75th Anniversay Exhibitions

The Vancouver Art Gallery is ideally situated in the heart of downtown Vancouver . Because of its central location, it is often chosen as a site for public rallies, celebratory events, street busking and casual public assembly. By way of acknowledging the significance of art in public life, the Vancouver Art Gallery is engaged in an ongoing program of commissioning public art for the Gallery building and grounds.

In 1989 the Vancouver Art Gallery commissioned its first public artwork from the American artist Lawrence Weiner, who is highly regarded for his language-based artworks that range from textual instructions to poetic statements of fact. Weiner's Placed Upon the Horizon (Casting Shadows) was installed in 1990 on the frieze of the Robson Street portico and has remained there ever since. In the context of civic


Ken Lum
Four Boats Stranded: Red and Yellow, Black and White, 2001
fiberglass, expanded polyurethane, epoxy pain, steel
Vancouver Art Gallery Acquisitions Fund, the Canada Millennium
Partnership Program of the Millennium Bureau of Canada and the British
Columbia Community Spirit Fund
Photo: Trevor Mills, Vancouver Art Gallery
Vancouver and the bustle of Robson Street , the work interrupts the functional city, inserting a quiet, poetic text that calls attention to natural rhythms of time and environment that we often forget in the contemporary urban setting.

In the spring of 1999, as part of the millennium celebrations, the Gallery commissioned two new public artworks for the exterior and grounds. Four Boats Stranded: Red and Yellow, Black and White (2001) by the Vancouver artist Ken Lum, is installed on the rooftop of the Gallery. The four boats are scaled-down versions of a First Nations longboat, Captain George Vancouver's three-masted sailing ship, the Komagata Maru (the ship carrying Indian immigrants that caused an international incident in 1914), and a cargo ship that recently carried migrants from China's Fujian Province to Vancouver. Lum has created a public artwork that serves as a cultural, geographical and historical marker. The work recognizes Vancouver as a port city, a place of arrival by sea, and a city of layered histories. Each elegantly simplified boat is painted a single colour that speaks to a colonialist stereotyping of cultural, racial and historical identification.


Kim Adams
Squid Head, 2001
found vehicle components
Vancouver Art Gallery Acquisitions Fund, the Canada Millennium
Partnership Program of the Millennium Bureau of Canada and the British
Columbia Community Spirit Fund
Photo: Trevor Mills, Vancouver Art Gallery


The second millennium commission went to Kim Adams, a Toronto-based artist widely known for his provocatively humorous public sculptures. His Squid Head (2001) is a movable sculpture made specifically for the public spaces that surround the Vancouver Art Gallery . Adams engineered the sculpture with common vehicle parts, using only the rear ends of vans (delivery and mini varieties) to create an impossibly seamless marriage of components. Squid Head , which is at once animal, commerce and entertainment, represents an intersection of leisure and industry and so calls attention to the multiple functions of the space it inhabits.

In the fall of 2003, the Vancouver Art Gallery will launch its fourth public art commission, an Internet-based project by the Berlin-based, Canadian-born artist Janet Cardiff. This experimental work will present a complex, real-time narrative that will unfold over the period of a year on the grounds of the Gallery.