Hugh Kearney: The Rewards (2015), Vancouver Art Gallery
Vancouver has long been home to some of the greatest artists in the world – Jeff Wall, Audrey Capel Doray, Jack Shadbolt, and Douglas Coupland, to name a few – and visual art has always played a major role in the city’s cultural scene. It is home to the largest art gallery in western Canada, as well as a multitude of commercial art galleries, independent galleries, First Nations galleries, and public art installations scattered throughout the city. In short, our city is a great place to experience and enjoy art of all varieties. So what better way to enhance your Vancouver home than with the perfect piece of art?
If you’re in the market for original artwork in Vancouver, there’s no shortage of places to look, so to help you navigate the options, here’s a guide to some of the best places in the city to make your purchase.
The Vancouver Art Gallery
The number one place to check out art in the city is the world class Vancouver Art Gallery. Of course, the pieces on exhibition aren’t for sale, but the gallery does operate a not-for-profit program called Art Rental & Sales which allows people to rent or purchase art from some of BC’s most talented emerging artists. Through Art Rental & Sales, individuals or businesses can rent pieces for as low as $20 per month, with the option to buy the piece if they wish. The pieces aren’t from the gallery’s permanent collection or traveling exhibitions, but the rental and sales collection is curated by a selection committee, so you can be assured that anything you find in their showroom will be of the highest caliber.
Geoffrey Farmer: How Do I Fit This Ghost in My Mouth? Vancouver Art Gallery, Photo by Cherry Archer
Throughout Vancouver’s history, Gallery Row on South Granville has been at the heart of the city’s art community. Currently, there are 16 commercial art galleries operating on Granville Street between 5th Avenue and 15th Avenue that make up the area known as Gallery Row. In these galleries, you’ll find a variety of works by well established local and international artists.
Kyle Besuschko, an associate of Bau-Xi Gallery – the oldest establishment on Gallery Row – recommends being prepared to spend between $5,000 and $12,000 if you’re looking to buy a piece of art on Gallery Row. However, he also notes that Bau-Xi has pieces that sell for anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000 and up.
Bau-Xi Gallery by Geoff Webb
The benefit of a gallery is that you’re buying on the primary market,
says Besuschko. Many buyers, he notes, are purchasing art as an investment, and buying directly from a gallery is the best way to ensure that the value of the piece you’re buying will appreciate. Since these commercial galleries deal closely with the artists themselves, a buyer who walks away from a commercial gallery with a piece of artwork is essentially getting the piece directly from the artist’s studio.
In addition to Gallery Row, Besuschko mentions that there are also a number of commercial galleries scattered throughout the city in places like Yaletown, the Armoury District (near Kits point), Gastown, Chinatown, and East Vancouver.
Those who want to be even closer to the creation process can also consider commissioning a piece. For this, Besuschko recommends always speaking to the gallery representing the artist rather than trying to contact the artist directly.
[Artists] want to be in the realm of creating. They work with a gallery so that the gallery can promote their career and manage sales of their work,
Commissioning a work is a collaborative effort which is usually based around a pre-existing piece created by the artist or the artist’s general style, and the pricing will vary depending on the artist. Besuschko also notes, however, that buyers should be aware that "some artists are more open to commissions than others."
A recent trend in Vancouver has seen galleries from Gallery Row abandoning their spots on Granville Street and moving to a district called The Flats in East Vancouver where the rent is more affordable. The Flats is an area just off of Great Northern Way in Mount Pleasant, which is "made up of converted warehouses and factories," says Besuschko, who has seen several of his South Granville neighbours heading that direction in the past three to four years. Because of the migration of the Granville Street galleries to this area, The Flats is now becoming known as an emerging art area in the city, and is definitely worth investigating for anyone looking to buy interesting original art.
First Nations Galleries
In addition to galleries with more generalized selections, there are also many galleries in the city that specialize in a certain artistic style or cultural expression. First Nations art is a big part of the Vancouver art scene, and there are several galleries in the city dedicated especially to showcasing and selling art by First Nations artists. These include galleries like the Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery in Yaletown, the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver in Gastown, and the Eagle Spirit Gallery on Granville Island.
Auction Houses and Charity Auctions
Sometimes you can purchase really great old pieces [at an auction] that are appraised for much lower than they may sell,
says Besuschko. However, these pieces, he notes, are "not directly from the artist’s studio," which means they could be worn or damaged, and may not hold their value as well as a new piece.
As long as you have no problem with buying second hand, auctions can be great places to find that next great piece for your home. Auction houses like Maynards and Heffel regularly auction off a variety of quality works, and you can also keep an eye out for events that involve art auctions, such as the upcoming Splash 2015 gala, hosted by the Arts Umbrella.
Special Arts Events
In addition to auction events, art shoppers can also look for other events that include an art sales component. In Vancouver, these include events like Art Vancouver, the Anonymous Art Show, and Art Battle Vancouver.
Art Vancouver is an international art fair held between May 26 - 29 2016 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Artists and galleries come from all over the world to exhibit for 3 and a half days so people looking for artworks for their homes can find art from all around the world without having to leave Vancouver.
Finding the Right Piece
Buying a work of art, whether it’s your first time or your tenth, is a big decision, so to ensure you make the right decision, Besuschko recommends buyers spend time thinking about why they’re planning to buy a piece of art, and what purpose that piece will serve in their lives.
Are you looking for a pop of colour in a well designed space, or are you looking at purchasing an artist for investment value?
Are you looking at perhaps a more established artist versus a younger artist? What is the palette or the aesthetic or the feel that you want? Do you want an abstract piece or do you want realism?
Asking these questions, and even discussing them with gallery staff or your art lover friends, can help you determine which piece of art is right for you, and which piece will fit perfectly in your Vancouver home.