British Columbia province hosts Vancouver Art Gallery in the city of Vancouver. It is an art museum, repositing more than 12000 works of artists from Canada and other countries.
It is the largest museum by size in western Canada. Francis Rattenbury was the architect behind this magnificent building. The museum, a former courthouse, was opened to the public after 1980.
The museum was relocated to Larwill Park early in 21st century. It is now a tourist destination, holding art galleries with contemporary artworks of Vancouver artists.
Let us explore the galleries and learn about this beautiful museum’s history.
1. Historical Context
The museum building was opened for public use in 1931. The Vancouver Art Gallery Association led the establishment of the museum.
Sharp and Johnston, an architectural firm, conceptualized the design of the building. A sculpture gallery, library and lecture hall were set up. But, now it has expanded to other facilities also.
1.1. Journey Towards a Modern Museum
At the time of opening, it had only British and European artists’ collections of art. However, in 1938, the museum became a hotspot for the sit-down strike workers. It also faced the bloody Sunday during the strike.
An international touch was given to the museum in the 1950s. It was renovated, shape and colour of the walls were changed. A modern outlook was given to the building.
In 1983, the museum was relocated from Georgia street to its present location. The Government of British Columbia owns it.
Arthur Erickson renovated the relocated building and included it in the larger project of the Robson Square Development Program.
1.2. Building Features and Expansion
Vancouver Art Gallery opens with two granite lions at the main entrance gate. Although a mine blast damaged one statue, it was repaired by Jonh Whitworth and Herbert Ede.
The building has a lot of artworks by Emily Carr. She was a Canadian artist influenced by the people of the Northwest coast.
The present museum was originally a provincial courthouse building constructed in 1911. Arthur Erickson renovated this for the museum.
A plan was devised to accommodate more collections of international artists in a new building. Larwill Park was chosen as a site to construct it. In 2014 it was finally decided to give the contract to Herzog and De Meuron’s architecture firm.
The building is still under construction. It was planned to complete it in 2020. But, due to financial problems between the governments, the deadline was postponed.
2. Vancouver Art Gallery: Design and Architecture
The museum’s present location is in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia Province. A former courthouse building, it was designed by Francis Rattenbury. A neoclassical design was selected for it.
In 1983, it was designated as the Vancouver art gallery, making it a museum. The construction material is marble imported from North America’s Alaska region.
The building contains iconic columns, a dome, porticos and designed stone walls. The courthouse construction took almost five years before its completion in 1911.
Eighteen courtrooms were constructed. The original site where judges used to sit is declared a heritage site.
The Vancouver art gallery building is a blend of various architectural styles. The interior of the building has a sweeping staircase and a centralized dome with a skylight grabbing the attention.
Modern and classical styles influence exterior design. Concrete buildings with glass texture are an attraction for art lovers.
The building has undergone several renovations earlier to accommodate its growing requirements.
An exhibition hall, an education space, more extensive storage facilities and conservation services were expanded from a 2004 expansion plan.
It increased 13000 square feet of area in the museum. Its expansion for exhibitions of its permanent collection was a big step in modernizing the museum.
2.3. Inside the Building
The building has many exhibition halls like Grand Court, Heritage Court and the Rotunda. The Grand Court has large installations of Vancouver art collections and sculptures. It is the central region of the museum.
Whereas the heritage court possesses historical artifacts related to Canadian history. The Rotunda is a rotating art exhibition on the top floor of the building.
The Vancouver art gallery also hosts some other facilities for visitors.
- Shop: The museum has a physical store for all its merchandise and other products. It also contains Vancouver’s unique collection of books, jewellery, poster, clothing, accessories, Emily carr merchandise, etc. The Gallery store can be accessed here.
- Gallery Bistro: It is a restaurant within the premises of the art gallery. The place is suitable for a quick meal or a coffee. It contains both indoor sitting and a beautiful outside setting with a magnificent view of Robson Square. A table can be booked here.
- Rentals and Sale: The Vancouver art gallery has a facility for emerging artists to rent some selected artworks. These can be rented for as low as $10. A special jury selects these artworks. The facility for this service is on the first floor. An online catalogue can be accessed here.
- Library: The art gallery has a vast library with approximately 50,000 books and catalogues. This is a non-circulating library holding a modern and contemporary art collection. It can be accessed here.
