Director's Welcome

from Kathleen Bartels, Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery

Kathleen Bartels, Director, Vancouver Art Gellery
Photo: Jena Fair/YMCA

This fall we are delighted to present career surveys of two visionary creators: Guo Pei, world-renowned Chinese couturière, and Dana Claxton, lauded Vancouver-based Hunkpapa-Lakota artist. They both navigate the rich interplay between tradition and the contemporary in order to present audiences with evocative, culturally specific narratives. This season also includes two unique collection-based exhibitions: the first features a wide range of artworks selected by Ian Thom, former Senior Curator–Historical, while the second takes a thematic approach to the collection through diverse works of contemporary art.

A major focus of our exhibition program is exploring varied expressions of visual culture. Over the years, we have produced exhibitions featuring aspects of design, architecture and pop culture. This season, Guo Pei: Couture Beyond is the first fashion-focused presentation in the Gallery’s history. This mid-career survey includes over 40 of Guo Pei’s immaculately crafted masterpieces combining the decadence of China’s historical dynasties with a contemporary sensibility. The exhibition features pieces from her most celebrated runway collections, including recent designs from 2017, never before seen in an exhibition context. Each of her pieces is a feat of craftsmanship that will undoubtedly captivate fashion-savvy visitors and art-lovers alike.

Dana Claxton: Fringing the Cube is the first exhibition to survey Claxton's formidable career. Claxton is known for her expansive multidisciplinary practice in which she often combines elements of Lakota traditions with Western influences, both to address structures of settler colonialism and to articulate Indigenous worldviews, histories and spirituality. This presentation includes her earliest videos, installations and photographs from the early 1990s up to recently created, never-seen-before text and photo-based works. In dialogue with the exhibition, the Gallery will present a special speaker series, The Gifts of Fringe, throughout the season.

Since the Gallery’s establishment in 1931, our permanent collection has become the most comprehensive resource for visual culture in British Columbia. This season, we delve into the collection with two exhibitions that explore its breadth and unique strengths. A Curator’s View: Ian Thom Selects unites historical and contemporary works from the permanent collection, spanning Pop, abstraction, historical portraiture and landscape. The exhibition features works by local, national and international artists, including Bill Reid, Emily Carr, Robert Davidson, Gathie Falk, Lawren S. Harris, David Hockney and Andy Warhol, among others.

With The Metamorphosis, we present a thematic exploration of works from the Gallery’s collection inspired by the many ways artists work with transformation. Through a lively selection of works by local and international contemporary artists, including many recent acquisitions, viewers are invited to consider the creative desire to change ourselves and the world around us. Artists include Beau Dick, Lyse Lemieux, Marianne Nicolson, Pedro Reyes, Skeena Reece, Wang Jianwei, and many more.

This season’s Offsite project by the collective Polit-Sheer-Form Office (PSFO) explores an everyday aspect of contemporary Chinese culture: public exercise equipment. With their project Fitness for All (Vancouver), PSFO asks passersby in downtown Vancouver to consider how collectivity and individuality operate in our own culture—while also offering a venue to gather with friends and get some exercise.

In addition to our stellar exhibitions, the Gallery is pleased to be presenting FUSE in November, bringing cutting-edge live art into dialogue with our exhibitions. FUSE, like many of our public programs, is often produced in collaboration with members of our wider arts community. In this spirit, this FUSE will be guest-curated by Pablo de Ocampo, exhibitions curator at the Western Front.

It’s been a very busy few months at the Gallery! Having finalized the fiscal year that ended in June, we are delighted to report that over 600,000 people attended Gallery exhibitions, programs and public art sites, we have exceeded 40,000 members, and our collection continues to grow at nearly 12,000 works. The strength of these numbers speaks to the ever-growing interest in art and culture, and is a motivating force as we continue to make progress towards the realization of the new Gallery building. This significant new facility will maximize opportunities for the community to embrace creativity, and will play a vital role in establishing this city as one of the world’s foremost art centres. We have much to look forward to in the months ahead, and we will keep you informed of our progress. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy our fall programs!

Kathleen S. Bartels