Museum and Gallery Exhibitions to Check Out This Winter/Spring in Vancouver

Photo: Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Vancouver has a thriving gallery and museum scene, which particularly excels at showcasing the distinctive cultures and artistic talent found on the West Coast. A visit to a gallery and museum is an engaging, illuminating, and inspiring way to spend a few hours in the city. You can discover more about the arts and culture that make Vancouver so vibrant and diverse—and if it’s a rainy day, you can stay cozy inside while doing so.

Below are some winter/spring exhibition highlights from museums and galleries in the city:

Vancouver Art Gallery

Robert Davidson; Image: Untitled, 2013, acrylic on canvas, Courtesy of the Artist, Photo: Kenji Nagai

There are so many exciting current and upcoming exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Running until April 16, 2023, is Guud san glans Robert Davidson: A Line That Bends But Does Not Break. The Gallery has drawn from their collection as well as local private collections in order to showcase Davidson’s graphic works as well as paintings. Informed by traditional Haida art, Davidson has experimented boldly with colour, form, and line since the 1960s. Brought together, the works evidence Davidson’s considerable technical ability as well as creativity when it comes to visual impact and cultural vitality.

Next: Provisional Structures (running until April 16, 2023) by Carmen Papalia with co-conspirators is a site-specific project by the Vancouver-based non-visual artist that considers questions related to disability, cultural ableism, Disability Justice, and connectivity/intimacy. The mixed media installation invites conversations on what accessibility means now and could offer in the future.

About Time (until March 5, 2023) brings together work by Jin-me Yoon over the last decade. The Vancouver artist is known for complex consideration of Korean diasporic identity and experience, intertwining them with other considerations related to colonialism, environmentalism, and militarism. Yoon takes on big questions through imagery related to water and territory and the passage of time in its remembering and forgetting.

Finally, I Love (until March 5, 2023) is a work of Marie Khouri located in the Gallery’s first floor rotunda. These hand-carved forms function like furniture while also speaking of love in Arabic calligraphy.

Upcoming exhibitions include: Hard-Edge (March 4 to June 4, 2023), which will feature abstract paintings from the 1960s and 70s from a variety of well-known artists such as Roy Kiyooka and Joan Balzar; The Children Have to Hear Another Story (April 7 to August 7, 2023), which focuses on Abenaki filmmaker and activist Alanis Obomsawin; and Outside the Palace of Me (March 4 to June 4, 2023) featuring the work of Shary Boyle, a Canadian visual artist and performer.

Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art

Interior of the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver

Photo: Sama Jim Canzian/Bill Reid Gallery

The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art features two current exhibitions. Keeping the Song Alive runs until March 19, 2023, and was guest curated by Cheryl ‘Ka’kaso’las Wadhams. The exhibition charts what came of an incredibly powerful collaboration that began in 1947 between hereditary chiefs Bill Assu and Mungo Martin with Dr. Ida Halpern, an ethnomusicologist. Together, they recorded ceremonial music from potlatches of the Kwakwaka’wakw peoples. The multimedia exhibition features contemporary art, regalia, traditional music, and historical documentation to capture the rich impact of the collaboration on Kwakwaka’wakw artists and the community.

Stó:lō artist and muralist Xémontalót Carrielynn Victor curated True to Place: stímetstexw tel xéltel (running until March 19, 2023), which examines how ten Indigenous painters, including Shawn Hunt, Crystal Worl, and Corey Bulpitt, are representing location, stories, as well as new and traditional forms of artistic and cultural expression. The exhibition focused on narration, knowledge transmission, and the relationship between past and present—all while rooted in a particular place.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Photo: Drift by Bettina Harvey

Located on the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum is an under-the-radar gem. This natural history museum has two current exhibitions, the first entitled Preventing Extinctions: Architecting the Accretocene by Andrew S. Wright, which considers islands and biodiversity, spotlighting the work of Island Conservation in combatting invasive species while saving species that are threatened. Photographs by Wright of islands that include Okinoshima, Japan, and Gwaii Haanas, British Columbia, convey the beauty and vibrancy of flora and fauna.

Meanwhile, Drift: from the forest to the sea by Bettina Harvey (curated by
Derek Tan), runs until August 20, 2023. Harvey, an artist, horticulturalist, and gardener, uses driftwood as a symbol for exploring ecology, the passage of time, as well as human relationality. The exhibition features drawings by Harvey that play with a variety of interconnections between driftwood and human experience, including aging, transformation, resilience, and individuality.

