Vancouver Art Gallery has broken ground on for its new home. Situated at 181 West Georgia Street, the new building is slated to redefine the visual arts landscape in British Columbia. The $400 million project, which has now raised over $340 million, recently received a significant boost with a $5 million donation from the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation. With construction to commence this fall, the gallery is set to open its doors in 2028.
The current director, Anthony Kiendl, likens the 19-year journey to other major cultural projects like LACMA or M+ in Hong Kong, emphasizing staying the course. Those projects took around 15 years. The initiative aims to generate $88.2 million in tourism revenue and create over 4,000 jobs, marking a substantial investment in the province’s economy.
A notable feature of the new gallery will be its exterior, designed by renowned Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, in partnership with Perkins + Will and local Indigenous artists. The building’s woven copper facade pays homage to traditional Musqueam weaving techniques, symbolizing a Coast Salish worldview. This design embodies a “blanket or veil” that protects the building and its inhabitants, according to Kiendl.
The new building, set to be an iconic addition to Vancouver’s skyline, promises a doubling of exhibition space to 80,000 sq. ft. It will feature dedicated space for the Institute of Asian Art, an Indigenous Community House, artist studios, and more. The expanded space will allow for a broader presentation of works from its collection, including pieces by iconic Canadian artists like Emily Carr.
Significant progress in VAG’s collection of Indigenous art is already evident with the acquisition of 17 masks from Beau Dick’s Undersea Kingdom series. This acquisition, along with the new gallery’s emphasis on Indigenous and diverse artists, signals VAG’s commitment to being a cultural crossroads and an example of “reconciliation in action.”
The project, initially destined for completion in 2020, faced various challenges, including changes in location and design. However, the reinvigoration of the fundraising campaign, notably by a record-breaking donation from the Chan family and the Audain Foundation, has set the project firmly on course.
The VAG’s new hires, including Eva Respini as Deputy Director & Director of Curatorial Programs and Sirish Rao as Director of Public Engagement & Learning, bring fresh perspectives and are set to enhance the Gallery’s vision.
The new Vancouver Art Gallery promises to be a cultural hub at the heart of the city, bridging diverse neighborhoods and serving as a modern meeting place for art and community.