Vancouver Art Gallery Takes Massive Step Toward New Building with Record $40 Million Donation

The contribution is the largest-ever single private donation to an arts and culture organization in B.C.

January 23, 2019

By Ayesha Habib / Photo: Vancouver Art Gallery

Big news for the Vancouver Art Gallery as an exclusive look into the institution’s new building design was unveiled today at a press announcement at the Rosewood Georgia Hotel. With representatives of the government, local donors and Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart in attendance, the VAG officially announced the donation of a whopping $40 million by the Chan family—yes, the same philanthropists named after UBC’s Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, after they donated $10 million to that project in the ’90s—which will go toward the gallery’s yet-to-be-constructed facility at West Georgia and Cambie streets.

For this donation, the new building, once complete in 2023, will be called the Chan Centre for Visual Arts; however, the institution itself will still be known as the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The Chans’ contribution brings the VAG’s private-sector fund to $85 million, which includes donations from the Diamond Foundation and entrepreneurs David Aisenstat and Brian Hill, among others. These donations join an initial investment of $50 million from the province, though an additional $165 million is still needed to reach the VAG’s goal of $300 million for the new building. However, Kathleen S. Bartels, director of the VAG, assures that construction of the purpose-built property is happening. The VAG will soon be turning to federal and provincial levels of government in search for funding.

A rendering of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s new Chan Centre for the Visual Arts, which is expected to open at West Georgia and Cambie streets in 2023.

The new gallery, which was unveiled by the VAG in 2015, will be designed by the Swiss-based Herzog and de Meuron, an architecture firm most recognized for designing the national stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Christine Binswanger, partner-in-charge of Herzog and de Meuron, revealed that the VAG’s new home will be a 300,000-square-foot stacked structure made of glass and wood, surrounded by a lower foundation with a courtyard in between. The natural elements of wood and the contemporary feel of glass are fitting materials to represent the spirit of Vancouver, she said.

The new building will also be tailor-made for Vancouver’s notorious weather, Binswanger continued, with a wider upper level to act as sort of umbrella that protects entrances (and museum-goers) during rainfall. With dedicated spaces for the public and restaurants, stores, and education-centred rooms, the new art gallery will be a central hub for local and international visitors alike.

Despite a long road ahead, the Chan donation marks a milestone for the VAG. The announcement received a resounding round of applause and standing ovation at today’s media conference. “It’s a good day to be mayor,” Mayor Kennedy Stewart chuckled at the podium following the news. And while no official date of construction has been confirmed, the $40-mil donation—the largest single private-donation ever given to an arts-and-culture organization in B.C.—has dramatically boosted the VAG’s campaign.

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