Director's Welcome

from Kathleen Bartels, Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery

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

Here in the Pacific Northwest, summers are glorious—the clouds scatter, the rains stop and all anyone wants is to be outside in the sun. Vancouver is famous for its natural beauty and the wealth of spectacular outdoor adventures it offers. At the same time, cultural relationships to this territory are as varied as its diverse population. This season’s exhibitions delve into these complex dynamics, offering a multitude of ways for each of us to consider our relationships to land and place.

Opening in June is Cabin Fever, a vast exhibition that traces the history of the cabin both as an architectural form and a cultural construct. In the process, it also explores a range of human interactions with our environment—some motivated by necessity, others by philosophical curiosity and still others by aesthetic desire. The exhibition encompasses architectural models, drawings and plans; photography; historical documents, literature, film and ephemera; and a selection of artworks that reveal how ideas of the cabin have manifested in artistic practice.

The notion of shelter developed in Cabin Fever is extended by the Offsite installation, just a few blocks away, of Shigeru Ban, which presents a full-scale replica of a disaster relief shelter designed by internationally renowned, Tokyo-based humanitarian architect Shigeru Ban. His Kobe Paper Log House (1995) has become the prototype for similar disaster relief structures built around the world over the past twenty years.

Also opening in June is David Milne: Modern Painting, which documents the life and work of this iconic landscape painter, revealing how his time in Europe as a war artist had a lasting impact on his depiction of the North American landscape. Co-curator of the exhibition Sarah Milroy will present this year’s Heller lecture, “Frontier Modernism,” in which she will discuss Milne’s unique approach to modern landscape painting. And, continuing the Gallery’s practice of offering a contemporary counterpoint to our historical exhibitions, Site Unseen, curated by Emmy Lee Wall, Assistant Curator, brings together local, national and international artists to evidence the extraordinarily diverse strategies contemporary lens-based artists use to present the landscape.

Opening in July is Ayumi Goto and Peter Morin: how do you carry the land?, the first exhibition curated at the Gallery by Tarah Hogue, Senior Curatorial Fellow, Indigenous Art. In this performance-focused exhibition, collaborators Peter Morin and Ayumi Goto use their personal orientations to land as the starting place for a larger consideration about time, place and culture. Also in July, Kevin Schmidt: We Are the Robots brings a different flavour to the season with his particular blend of performance art, conceptual sculpture and do-it-yourself methods, presenting interactive light- and soundscapes both inside the Gallery and on its outside—on Robson, Hornby and Howe Street facades, and in the Georgia Street windows.

Of course, any consideration of artistic relationships to landscape in British Columbia would be incomplete without the distinctive perspective of Emily Carr, whose work is in dialogue this season with historical photographs by Mattie Gunterman, in an exhibition that opened in late April. This marks one of the last exhibitions at the Gallery for Ian M. Thom, Senior Curator-Historical, who has recently announced his retirement. Over Ian’s three-decade tenure at the Gallery, he has stewarded hundreds of acquisitions and curated more than 70 exhibitions. In honour of Ian’s deep knowledge of the Gallery’s permanent collection, we have invited him to join us again in the fall to curate an exhibition from our holdings highlighting some of the works that are most significant to him, illuminating both their personal and public importance. It has been my sincere pleasure to work with and learn from Ian for the past seventeen years. Ian’s passion for his work, his impressive breadth of knowledge and his remarkable talent as a storyteller and educator have been—and will continue to be—wonderful gifts to our community. Thank you, Ian!

In closing, I am just thrilled to extend a warm welcome to Rochelle Steiner, Associate Director and Chief Curator. Rochelle’s international experience, coupled with her knowledge and respect for Canadian art, will be vital to expanding the Gallery’s global impact. I look forward to Rochelle’s contributions to our leadership team as we work on bringing the best of the art world to Vancouver, and the best of Vancouver to the world.

Following on the heels of Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, which enjoyed the highest attendance of any Gallery winter exhibition on record, our 2018 Art Auction event raised over $1M, marking the peak of an exceptional fiscal year. The success of our recent exhibitions, programs and events have set the course for an outstanding year ahead as we continue working toward a new building for the Vancouver Art Gallery. Enjoy your summer, and I hope to see you at the Gallery in the coming months!

Kathleen S. Bartels