The Vancouver Art Gallery, which first opened its doors on October 5, 1931, celebrates its 85th Anniversary today. Today the VAG is the largest public art museum in Western Canada, presenting between 16 to 18 diverse exhibitions of historical and contemporary art all year round. Some 550,000 visitors pass through the gallery every year, including 40,000 engaged Gallery Members.
Through the Founders’ Fund led by businessman Henry Athelstan Stone, the Art Deco-style building was constructed on a 132-by-66-foot site on Georgia Street donated by the City of Vancouver, several blocks west of where the Gallery now stands. Within six months, more than 112,000 visitors passed through the Gallery’s front entrance to see the first exhibition. Comprised of works acquired for the Gallery’s permanent collection in England and France by H.A. Stone and Charles Hepburn Scott, director of the Vancouver School of Art, the inaugural exhibition included 55 paintings, 33 watercolours, four sculptures, and 23 prints and drawings – and that was the beginning of a longstanding commitment to engage, motivate and inspire through the power of art.
In spring 2016, the Gallery presented MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture, its largest exhibition to date that occupied all four floors of the Gallery. Featuring over 350 artworks by 156 artists, this exhibition received critical acclaims from critics and audiences alike. In the summer, the record-breaking roster of exhibitions, including Picasso: The Artist and His Muses, attracted over 150,000 enthusiastic visitors, making it one of the most popular seasons in the Gallery’s history.
“On this special day, we are extremely proud to look back on the milestones we have achieved in the Gallery’s 85 years of history. The Gallery’s Founders conceived of an institution that would provide its visitors with access to the art of this region, this nation and the world at large. 85 years of sparking curiosity and instilling cultural understanding through visual arts is an enormous mission, and we could not have done it without the support from government partners, donors, artists, Gallery members, volunteers, staff and the wonderful community that has embraced us over the years,” said Kathleen S. Bartels, Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
The Vancouver Art Gallery will continue celebrating its 85th Anniversary in the following months as a series of dynamic exhibitions are set to open, including Walker Evans: Depth of Field (October 29, 2016 – January 22, 2017), Juxtapoz x Superflat (November 5, 2016 – February 5, 2017), Vancouver Special: Ambivalent Pleasures (December 3, 2016 – April 17, 2017), We Come to Witness: Sonny Assu in Dialogue with Emily Carr (December 3, 2016 – April 23, 2017) as well as Offsite: Khan Lee (November 5, 2016 – April 17, 2017).
From now to October 12th, in honour of the 85th birthday, Vancouver Art Gallery invites its visitors and social media followers to share “What is your favourite Gallery moment?” Go to the Gallery’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see or add your own responses.