3. Gathering Space and Collection
The building is designed in such a way that it accommodates large spaces for public gatherings. Vancouver art gallery has been a protest ground for many social causes.
Demonstrations and special events for environmental change, zombie walks, and support for marijuana rallies have been held on the premises.
For the visitors, an Olympic Countdown Clock was placed n the museum in 2007. After the games, the clock was dismantled and sent to other places.
Some unmarked remnants of kids were found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. To commemorate this, a vigil was created in 2021.
3.1. Collection of Artworks
There is a permanent collection of approximately 12000 artworks of artists from Canada and other countries. This is a repository owned by the city of Vancouver on lease.
The lower mainland region is the producing ground for this collection. It focuses on the historical theme and contemporary art.
All the works are elegantly displayed for art lovers. The artistic works showcased in the permanent collection are from Western Canada, Asia and the first nations.
A photography collection from the Vancouver School of Conceptual Photography is represented here. Photographs from the 1950s are present in the gallery.
Some noted works in the museum are listed here:
- Landscape with Stream and Windmill: By Roelof de Vries
- Portrait of Mr.Bridgeman: By William Hogarth
- The Captive from Sterne: By Joseph Wright of Derby
- Dream of Belinda: By Henry Fuseli
- In the Hayfield: By David Cox
- Path Among Pines: By Emily Carr
3.2. Lower Mainland and First Nations Art Collection
The permanent collection holds Canadian art more than any other region. Paintings of Group of Seven, Michael Snow, Stan Douglas and Emily Carr and many more are displayed in the gallery.
The collection also holds Emily carr’s famous paintings, such as Totem Poles and Kitsuekla. The art gallery exhibits a collection of carr’s works.
The museum acquired many art collections from Canadian artists in the 1980s. The galleries of the museum are full of Canadian works. The following artists belong to Canada:
- Joyce Weiland
The following artists are from First Nations, represented in the Art Gallery.
- Norman Tait
- Bill Reid
- Robert Davidson
- Sonny Assu
- Rebecca Belmore
- Dana Claxton
- Beau Dick
- Marianne Nicolson
- Joe David
The gallery’s expansion indicates its rich diversity, representing the Middle East and Asia. It makes the city of Vancouver a global city for its diversity and acceptance.
In 2015, Michael Audain donated 200 works by Canadian artists to the Vancouver art gallery. It was a massive donation to the museum in terms of its collection, placing it at a global level.
4. Exhibitions And Events
The museum holds many exhibitions occasionally. These are temporary to showcase artistic works.
These can be solo exhibitions by a single artist displaying his work. They can also be a group representation of an art collection.
The exhibitions showcase the vision of the art gallery, i.e., creativity is the fundamental value. The contemporary art collection from BC and other nations is evidence of this vision.
4.1. Past and Upcoming Exhibitions
There are notably good exhibitions in the past hosted in the museum.
- “Alberto Giacometti: A Line Through Time” represented almost 130 works by swiss sculptors.
- “Cabin Fever” showcased the small dwellings and cabins in contemporary art.
Vancouver art gallery makes sure to hold exhibitions from time to time. It posts the upcoming schedule on its website.
As of April 2023 period and beyond, the following exhibitions are scheduled:
- “The Children Have to hear Another Story: Alanis Obomsawin.”
- “Fashion Fictions“
- “Parviz Tanavoli: Poets , Locks and Cages“
Museum holds many events for visitors to engage with the artists. These events are in the form of lectures and talks, concerts, tours, and workshops.
Special events like art engagements, film screenings and short talks are also held. These are organized for art lovers to engage more with the artists and deepen their understanding of the art.
Some of the upcoming lectures and talks are displayed on their website. As of April 2023, the following Lectures are scheduled:
- In-Dialogue: Balancing between Indigeneity and Modernity
- Alanis Obomsawin and Jason Ryle in Conversation
5. Educational Programs
Vancouver art gallery organizes several educational programs for every group of society. For children, families and students, it hosts several workshops.
The Family FUSE Weekends are specially for families interested in engagements with the artists. These are interactive sessions with artists and hands-on activities.
Museum also publishes various educational resources for children to provide crucial information about the collection and its importance.
For students, the art gallery offers guided tours and exhibits Vancouver’s history. These help the children and students to develop an interest in art and its forms.
