We just got back from Vancouver; it really was a perfect week. My partner was running the Marathon and I was up there to offer support and to enjoy spending time in one of our favorite cities. It was our fourth visit up there and we find ourselves loving it more each time. This time we made our first visit to Victoria, which was a treat. In Vancouver, we spent almost all of our time downtown managing to check out Mount Pleasant, Granville Island, Kits Beach, English Bay, Davie Street, Stanley Park, Yaletown, Gas Town and a little bit of China Town. Outside the city it makes sense to have a car, but downtown it is easy to use public transit and mostly to walk to just about anywhere. Although the city is very cosmopolitan, it is compact: a population similar to Denver is crammed into less than a third of the space.
My sense is that there is real energy around the growing art scene – it was just announced that the museum just brokered a deal to build a new facility from the ground up, the area’s art schools are strong, nascent art districts are becoming more defined with galleries and studios and more & more public works dot the city.
I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery and saw a fun retrospective of Art Spiegelman’s comics, and to the Contemporary Art Gallery and saw a great Nancy Holt photo exhibit. I checked out the totem poles at the Royal BC Museum; there were more in Stanley Park (one of the most spectacular things we saw were the nests of the great blue herons). I found a lot of craft stores and design/home-furnishing stores were practically everywhere. There were not so many great galleries for contemporary art, but I found a few of them, with Jennifer Kostuik, Trench Gallery and Madrona (Victoria) being my favorites.
The tribal art of the Northwest really peaked my interest. Of course, The Bill Reid Gallery (check out his massive relief “Mythic Messengers”) is at the top of the heap; Coastal Peoples had “Haida Masterworks II” which showcased generational continuance of aboriginal art; the Douglas Reynolds Gallery has a gorgeous array of works including prints, masks, totem poles, bronze and stone sculptures, bentwood boxes and jewelry. It was a treat to meet Elaine Monds over at the Alcheringa Gallery in Victoria; she was happy to talk me through some of history of First Nations art and basics of formline design and the significance of different spirit animals.
Public works are easy to find in Vancouver, thanks in large part to Vancouver Bienniale – it has established a unique program of installing works throughout the city every two years. Because the works stay up for 11-18 months or so, millions of people get to enjoy them. The foundation typically acquires a couple of the sculptures from each Bienniale, increasing the city’s inventory of public works.
My Top 10:
- “Traces of Time” by David Burdeny at Jennifer Kostuik Gallery
- “Stenten: The Resilience of Line, Locale and Intuition” at Trench Gallery
- “Selected Photo and Film Works” by Nancy Holt at Contemporary Art Gallery
- Galleries on South Granville, esp. Bau-Xi, Ian Tan & Marion Scott
- “Amazing Laughter” by Yue Minjun
- “The Drop” by Inges Idee
- Totem Poles at Thunderbird Park in Victoria
- “Walking Figures” by Magdalena Abakanowicz
- Norval Morriseau at Eagle Spirit Gallery
- “Pictures” by Erin Shirreff at Contemporary Art Gallery