th Parallel brew and a lovely wild salmon panini (rife with capers, yum). The cafe storefront did much to lure me in. Inside, gallery owner Chris and cafe proprietor Terry made me feel even more welcome.
I strolled through the rest of the space and picked out my fave artists after my meal. It was surprising how inviting and accessible this gallery is–so different from my initial impressions. Lots of seating available to reflect on local works at your leisure.
Got kids? Let them sit and colour in the family room.
FUSE at the VAG
Playing with crayons isn’t just for kids, it seems. As part of the late-night festivities at FUSE, held every few months at the Vancouver Art Gallery, I recently scribbled over a man’s coveralls for what I assume to be a display of (very) interactive art. The rest of the gallery pulsed with electronic beats, dramatic performances, and some of the best contemporary works I’ve seen out of Vancouver in recent years. I didn’t have time to see it all so I’m tempted to renew my membership.
My voyeurism was slaked as much by the artwork as the sea of young, beautiful people that FUSE draws out. A recommended destination for a cool date or where to find a candidate for your next one.
Salsa Sundays at
Autumn Brook Gallery
My visit to Autumn Brook Gallery wasn’t for the art at all. Every other Sunday, the gallery is venue to a hopping salsa dance party held by organizers Jennifer and Stephen of SalsaVancouver.net. As an avid salsa dancer, I can attest to the unique exposure that the salsa crowd gets to local artists as they whirl and dip to Latin rhythms. They also have a fantastic floor for spinning.
If dance isn’t your thing, I’ve also heard good things about their gourmet weekend brunches.
As for me, my feet are having a hard time sitting still until the next Autumn Brook salsa party, which happens to be tomorrow.
So. Are you going to a plain ol’ gallery next time around, or one where you can eat, dance, or doodle your own works of art?
Karen Hamilton is a writer, photographer, and maker of websites. Her exploration of all things edible in the Lower Mainland is diarized at tinybites.ca.