If you don’t equate Vancouver with the fine arts, it’s time you discovered the Vancouver Art Gallery. Housed (for the time being — its new home will be built at West Georgia and Cambie) in a beautiful neoclassical courthouse located in the thick of Robson Street’s hustle-and-bustle, the Vancouver Art Gallery is the largest public art museum in Western Canada. Spend an afternoon exploring photographs by masters such as Ansel Adams, as well as important works by Emily Carr and other respected British Columbian artists. Read on for everything you need to know about this downtown highlight.
History, the Permanent Exhibits and Emily Carr
The Vancouver Art Gallery made its debut in 1931 with a tidy collection of British historical paintings and only seven works by Canadian artists. Those humble beginnings were the foundation of what was to become a collection of more than 10,000 pieces. Explore the gallery’s repository of works by Vancouverites Jeff Wall, Stan Douglas, Rodney Graham, Roy Arden, Ian Wallace and others. Or take in historical landscapes, 17th-century Dutch paintings and one of North America’s most important photographic collections by icons such as Ansel Adams, Cindy Sherman and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
However you spend your time at the gallery, be sure not to miss the significant collection of paintings by Canadian modernist Emily Carr, who was known for using bold colours and a style strongly influenced by local indigenous peoples to bring B.C.’s unique landscape and culture to life. In 1937, the gallery purchased Carr’s Totem Poles, Kitseukla for $400; it inherited the rest of her collection in the 1960s. Today, the Vancouver Art Gallery is home to a significant collection of paintings, sketches, ceramics, photographs and letters by one of British Columbia’s most ground-breaking artists.
3 Ways to Explore
Visitors touring the Vancouver Art Gallery on their own should plan to spend at least a couple of hours browsing the permanent and rotating exhibits. Want something more interactive? Check out one of these cool ways to explore the Vancouver Art Gallery:
- FUSE: This “art museum-slash-nightclub” event is held from 8 pm through 1 am about six times per year. A unique way to experience the galley, hang out with fellow art lovers as DJs spin, artists perform throughout the galleries, and “eclectic” interpretive tours take place. It’s an interactive, art-filled night for adults.
- Lectures and More: Throughout each month, artists, critics and curators lead discussions in the galleries, giving visitors the chance to learn from and interact with renowned scholars and local artists. Most talks are complimentary with admission, but some require bookings.
- Tours: The Vancouver Art Gallery offers a variety of complimentary tours of the permanent galleries, traveling exhibitions and more. One-hour tours offer a general overview of exhibitions, while 30-minute Hot Spot tours focus discussions around particular pieces.
Getting to Vancouver Art Gallery:
Vancouver Art Gallery Photos