These tours are specially designed according to their curricula and syllabus in educational institutions. This enhances their ability to critical thinking and creativity to analyze the works.
5.1. Institute of Asian Art
Vancouver is one of the attractive destinations for Asian communities in the country. To respect the contribution of this community, the Vancouver art gallery established this institute.
The IAA represents the works of Asian art creators. It engages with the public by organizing tours, talks, symposiums, Adult programs, and Youth Think Tanks.
The free guided tours present an opportunity for the students to have a deeper understanding of the art and culture of Canada and its indigenous communities.
During the pandemic in 2020, the institute launched a lecture series of Yishu Xianglian. It was a mandarin language series held virtually. Scholars from many countries attended the online meetings.
Institute holds many events to exhibit Vancouver art. Some exhibitions are listed below:
- Moving Still: Performative Photography In India (2019)
- Sun Xun: Mythological Time (2021)
- Restless: Recent Acquisitions (2022)
- Offsite: Lani Maestro (April 2023)
- Jin-Me Yoon: About Time (March 2022)
6. Visit to Vancouver Art Gallery
The Vancouver art gallery museum opens all weekdays without any holiday. The timings of the museum are also the same for all days (Except for Tuesday and Friday), from 10 AM to 5 PM.
The museum is from 12 PM to 8 PM on Tuesday and Friday. The art gallery accepts donations of $5-$8 on Tuesdays.
The Vancouver Art Gallery offers an online facility for booking the visit. They have set up a dedicated service on their website to facilitate visitors and art enthusiasts to save time and reserve it with no effort.
Ticket prices vary according to the age group. However, there is free admission for the youth (age 13-18), child, members and caregivers. For groups, ticket prices vary with the free visit provided to the above special categories.
Tour of the museum has been eased by introducing a digital guide. Anyone can access it on a smartphone. This contains directions and accessibility to different galleries with photos to illustrate.
6.1. Museum Accessibility
The building of the Art gallery is also designed for physically challenged people. Wheelchairs are given to these visitors on a priority basis. The Hornby and Robson street entrances are for wheelchair accessibility.
The street-level entrance ensures the museum is accessible by the people to its galleries, shops, and parks and moves from one floor to the second floor.
A security guard or a volunteer is always available for help. These are given the tasks to manage the specially-abled people.
The art gallery also provides locker facilities to visitors. These lockers are freely available to members and visitors for their small items.
The art gallery is close to the Vancouver City Center and Granville. Public transit is readily available from the city center.
7. Membership and Benefits
The members enjoy several benefits, including early access to events, exhibitions, and other media. Discounts on merchandise and products are given exclusively to the members.
Members have easy access to the artworks and their creators. They can access the programs and initiatives of the museum freely.
Memberships are available at individual, family, group and patron levels. All the options depend on the requirements of the visitors.
There are annual passes, open ideas memberships, art-open circles and corporate membership. These are made available to those who want to experience the Canadian history and culture of the country.
The museum is a not-for-profit organization. It receives government funding in a less amount, almost equivalent to 25% of all funds.
The art gallery needs substantial funding for educational programs, tours, and exhibitions.
A generous donation from the visitors helps the art gallery a lot. The museum follows work ethics at the top. Its top priorities are the artists and creators, educational programs, community engagement, and maintenance of a sustainable environment are
The museum lists various donations for the support:
- A $100 Donation: Contributes to its school expansion.
- A $250 Donation: Helps to maintain online resources and services like virtual tours.
- A $500 Donation: It makes the community engagement program feasible. The underprivileged population can access the museum through this donation.
- A $1500 Donation: It supports all the above facilities. Additionally, a special membership is given to the donator for accessing the Art Open Circles.
Here is the Donation Link.
The Vancouver art gallery is a destination for art lovers who want to explore Canada’s glorious history and culture. Not only is the Canadian culture represented here. But works from many other countries are showcased here, making it a world museum.
The educational programs, guided tours, free admission policy, and many other benefits make it accessible to all sections of society. Adults can learn a lot from art and culture.
The museum provides easy access to the membership through its online portal. Anyone can register there. It also has a window for those who want to donate.
Overall, the Vancouver art gallery is a prime destination where one can expect a new world never seen before. Anyone looking for a rich experience with art and culture must visit this place.
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