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Events listing: Debate on Vancouver Art Gallery future

May 16th, 2010 · 11 Comments

A group outside the VAG — UBC, SFU and Architecture Canada — have organized a public debate on where the gallery should go. May 20, 7 p.m., Robson Square Theatre. Be there or be out of the biggest cultural/urban planning/architecture debate this city has seen in decades.


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11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Urbanismo // May 17, 2010 at 6:16 am

    “A group outside the VAG — UBC, SFU and Architecture Canada”. Huh really!

    Well yes of course somebody wants that move very, very badly don’t they. They just wont let go!

    And . . .

    “there’s a reason, there’s a reason it will never, never be fixed.”

    “They will never, never be satisfied!” . . .

    VAG needs a new place like Audain needs moon rocks with goats milk for breakfast.

    Same old faces, same old duct-taped smiles. I’ve heard it, oh so many many, times, before!

    I wont be there.

  • 2 Michael Geller // May 17, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Urbanismo…don’t be too quick to judge. I suspect many members of this group may want the gallery to stay where it is!

    One previous postings, some suggested that they questioned why the city should give away a site to the Art Gallery, as if the Art Gallery was some other organization. The Vancouver Art Gallery IS the city. I’m surprised this point seems to get lost.

    From the Art Gallery’s website…

    The Gallery Buildings
    In its 79-year history, the Vancouver Art Gallery has expanded three times. Currently operating at and beyond capacity after nearly 30 years in the renovated former provincial courthouse building, the Gallery is now planning a new, purpose-built facility that will meet the community’s needs for the next 50 years and beyond.

    Construction of the original Vancouver Art Gallery building began in March of 1931, funded by $130,000 raised by a group of art patrons led by Vancouver businessman Henry A. Stone. The Gallery was constructed on a 132-by-66-foot site donated by the City of Vancouver at 1145 Georgia Street, several blocks west of the organization’s current location. Built for a cost of $40,000, the original Vancouver Art Gallery building was erected in a lot in what was then a residential area at the edge of downtown. It encompassed a single floor of exhibition gallery space.

    In 1951, the Vancouver Art Gallery at 1145 Georgia Street was expanded to three times it original size in order to accommodate 157 works by Emily Carr, willed by the artist to the province of British Columbia before her death in 1945. Fundraising for the Gallery expansion was led by Carr’s close friend, Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris, who was instrumental in raising $300,000 toward the project, a sum matched by the City of Vancouver.

    The Vancouver Art Gallery remained at 1145 Georgia Street until 1983, when it moved to its present location in the former provincial courthouse building bound by Georgia, Howe, Hornby and Robson Streets. As part of a land exchange between the Province of British Columbia and the City of Vancouver in 1974, the city had acquired a 99-year lease of the imposing, neo-classical courthouse building. Built in 1906, the structure was designed by Victoria architect Sir Francis Mawson Rattenbury (1867-1935).

    Vancouver-based Arthur Erickson Architects was hired by the City of Vancouver to carry out a feasibility study on the possible uses for the courthouse building, and the firm returned a report recommending the Gallery relocate to the courthouse. The Gallery agreed to this recommendation and commissioned Erickson’s firm to develop the design for a renovation of the courthouse building. Construction began on the $20 million renovation project in December of 1981. The new Vancouver Art Gallery opened to the public in October 1983 in the retrofitted courthouse building with 41,400 square feet of exhibition space.

  • 3 Urbanismo // May 17, 2010 at 7:27 am

    Hope you’re right Michael! But the push is so insistent!

    We’re talking ART ICONIC not art contracts and staff convenience.

    Ratt is an icon to be reckoned with!

  • 4 Keith Higgins // May 17, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    The VAG is _not_ the city. It is the largest public art gallery in the city, but it is not part of the apparatus of civic government. It is an independent organization, with its own governance structure. The City has provided support, including support for the development of the current VAG building, but this does not mean that the VAG is the City, even in a purely metaphorical sense.

  • 5 Dan Cooper // May 18, 2010 at 11:17 am

    “The Vancouver Art Gallery IS the city.”

    Oh my! While we’re at it, anyone up for that fine old slogan, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the USA?”

    I note the following, from the 2008-2009 VAG Annual Report (

    The Vancouver Art Gallery Association (the “Association”) is a not-for-profit organization incorporated in April 1931 under the Society Act (British Columbia). Its objectives are to establish and maintain an art gallery for the perpetual benefit of the City of
    Vancouver and its citizens. It is a registered Canadian charity for Canadian income tax purposes.”

    So, VAG is not “the city,” but a private, non-profit organization, not directly responsible to the elected city government, and with its own, limited objectives. At most, I believe you could fairly say that VAG is one element (albeit a relatively large one as they go) in the cultural and economic life of the city. It must be taken into account, but there are many other such organizations and needs in the city that also must be considered and balanced. And frankly, many of those other needs are more important.

  • 6 MB // May 18, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    @ Dan Cooper: “It must be taken into account, but there are many other such organizations and needs in the city that also must be considered and balanced. And frankly, many of those other needs are more important.”

    Yes. Stadium roofs.

  • 7 Bill Lee // May 18, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    @Dan Cooper “I believe you could fairly say that VAG is one element (albeit a relatively large one as they go) in the cultural and economic life of the city.”

    I agree with you. And so did The October Show in 1983 in the pre-Yaletown Yaletown when the VAG shut the town out of their new opening of the VAG in the badly re-fitted Court House. Everyone found a dynamism in the warehouses than in the VAG old-iron display.

    I hope others read the annual report and see the Note 5 to the finances, and the sad story of their not being financially viable.

    Bartels is no Tony Emery. Madame Bula has been to L.A. to see the L.A. Contemporary Arts Gallery wasteland, soon to be copied on Beatty Street.
    See :

    And I’ve been reading about the Zurich HQ of FIFA, the World Cup organization for soccer/football that will occupy our lives in June . Go Azzurri!
    Underground skyscraper serves as FIFA’s unique headquarters | Art & Architecture | Deutsche Welle | 16.05.2010,,5565834,00.html?maca=en-screensaver_culture_lifestyle-4248-xml-mrss

    Dig we must, in the same location under the Robson Square. As the VAG has proven, they don’t need windows, don’t want windows. Dig.

  • 8 Higgins // May 18, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Bill Lee,
    Deutsche-Welle is one of my favorite magazines going back 30 years. Thanks for pointing out that article on the FIFA headquarters. You realize though that, the rationale for building it underground may have come from a deeper darker reason. I bet some meeting rooms are sound/ microwave/ electronic interference and bomb proof. We don’t know who are they renting out the space to, when they are on holidays… But that’s Europe today, and the country that keeps all those monies in numbered accounts. Here however, for a gallery like VAG I find a proposition like this to be a bit stretched out and perhaps quite expensive. Again, I have to repeat myself, VAG should stay put. What it needs, is a new leadership, a better use of their space and a better programming. Period.
    Oh, one more thing, Go Germany!

  • 9 Booge // May 18, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    VAG is _not_ COV.

  • 10 The Earl of Granville // May 19, 2010 at 6:59 am

    “Take the Art Gallery to Court!”

    I still have the bumper sticker, circa 1982, stuck on an old lock box…

    May be prophetic?!

  • 11 booge // May 20, 2010 at 10:21 am

    The VAG will stay put. The public has no appetite for mega works these days. Stay VAG Stay….

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