The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) is an art museum located at 750 Hornby Street in Vancouver, British Columbia. It is a permanent collection of about 11,000 artworks includes more than 200 major works by Emily Carr, the Group of Seven, Jeff Wall, Harry Callahan and Marc Chagall.
The gallery has 3,850 square metres (41,400 sq ft) of exhibition space and more than 11,000 works in its collection, most notably its Emily Carr collection. It has also amassed a significant collection of photographs. In addition to exhibitions of its own collection, the gallery regularly hosts international touring exhibitions. The gallery also features a variety of public programmes and lectures. The gallery also has a gift shop, a café, and a library.
The Vancouver Art Gallery was founded in 1931 and had its first home at 1145 West Georgia Street. In 1983 it moved to the Hornby Street location, the former provincial courthouse. It was renovated at a cost of $20 million by architect Arthur Erickson, which completed his modern three city-block Robson Square complex. The gallery connects to the rest of the complex via an underground passage below Robson Street to an outdoor plaza, restaurants, the University of British Columbia’s downtown satellite campus, government offices, and the new Law Courts at the southern end.
In March 2007, the 2010 Olympic countdown clock was placed in the front lawn of the VAG. It was open for free for the public to see. The clock has since been disassembled, with one half going to BC Place and the other to Whistler Village.
In November 2007, the gallery announced plans to move to a new building at Larwill Park, a block formerly occupied by a bus depot on the corner of Cambie and Georgia streets opposite the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The new building would be about 30,000 square metres (320,000 sq ft), almost 10 times the current building size, and would include more gallery space for the permanent collection now in storage, a larger exhibit space for visiting international works, more children’s and community programming, and an improved storage and display environment. Construction was planned to begin after the 2010 Olympics with a tentative opening date in 2013. The projected cost was in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and the gallery hoped to secure funding from provincial and federal governments, as well as private donors.
In May 2008, a different site was chosen for the new gallery, on land occupied by the Plaza of Nations near BC Place. The new plans would double the gallery size to 320,000 square feet (30,000 m2). In 2013, the decision was made to go back to the Georgia and Cambie site.
In April 2014, Vancouver Art Gallery selected Herzog & de Meuron, from a group of five shortlisted firms, from across the globe following a series of in-depth interviews and site visits to significant projects designed by each firm. The finalists, announced in January 2014, represented five of 75 firms from 16 different countries, who submitted their credentials through an open request for qualifications (RFQ) process issued by the gallery. The new Vancouver Art Gallery building is Herzog & de Meuron’s first project in Canada, working in collaboration with Vancouver-based Perkins + Will as executive architect in the realization of the design.
In September 2015, the gallery unveiled its conceptual design for the new building in a public event held at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
The art gallery is located in the former main courthouse for Vancouver. The 165,000-square-foot (15,300 m2) neoclassical building was designed by Francis Rattenbury after winning a design competition in 1905. Rattenbury also designed the British Columbia Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel in Victoria. The building was used as a provincial courthouse until 1979, with the provincial courts moving to the Law Courts, located south of the building. The building was named a National Historic Site of Canada in 1980. Both the main and annex portions of the building are municipally designated “A” heritage structures. The Vancouver Art Gallery moved into the former courthouse in 1983.
The design includes ionic columns, a central dome, formal porticos, and ornate stonework. The building was constructed using marble imported from Alaska, Tennessee, and Vermont. The new building was constructed in 1906 and replaced the previous courthouse located at Victory Square. At the time, the building contained 18 courtrooms. An annex designed by Thomas Hooper was added to the western side of the building in 1912. The Annex Building is the only part of the VAG that was not converted to use as an art gallery. It was declared a heritage site and retains the original judges’ benches and walls as they were when the building was a courthouse.
On the Georgia Street side of the building was the Centennial Fountain. This fountain was installed in 1966 to commemorate the centennial of the union of the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. The Centennial Fountain was removed in 2017 as part of the Georgia Street plaza renovations. The plaza opened to the public in late 2017.
A regular gathering spot for protests and demonstrations, the Vancouver Art Gallery’s lawn and steps hosts gatherings several times a week. The Vancouver Art Gallery is the monthly meeting spot for Vancouver’s Critical Mass, as well as flash mobs, the Zombie Walk, pro-marijuana rallies, and numerous environmental demonstrations. The steps on both the Robson Street and Georgia Street sides of the building are popular gathering spots for protest rallies. The Georgia Street side is also a popular place in the summertime for people to relax or socialize.
The Vancouver Art Gallery’s permanent collection includes approximately 11,000 works from Canadian, and international artists, and acts as the principal repository of works produced in the region. The collection is organized into several smaller departments, contemporary art from Asia, photography and conceptual photography, works by indigenous Canadian artists, and artists from Vancouver and British Columbia.
The gallery’s European historical collection includes Dutch paintings from the seventeenth century by Jan Anthoniszoon van Ravestyn (1570–1657), Jan Wynants (1630/35–1684), Isaac van Ostade (1621–1649), Pieter Neefs the Elder (1578–1656), Jacob Marrel (1614–1681), Jan van Huysum (1682–1749), Balthasar van der Ast (1590–1656), Ambrosium Bosschaert the Younger (1609–1645), Jan Josefsz van Goyen (1596–1665), Abraham Storck (1635–1710), Roelof de Vries (1631 – c.1681), Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633–1707), Adriaen van der Kabel (1631–1705), Salomon van Ruysdael (1600–1670), Flemish-Cornelius de Heem (1631–1695), Roelandt Savery (1576–1639), and a fine first edition of Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes’ Disasters of War.
The Vancouver Art Gallery Library and Archives is a non-circulating collection specializing in modern, contemporary and Canadian art. The Library holds more than 45,000 books and exhibition catalogues, 100 journal subscriptions, 5,000 files on Canadian artists, sound recordings, slides and auction catalogues that document painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography, video and emerging art forms.
The Archives contain the official papers and records of the gallery’s activities since its founding in 1931. In addition, there are the personal papers of painter and educator B.C. Binning and the Bill Bissett special collection, which comprises over 100 items, including books and serials where Bill Bissett’s concrete poetry was published.
The Vancouver Art Gallery offers a wide range of public programs throughout the year, including FUSE, scholar’s lectures, artist’s talks, as well as dance and musical performances. In its most recent year, the gallery has featured over 60 presenters, including Timothy Brook, writer Sarah Milroy, and leading Emily Carr scholar, Gerta Moray. In May 2015, the gallery welcomed architect Jacques Herzog as he presented his first lecture in Canada on architecture and the new Vancouver Art Gallery building.
Every Sunday, the Vancouver Art Gallery offers Weekly Family Programs, welcoming all children under the age of 12 to attend the gallery and its events free of admission costs. In addition to Weekly Family Programs, the gallery holds its Family FUSE Weekend event 3-4 times per year.