If you’re visiting Vancouver’s Chinatown, stopping by the Wing Sang Building is a must. The Wing Sang Building is Chinatown’s oldest building and has a rich history reflecting Chinatown’s bygone days. Erected in 1889 for Yip Sang, a prominent Chinese-Canadian businessman, the building housed Sang’s import/export business and travel agency. Following the success of Sang’s business, the building was extended to the east and above in 1901, and expanded again in 1908 to include a six-storey residence and warehouse in the rear. The Wing Sang Building also held a schoolroom, which remains today as the oldest schoolroom in Vancouver. Market Alley, between the buildings, was once the centre of opium production before opium was outlawed in 1909.
Currently, the Wing Sang Building holds the Rennie Collection, an art collection owned by Vancouver real estate mogul Bob Rennie. Rennie, a dedicated art collector, spent four years renovating and refurbishing the building, turning it into his own private museum. The Rennie Collection features both established and emerging artists and focuses on identity, appropriation and social justice. The Rennie Collection at the Wing Sang Building is open to the public through free guided tours which include the old schoolroom and a rooftop garden.
Also notable at the Wing Sang Building is the giant neon sign on the facade that reads: “Everything is going to be alright.” The sign, by artist Martin Creed, has been featured in London, Edinburgh, Milan, and New York, and is most noticeable on the Wing Sang Building at night when coming into downtown. The phrase was Rennie’s philosophy during the 2010 Winter Olympics, and remains as a sign of hope and optimism.
The exhibit is on now until Oct 5th, 2013. The Wing Sang Building is located at 51 East Pender Street. To visit the Rennie Collection, you need to book a tour. Tours are free and can be booked here.