The following article was contributed by Vancouver travel writer and Lonely Planet author John Lee (@johnleewriter)
Vancouver visitors have plenty of galleries and art exhibitions to muse over when they roll into town. But you don’t have to head indoors to find a fab installation here. The city is studded with eye-catching outdoor works of art that are perfect for self-guided, day out culture crawls – so long as you know where to look.
Luckily, you don’t have to hunt them down on your own.
The City of Vancouver offers two online art directories that make locating the hundreds of statues and installations on the city’s streets easier than face-painting a five-year-old. You can search the databases by artist or artwork name or – best of all – by neighbourhood.
For example, a quick look at the downtown section of the Public Art Registry offers names, descriptions, images and locations for more than 100 works.
These range from Inges Idee’s bright blue contemporary sculpture, The Drop, located outside the Vancouver Convention Centre, to the classical 1921 Angel of Victory bronze by Couer de Lion MacCarthy in front of Waterfront Station.
It’s a similar story for neighbourhoods further afield, including Mount Pleasant, the West End and Kitsilano, where prominent works are listed alongside lesser-known, sometimes hidden treats that even those who live in those areas often pass by.
Most visitors will find themselves in Stanley Park at some point during their trip. But while the city’s favourite greenspace is famous for its camera-hugging beaches and mountain-framed seawall vistas, it’s also home to a menagerie of sometimes forgotten art.
Using a search for Stanley Park on the Public Art Registry you can find a towering statue of Robert Burns, cast from the original in his Scottish hometown, as well as a memorial to Warren G. Harding. The first US president to officially visit Canada, he dropped into Vancouver in 1923 but died shortly afterwards in California. This unique memorial was created after funds were raised by public subscription.
If you don’t have easy access to the online directories during your visit, though, you can still treat the city like a giant, walk-through art gallery. Buy a copy of the handy book Public Art in Vancouver by John Steil and Aileen Stalker and you can hit the ground running. It divides the city into 12 easily-navigated walks for wandering art fans, plotting more than 500 works around the city.