The intellectually and culturally diverse art scene of Vancouver is detectable from the moment you enter the city, with its renowned public museums and galleries taking the lead. Vancouver Art Gallery, the largest public art museum in western Canada, houses over 9,000 artworks encompassing the historical and contemporary art of British Columbia and the world, with an emphasis on artworks by First Nations artists. In 2014, the Gallery opened the Institute of Asian Art to spotlight art of the Asia-Pacific region, an interest shared with the Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, located in Chinatown. Equally important is the Contemporary Art Gallery, noted for its year-round exhibitions, off-site projects, artist residencies, and other initiatives that seek to bring contemporary art and the wider public closer through education.
Galleries dedicated to First Nations art are firmly established throughout the city. Two of these are located in Gastown, the historic neighbourhood from which Vancouver grew: the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver, which represents senior and emerging Inuit and Northwest Coast artists, and Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery, which holds a critically acclaimed collection of the artworks of First Nations and Inuit peoples. In downtown Vancouver, Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art—founded in memory of Haida artist Bill Reid, who was one of Canada's most accomplished contemporary artists—arranges thoughtful exhibitions that combine art and social issues with a focus on increasing awareness of Indigenous traditions and values.
Artist-run spaces are prominent in Vancouver, each with a distinct flavour. The Western Front is a forerunner of contemporary art and new music in Canada, offering an extensive programme of visual art exhibitions, music concerts and performances, workshops, residencies, and online exhibitions. UNIT/PITT Society for Art & Critical Awareness (formerly Helen Pitt Gallery) pursues contemporary art concerned with socio-political currents, while Artspeak seeks to excite conversations between art and writing. grunt gallery, with its mission to support cutting-edge contemporary art, is known for its thought-provoking and collaborative exhibitions, performances, and artist talks.
Other leading Vancouver galleries include Catriona Jeffries Gallery, which represents Canadian artists of international renown—among them Abbas Akhavan, Liz Magor, and Elizabeth McIntosh—and participates in international art fairs such as Art Basel; Monte Clark Gallery, which is recognised for its excellent exhibitions and selection of Canadian and international artists; and Equinox Gallery, which organises large-scale shows that rival those of well-endowed public galleries or museums.
Vancouver also hosts two significant international art fairs. The annual Art Vancouver, which takes place in spring, holds the title of the largest contemporary art fair in western Canada. It aims to further the practice of contemporary art both at home and abroad. Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale, better known as Vancouver Biennale, provides an approximately 18-month exhibition of public sculptures by national and international artists. A small number of works have been donated to the city from each edition, quickly becoming landmarks, including Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz's nine cast-iron, headless figures, titled Walking Figures (2005), on Cambie Street at Broadway, and Chinese artist Yue Minjun's A-maze-ing Laughter (2009)—a group of bronze men seized in a fit of laughter—in Morton Park.
Image: Overlook of the cityscape of Vancouver, British Columbia. Photo: photo personelle (public domain).
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