The Vancouver Art Gallery is icon in our city and was a central hub of activity during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games and although the building won’t be going anywhere… it’s what’s inside that counts.
A relocation, that would see it move out of the old courthouse building, has been in the works for a few years. The first plan was to build a new facility for the art gallery in North East False Creek to accompany the expanding collection however plans have changed.
The 604 Homes Blog covered the then-approved move in 2008:
“Late last week the City of Vancouver approved the plan to build a brand new art gallery on the site of the old Plaza of Nations. The re-development would also include the a number of new highrise condo buildings, a new retractable roof for BC Place and retail opportunities around a new plaza. Although this area is a bit dead at the moment. I do see the possibilities for this area in the future. It could work as a link between the International Village / Tinseltown area condos and False Creek, especially once Concord Pacific builds its last False Creek towers (in the area that looks like a parking lot to the left (east) in this photo.”
However, that plan became unraveled as Frances Bula explains in her post from 2009:
“As I mentioned in my previous post, there are lots of simmering undercurrents in the city’s attempts to plan Northeast False Creek. One of the biggest is what is happening with the Vancouver Art Gallery. If you’ll recall, Premier Gordon Campbell made the strangest announcement of all time last May when he said the gallery would be relocating to a site near the old Expo Plaza of Nations. That was even though he is 1. not the owner of the land 2. not the director of the art gallery 3. not a city planner or council member. Whatever.
There was an obscure line in the news release saying that the landowner, Canadian Metropolitan Properties, which now owns the Plaza of Nations land, was willing to allow the gallery to move there in return for ‘future development considerations’ from the city. We’ve NEVER had the details on what all of that meant and neither has the city. Staffers to this day will talk about how the announcement came as a ‘total surprise’ to them, even though they were in the midst of allegedly trying to plan this area.”
With the North East False Creek expansion and relocation squashed, the next candidate property is the old bus depot at Cambie and Georgia. There is even a website up to provide information about the proposed move. “We’ve outgrown our Robson Square site and need a new building built specifically for our needs,” states the website.
Reasons to Move the Art Gallery
As listed on the New Van Art Gallery website…
- Only 3% of our permanent collection is on view at any given time. Our vault is full to overflowing. The Gallery has had to resort to costly off site storage for part of the permanent collection.
- Line-ups and overcrowding during exhibitions. The Vancouver Art Gallery’s permanent exhibition space is 10 times smaller than the average North American museum.
- We have no dedicated space for educational and school programs.
- We have no theatre, lecture hall or gathering space. That means no room for family and adult programs, artist’s talks, lectures and special events.
- We believe we have a responsibility to look to the future. That means a new, purpose-built Gallery that will serve and excite visitors and residents for decades to come.
To many who live in or visit Vancouver, the Art Gallery is a centrepiece of the downtown core. It’s home to rallies, protests, festivals, entertainment, and steps to sit and people-watch. Originally the city’s courthouse, the building was designed by architect Francis Mawson Rattenbury, who also designed the provincial legislature buildings and the Fairmont Empress in Victoria.
The first Vancouver Art Gallery opened in 1931 at 1145 West Georgia – a property donated by Henry Reifel. In 1945, Emily Carr donated 145 paintings and sketches to the collection. It wasn’t until October 15, 1983 that the Vancouver Art Gallery opened in its current location, in the old courthouse building.
Having lived in its current location for just under 30 years, many are vehemently opposed to having the gallery move outside of its central location downtown. “The City asked people to show their support by contacting council but today’s Globe and Mail reports, they’ve counted only seven emails so far,” says News 1130.
If you have an opinion about the move for the Vancouver Art Gallery the City would really like to know. There is a public forum regarding the proposed move tonight at Robson Square starting at 7:00pm.