Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Art Smart

The Vancouver Art gallery is fighting about its future.

Location, that is.

Stay put and dig down deep for more space.

Or move to that former bus depot spot near the QE?

Many have rightly argued that the VAG doesn't really have the stellar collection that would warrant really really big bucks being spent on a monumental edifice designed by some terribly famous world-beating architect.

But I disagree.

I think a monumental edifice designed by some terribly famous world-beating architect is exactly what Vancouver needs.

That's what cities do.

They declare themselves.


They commission Big Guys & Dolls to build Big Stuff and we all look at the thing every day in passing and every few months we even go in and gawk around and have an expensive coffee and buy a few over-priced note cards and call it a day out.

Why not?

That's what cities have always done all over the world.

Build it and they will come.

School kids and tourists come and pay money. People buy souvenirs. They spend money at hotels.

If we could spend gazillions on Olympics and Trade & Convention Centres, why not spent a bundle on a terrific new crazy-looking beautiful controversial Vancouver Art Gallery?

And while we're at it let's throw in a music and theatre complex.

We laughingly call ourselves a world-class city.

We delude ourselves that the Olympic event - for all that it was great fun and came off beautifully - will now transform us and put us on the map.

Get serious.

Build a new Art Gallery.

Hold a world-wide open competition.

Hire the best.

Spend the money.

Do it.


Norman Farrell said...

First, I'll state my qualifications as a critic of architecture. When Moshe Safdie won the library competition, I thought that was a huge mistake.

The design seemed inspired by a Roman coliseum - although apparently he denied that - and, in my mind, out of place in Vancouver. But, when it was complete and I began to use it, the building showed itself a wonderful place, at least to this casual user. It is a people place and looks good too.

My first reaction is against a mega art gallery. It cost a billion dollars to build the convention centre so by the time the sharks get finished with diverting funds through friendly contracts, a new art gallery might cost another billion, if we're lucky. Remember, thieves get bolder with each success. However, we might protect ourselves by keeping BC Liberals out of the project.

I see your point. If we could truly get a comprehensive centre for the arts and a great piece of architecture and do that with a budget such as the library building had, I'd be in favour. One other factor should apply: Frank Gehry not allowed to participate.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you David. 'World class cities' (and I do hate that term) have world class architecture -- for the most part, Vancouver does not. Architecture defines a city as does the calibre of its galleries and museums. Build something we can be proud of that will attract tourists and locals alike and keep it relatively close to centre of the city not on the periphery.

Wouldn't something like The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry a Canadian-American architect, be something to marvel at.


Norman Farrell said...

That would be the same Frank Gehry who has lived in the USA since 1947 and was call an auto-plagiarist by The Economist because everything he designs looks the same.

His MIT mega-project turned out not so well.

Maybe we can find an architect 40 or 50 years younger with new ideas or, at least, respect for traditional ones.