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Vancouver Art Gallery Celebrates 80 Years of Acquiring Art

In celebration of the 80th anniversary of its founding, the Vancouver Art Gallery presents a special exhibition showcasing the story of the Gallery as told through its permanent collection. Drawn exclusively from the more than 10,000 works in the Gallery’s important holdings, An Autobiography of Our Collection considers the organization’s fascinating history of acquisition, highlighting key works from one of the most compelling collections of art in Canada.On view through April 15, 2012.

Vancouver Art Gallery, Jason Vanderhill

“The Vancouver Art Gallery’s collection is rich, diverse and international in scope, illustrating contemporary and historic art – particularly the art of this region – in a unique and wonderful way,” says Gallery director Kathleen Bartels, “This exhibition represents an important moment to consider and reflect on eight decades of art at the Gallery. Whether 80 years ago or today, the potential of artists to convey complex cultural and artistic issues in an innovative manner, to transform our understanding of visual culture, and to address the personal, political and cultural issues that affect us most, is evident in this important body of work.”

It is a story which begins in the months leading up to the Gallery’s opening in 1931… when philanthropist and Gallery founder Henry A. Stone and artist and teacher Charles Scott went on a purchasing expedition to Britain to find artworks for the new Gallery… and continues all the way up to the present day.

An Autobiography of Our Collection spans eight decades of collection and more than eighty artists – from one of the first purchased works, Thomas Sidney Cooper’s Canterbury Meadows, to Emily Carr and the Group of Seven, Andy Warhol and Brian Jungen. Other artists on view in the exhibition will include B.C. Binning, Reg Davidson, Gathie Falk, Robert Frank, Andreas Gursky, Won Ju Lim, Robert Rauschenberg, George Segal, Takao Tanabe and Lawrence Weiner.

The exhibition uses the concept of autobiography to explore how objects in a museum’s collection– and the collection as a whole – are charged with narrating an institution’s history, identity and aspirations. It considers the different figures – curators, artists, donors and others – who have played defining roles and reveals other forces that have shaped and re-shaped the Gallery’s personality, position and understanding of itself over the many decades.

Visitors will have the opportunity to find out more about the behind-the-scenes work of the Gallery in videos featuring staff describing how artworks are collected, cared for, and prepared for exhibition. Press clippings and other Emily Carr, Self Portrait with Friends, circa 1907. Watercolour, ink on paper. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver Art Gallery Acquisition Fund.

Housing a permanent collection of more than 10, 000 works, the Vancouver Art Gallery’s holdings include a major collection of photo-conceptual work by internationally renowned Vancouver-based artists Stan Douglas, Rodney Graham and Ian Wallace, among other distinguished artists, including the largest public collection of artist Jeff Wall’s work in the world. The Gallery also houses the most significant collection of works by celebrated Canadian artist Emily Carr. The collection has been greatly enhanced in recent years, beginning with a major gift of photo-based works from Alan and Alison Schwartz in 2002, which added signature works by Rinke Dijkstra, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Cindy Sherman and other major artists to the Gallery’s collection. A 2004 donation of nearly 500 works from Vancouver collectors Claudia Beck and Andrew Gruft firmly established the Vancouver Art Gallery’s position as a repository for one of the most comprehensive photo-based collections in North America.
An Autobiography of Our Collection is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Ian Thom, senior curator, historical, and Heidi Reitmaier, independent curator.

VANCOUVER ART GALLERY 750 Hornby Street, Vancouver

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