The “Earth Renaissance Party” for the much-anticipated new building of the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) got off to an auspicious start on Friday (September 15), with the announcement of a C$5 million (US$3.7 million) donation from the Javad Moavgian Foundation. The capital campaign for the new gallery, designed by Herzog & de Meuron and scheduled for completion in 2028, is now just C$55 million (US$40.7 million) short of its fundraising goal of C$400 million (US$295.7 million).
Although the new exhibition initiative began in 2004 under the leadership of then director Kathleen Bartels, current director Anthony Kindle says Art newspaper The 19-year journey is not unusual for an organization that works on a “collaborative model” with local communities. “Look at (the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) or M+ in Hong Kong, both of which took more than 15 years,” he says.
There was a sense of relief and celebration at the ceremony, as civic, provincial and federal politicians met with First Nations dancers and art world experts, marking a milestone on a long and winding road.
Following the 2004 VAG master planning process Deciding that the gallery needed more display and storage space for its collection—which included one of the most important collections of Emily Carr’s work in the world—the museum sought approval from Vancouver City Council to build a new gallery. The site chosen in Larwill Park — now a parking lot — was located seven blocks east of the neoclassical Edwardian former courthouse designed by Francis Rattenbury in 1913 and renovated by Arthur Erickson in 1983 (as part of the three-story Robson Square project buildings). ) When VAG moved after relocating from a previous location. In 2008, the city council – which would continue to lease the grounds to VAG under existing arrangements – changed the location to Place des Nations before reversing its decision in 2013.
In 2014, VAG selected Herzog & de Meuron as the architecture firm for the project (with Vancouver-based Perkins and Will as executive architects) and the Swiss firm’s design has changed dramatically since then. Its current incarnation features a woven copper façade paying homage to traditional Musqueam (the region’s First Nation) weaving techniques—designed in consultation with indigenous artists—as well as an expanded outdoor space.
Originally scheduled for completion in 2020, there was speculation that the project would never see the light of day due to lack of funding and other challenges. But the fundraising campaign was revitalized in 2019 with a C$40 million ($29.6 million) gift from Chan’s family charity. As a result, the new building will be named the Chan Center for the Visual Arts. At the time, this was the largest private donation to arts and culture in British Columbia, but it has been surpassed by a donation of C$100 million ($73.9 million) from the Auden Foundation in 2021 – the largest cash donation to a Canadian public art museum to date.
With site remediation and construction of the new building set to begin this fall, VAG has launched a final fundraising effort dubbed “The Build Up.”“.Focusing on large moves such as space dedicated to the Asian Art Institute, a multi-purpose Indigenous community house, a state-of-the-art theatre, outdoor public spaces, and a dedicated artist
Studios and double the exhibition space to 80,000 square feet, and the campaign hopes to raise the remaining $55 million from a mix of private, corporate and government funding.
Adding to the sense of momentum are VAG’s new appointments: Eva Respini, who will lead the curatorial vision for the new exhibition, and Sirish Rao, the new director of public engagement and learning.
At a ceremony on Friday, champions of the new VAG building promised C$88.2 million ($65.2 million) in new tourism revenue and a “modern cultural hub” in the heart of Vancouver, next to the Vancouver Public Library and Queen Elizabeth Theatre, on Vancouver’s historic border. Chinatown and Gastown neighborhoods.
In keeping with the area’s original Musqueam function as a meeting site, the new building also promises to be a cultural crossroads for diverse artists and an example of “reconciliation in action,” says Kindel. A touching ceremony held by the family of the late Bo Dick, artist and Northwest Coast Kwakwakawakw president, saw VAG receive 17 masks from his home Undersea kingdom series. Masks were prepared for Documenta Shortly before Dick’s sudden death in 2017 and the acquisition by VAG — which began building a large collection of traditional and contemporary First Nations art in the 1980s — boded well for the new building.
The building’s futuristic, textile-inspired façade “embodies a universal vision of the Coast Salish, creating a blanket or veil that protects the building, its residents and its collections,” Kindle adds.