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Historic $100M donation given to Vancouver Art Gallery for new building

The Audain family donated $100 million to the project, the largest single gift to a gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery is one large step closer to developing a new building thanks to a $100 million commitment from philanthropist and chairman of Polygon Homes Michael Audain.

Audain announced the gift, the largest ever given to a Canadian art gallery, at a Nov. 4 news conference. He said that Vancouver occupies an important space in the art world and deserves a gallery that recognizes the city’s contributions to art globally.

“The current building has become grossly inadequate in size. Particularly, there is no room that would highlight the best artists of our region for visitors as well as our own citizens. Besides, I think it is appalling the current building cannot accommodate so many of the school groups that want to visit throughout the course of the year. How can people develop an interest in art unless they are exposed to it?”

The gift will cover a quarter of the estimated $400 million that the building will cost to construct. The Vancouver Art Gallery plans to raise another $160 million through donations. Audain called on the federal government to “come to the party” and commit to funding a portion of the gallery.

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The provincial government has already committed $50 million to the project. Vancouver’s Chan family also donated $40 million to the project. They were the first major donors and the new gallery will be named the Chan Centre for Visual Arts. Other private donors have contributed $50 million as well.

Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart said he’s encouraged by the recently appointed federal cabinet and said the gallery project aligns well with federal goals.

“This is top of the agenda for when I speak to minister LeBlanc. This project has now evolved in a way where it closely matches federal priorities which is reconciliation right at the top, tackling climate change and bringing communities together to explore and celebrate our diversity.”

The City of Vancouver has long held a piece of land near Larwill Park for the future art gallery.

International architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron presented a design for the new gallery that was informed by Indigenous style. The exterior of the building will feature a woven copper facade that draws inspiration from Indigenous blanket and basket weaving in the pacific northwest.

Herzog & de Meuron is working closely with a collective of Indigenous artists from Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-waututh First Nations.

Simon Demeuese spoke on behalf of Herzog & de Meuron. He said the weave will be translucent in some places, mirroring the intricacies of woven blankets. Herzog & de Meuron is currently researching the best composition of materials to build the weave.

An architectural rendering of the new Vancouver Art Gallery. (Logan Lockhart photo)
An architectural rendering of the new Vancouver Art Gallery. (Logan Lockhart photo)

The new building will be built to the highest level of environmental and sustainability standards.

Debra Sparrow is a weaver and artist from Musqueam First Nation. Sparrow said she was honoured to see Indigenous knowledge and creativity being front and centre in the new gallery.

“It’s an amazing journey that we’ve been on,” she said. “To sit with my relatives from Squamish and Tsleil-waututh, we are bringing together the values of our people through the work we do in a different way.”

If all goes according to plan, gallery CEO Anthony Kiendl said construction could begin in a year and the gallery could open in 2026.


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