ArtSmart: Vancouver’s New Art Gallery

My family history and connection to the Vancouver Art Gallery can be traced back to the 1930s when my great uncle Jack Borradaile delivered two J.M.W. Turner paintings by bus and foot. He delivered them, wrapped in nothing but brown paper, to the original art deco building first built in 1931. This was the original Vancouver Art Gallery before it moved to the old courthouse in 1983.


And now 32 years later they are looking to move it again.

It’s ArtSmart time again and this month’s theme is Concept/Conceptual work. I have chosen to focus on the unveiling of Vancouver’s new art gallery conceptual design. To read how my colleagues have interpreted the theme you can find their links at the bottom of this post. 

Vancouver Art Gallery, Spring #ArtSmart

If you follow my ArtSmart posts you’ll know I frequent the Vancouver Art Gallery. I love it’s historic location in the 1905 building designed by British architect Francis Rattenbury.
Indeed, British Columbia’s British roots run deep. In fact, many British expats came to call Vancouver and the Gulf Islands home providing solace for those who were fed up with the stringent social rules, yet not enough so to completely abandon traditions themselves. This is another blog post book entirely!

Vancouver Art Gallery, Surrealist Exhibition 2011 via
Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) Surrealism Exhibit 2013

Now, my beloved British building is about to be abandoned as home of the Vancouver Art Gallery in exchange for something new and much more modern. The iconic soft blue hemispherical dome and curved staircases makes a grand entrance and the four floors divided by exhibitions, Canadian collections and grand rooms making space for massive conceptual art displays. It’s a place I love to go to see art no matter the age, genre, subject or medium. But now this might be a thing of the past. My uncle and I will have more than just art in common, we’ll have seen another passing of the batton in Vancouver’s history.

To this though?

Herzog & de Meuron's conceptual design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery.
Herzog & de Meuron’s conceptual design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery.

It seems as though Vancouver is abandoning its British roots for something more European. The Herzog & de Meuron design, a Swiss architectural team, has decided to plant the new Vancouver Art Gallery at West Georgia and Cambie, just a short 11 minute walk from the current location.
To me, the current VAG location is the true heart of the city with the UBC Robson Square campus sitting underground, beneath the gallery, to the surrounding shopping and the Vancouver Fairmont Hotel, ironically where my great uncle once lived for a time.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 8.37.12 PM

With this move the gallery is looking to collect the cultural and art spaces of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (the Christmas Market location), the colosseum-like Vancouver Public Library (see above), The Centre for the Arts, and The Vancouver Playhouse all within 1-2 blocks of each other establishing a new cultural heart of the city.

With both critical and classic ambivalent Canadian reactions – “Oh, well now isn’t that different” –  British Columbians are cautious of the new. You might think we got it from some of our loyalist ancestors. With apprehensive perspectives we have been poking and prodding the concept of the building understanding the breath of fresh air it could offer the city of concrete and glass but also asking why.

As a Canadian, or more specifically as a BC girl, I see the building calling back to the importance of wood and forests throughout our and the First Nations history. From totem poles to the Log Driver’s Waltz no matter how you feel about the boxy shape of the building the materials will be distinctly British Columbian.

And now I leave you with a piece of Canadiana…

Want to share your opinion on the new design? Share it in the comments and or fill out the Vancouver Art Gallery’s questionnaire here. 


Jenna of This is my Happiness wrote: Northern California’s Greatest Artist: Wayne Thiebaud

Christina of DayDream Tourist wrote: Changing Paintings After They are “Finished” 

Alexandra of ArtTrav wrote: Nurture and Hospitality at Santa Maria della Scala, Siena

Lizzie of WanderArti wrote: The Concept of Travel in Art Through the Ages

Pal & Lydian of Art Weekenders wrote: Earth Art – Creativity Out In Nature and Back Into Our Sight

7 Responses to ArtSmart: Vancouver’s New Art Gallery

  1. Looks like art is booming in Vancouver as well! Another reason to get back to my favourite Canadian city in the near future (Toronto next year, but unfortunately no time to make it to the West Coast then)… When are they expecting to open the new building? Looks interesting, maybe needs some time to get used to, but I’m sure it’ll be great.

    Nice by the way with your personal connection, must make every visit feel extra special.
    Pal recently posted..Weekend Destination Ghent – Guide to a Beautiful City with a Strong CharacterMy Profile

  2. I LOVE the proposed look for the gallery. My last trip to Vancouver, my hubby and I lusted about all the amazing architecture that Vancouver has – gorgeous city!

    • Hi Jenna,

      They are overstocked and have more works than they have room for which is why they want to expand so that they can show more of their collections. They have been purchasing a lot of works and I am sure want to host more traveling exhibitions.

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Hi! I'm Murissa and I live in the Okanagan Wine Valley of British Columbia, Canada. I enjoy traveling around the world for food and local spirits. I consider myself a Champagne enthusiast and enjoy sharing my conquests on this website since 2011. Follow along as I explore my home wine valley and dabble in the occasional globetrotting. Soon to be raising a foodie of my own come July 2018!

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