The Museum has a variety of upcoming events. On February 16, 2023 (6pm), they will be launching the book Pressed Plants by Linda Jennings, curator of Vascular Plants. The book teaches how to preserve herbarium specimens. At the event, there will be demo tables illustrating how to press fresh plants, and tours of the Herbarium collection. Admission is by donation.

For those looking for spring break activities for the kiddies, the Museum is holding activities March 11 to 26, 2023, from 12-1pm every day (closed Mondays). Activities will include pond pokes and bird walks. The activities are included with general admission.

Finally, Bettina Harvey will give an artist talk and panel discussion on Drift April 20 (6pm), 2023, in which she’ll present images as well as facilitate important and thoughtful discussions on driftwood, biodiversity, as well as what everyone can do in terms of considering as well as combatting environmental change and degradation. Admission is by donation.

Museum of Vancouver

Photo: Museum of Vancouver

The Museum of Vancouver has been very much committed to programming and content that furthers decolonization and redress, diversity, environmental awareness and sustainability, and urban/contemporary concerns. These pillars have led to really interesting and informative exhibitions, such as Spirit Journeys: Walking with Resilience, Wellbeing and Respect (running until April 2023). This micro-exhibition, which opened in January, highlights the work of nine artists who received a 2021 Emerging and Mid-Career Artist Scholarship from the YVR Art Foundation Scholarship Program. Artists include Naomi Watkins, Tina Robinson, and Harrison Martin. The works consider in various ways the artists’ relationship to land, water, as well as the flora and fauna in particular local spaces. Ecological stewardship is a common theme, as are questions related to combatting persistent colonialism, preserving cultural heritage, and maintaining a sense of spirit in urban settings.

All We Want is More: The Tobias Wong Project (running until July 2023) is a revisiting of the life, work, and incredible legacy of Tobias Wong, a Vancouver-born and bred artist who passed away at a young age in New York in 2010. Due to his talent, Wong quickly gained international success with his multidisciplinary work that tackled questions related to conspicuous consumption. Wong combined performance art, product design, and conceptual art, playing with branding, items that people usually see as ordinary, as well as high fashion pieces. More than a dozen years after Wong’s untimely death, his ideas and art continue to influence how people perceive themselves and the things around them.

Finally, A Seat at the Table: Chinese Immigration and British Columbia wraps up April 2, 2023, and uses food and restaurants as a way of depicting and considering the stories of Chinese Canadians in the province. The exhibition considers the diversity within the Chinese Canadian community, and the multiple waves of immigration that have added such richness to British Columbia’s cultural fabric. Racism, community-building, resilience, and resistance all figure in this exhibition.

Upcoming are two exhibitions that are sure to be note for those who love design. Dressed for History: Why Costume Collections Matter (opening March 16, 2023) will feature pieces from the collections of fashion historians, illustrating how clothing is more than just what people wear but a reflection of shifting cultural mores, market conditions, and technological innovations. And Reclaim + Repair: The Mahogany Project (opening July, 2023), curated by Propellor Studio, will showcase the work of local designers that repurposed vintage mahogany to make all sorts of decorative and household items, including jewelry and furniture. The exhibition celebrates the creativity and talent of Vancouver’s design community as well as explores the possibilities of sustainable and more equitable use of materials.

Vancouver Maritime Museum

Photo: Vancouver Maritime Museum

Currently running at the Vancouver Maritime Museum is Souls Ignited: Empowering the Voices of Our Ancestors (until April 20, 2023), which represents the work of Inuk photographer Cora Devos, who took 20 portraits of Inuk women across Canada, in places such as Cambridge Bay, Taloyoak, and Vermillion. The women are dusted with gold, and proudly display their tattoos and their skin. The photographs encompass multiple generations of Inuk women, highlighting their resilience, courage, and strong sense of cultural and personal identity. Storytelling and testimonial also feature in the exhibition.

A Wild and West Coast: Rum-Running During Prohibitions (running until March 31, 2024) tells the story of British Columbia who sold liquor to Americans from 1920 to 1933 during Prohibition. This fascinating exhibition details a lively time in the province’s history in which people went to considerable trouble in order to capitalize on the demand for contraband alcohol south of the border. The period marked fraught relations between the two countries due to this liquor trade, as well as emerging regulations and laws in Canada.

Clearly, there is no shortage of art to admire and exhibitions to learn from in Vancouver!\

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