10 Boutique Galleries for Appreciating Local Art in Vancouver

Photo: The Polygon Gallery

Vancouver’s local art scene is thriving, ranging from contemporary Coast Salish carvings to provocative mixed-media installations.

In addition to the Vancouver Art Gallery, there are numerous boutique galleries that will give visitors an appreciation of the rich, diverse talent located on the West Coast.

Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art

Interior of the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver

Photo: Sama Jim Canzian/Bill Reid Gallery

Since 2008, the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art has honoured the legacy of Haida artist, Bill Reid, and the many Indigenous artists who have been inspired by his work and artistic vision. The Gallery functions in many different ways: as an exhibition space, a place of learning, as well as support for emerging artists. The gallery usually hosts two exhibitions, one on its main floor and another on its mezzanine. Currently on the latter is 13 Moons Around the Lake (until January 28, 2024), which is part of a long-term project called Honouring Our Grandmothers’ Healing Journey. Curated by Nlaka’pamux artist Nadine Spence, the exhibition celebrates water, land, family (particularly, grandmothers), and the salmon cycle. The gallery’s other exhibition is Bright Futures (until January 14, 2024), which brings together the work of artists who responded to the question, “How is Bill Reid inspiring contemporary Northwest Coast artists?” as a way of marking the 25 years since Reid’s passing.

Skwachàys Lodge

Photo: Skwachàys Lodge

Operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society (VNHS), Skwachàys Lodge combines a boutique hotel with an Artists in Residence Program and an Urban Aboriginal Fair-Trade Gallery. The gallery, located in the hotel lobby, showcases the work of Indigenous artists in a range of mediums, including jewelry, sculpture, print-making, and clothing. Visitors can purchase a piece of art to take home with them, as well as learn about the many artists in residence who have access to subsidized housing, workshops, as well as professional development support.

Coastal Peoples Fine Art Gallery

Photo: Coastal Peoples Fine Art Gallery

Part gallery, part boutique, the Coastal Peoples Fine Art Gallery brings together a wide range of mediums and artists that represent the talent of First Nations and Inuit artists. For over 25 years this Gastown gallery has been supporting Indigenous artists in gaining recognition and fair compensation for their work. Their collection includes jewelry, glasswork, pottery, basketry, totem poles, and sculpture. The gallery also hosts periodic exhibitions, often featuring the works of a spotlighted artist.

Contemporary Art Gallery

Photo: Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG)

Situated downtown, the Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG) specializes in both local and international contemporary art. The gallery currently has two exhibitions, the first entitled Lotus L. Kang: In Cascades (January 7, 2024), which showcases the installation work of Toronto-born, New York-based multimedia artist Lotus L. Kang. This exhibition encompasses industrial steel joists with skins of photographic films. Kang also has works at the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station and on the façade of the CAG. The second exhibition, Trinh T. Minh-ha: Reassemblage, features Minh-ha’s first film that interrogates the challenges of representation of rural Senegal.

CAG also hosts numerous talks, such as a Timelines Talk with Khelsilem from the Squamish Nation (November 21, 2023, at the Birdhouse, 44 West 4th Avenue) to discuss the fascinating history of Vancouver and its key figures.

Jeunesse Gallery of Fine Arts

Photo: Jeunesse Gallery of Fine Arts

Since 2007, the Jeunesse Gallery of Fine Arts has been showcasing local visual artists as well as European visual and sculptural art in Kitsilano. Artists who have been exhibited include visual artist Terrance M. Schnell; watercolour painters Esmie Gayo McLaren and Celia Leung; and abstract painters Joyce Kamikura, Adrienne Moore, Jeanette Jarville, Shamsi Ashti, and Nicola Kolev. Staff at the gallery are knowledgeable and always interested in sharing information about their collection.

SUM gallery

Photo: Rojina Farrokhnejad: Gods and Monsters at SUM gallery

SUM gallery is a queer-mandated gallery—one of the few of its kind in Canada and even the world. SUM focuses on art that pushes boundaries, engages in collaboration, and represents the rich diversity of the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. It’s also known for its programming of the Queer Arts Festival, which takes place in the summer. Throughout the year, it hosts exhibitions as well as special events. Currently at the gallery is Rojina Farrokhnejad: Gods and Monsters (until December 1, 2023), in which the Vancouver-based artist uses multiple mediums to explore notions of the mythological and monstrous through a queer lens. SUM is also hosting an event called Queering the Air (November 23, 2023, 7pm, Carnegie Hall Theatre) featuring soprano Sarah Jo Kirsch and pianist Indra Egan.

The Polygon Gallery

Photo: The Polygon Gallery

Take the SeaBus to North Vancouver’s Shipyards District and find the strikingly-designed Polygon Gallery. Focusing primarily on photography, The Polygon Gallery is committed to showcasing the work of Indigenous artists, as well as of emerging artists who have traditionally been seen as outside the mainstream art world. Currently exhibited is From Slander’s Brand (until February 4, 2024), which features the work of three artists (Hannah Darabi, Rachel Khedoori, and Ron Terada) that have produced critical and artistic archives in response to moments of trauma and/or pivotal social change and unrest. Upcoming is Diane Evans and Sunlight (November 24, 2023, to March 10, 2024), which surveys the work of the photography, curated by Karen Love and Linda Chinfen.

Inuit Gallery of Vancouver

Photo: Inuit Gallery of Vancouver

Also in North Vancouver is the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver, a beautiful space for showcasing the work of Inuit and Northwest Coast Indigenous artists. Specializing in Inuit stone and bone carvings and Inuit drawings and prints, the gallery also features a variety of other mediums and artforms, including totem poles, bentwood boxes, masks, jewelry, and prints. Artists whose works are presented include sculptor Barnabus Arnasungaaq, artists Ningiukulu Teevee, carver Cori Savard, and printmaker Maynard Johnny Jr. The gallery also holds periods exhibitions such as Made By Women: Northwest Coast First Nations Art (July 2023) and Leah Pipe: Greet the Sky (December 2022).

Burnaby Art Gallery

Photo: Burnaby Art Gallery

The Burnaby Art Gallery, situated on the northern edge of serene Deer Lake Park, is unique for its focus on art on paper, with a particular commitment to diverse works that are thought-provoking and innovative. Their current exhibition, Kindred Tracings (until January 21, 2024), spotlights the work of Muriel Ahmarani Jaouich, Minahil Bukhari, Russna Kaur, and Michelle Sound, who consider the limits and possibilities of language and its connections to ancestry and culture through different mediums. The gallery also hosts a variety of activities for both children and adults, including Kids Art Connect, an Open Studio for Printmaking, and Holiday Art Cards.

Audain Art Museum

Photo: Audain Art Museum

Whistler’s Audain Art Museum is a truly special place. Through its permanent collection of over 200 works, it takes visitors through the history of art on BC’s coast, encompassing the 18th century to today. The art exhibited includes Coast Salish works, Emily Carr pieces, and works by other local artists such as Jeff Wall, E. J. Hughes, and Marianne Nicolson.

Their current exhibition Karin Bubaš: Garden of Shadows (until January 29, 2024), examines the Vancouver-based photographer’s representations of the relationship between women and nature, juxtaposing images of the feminine with those of West Coast forests and other greenery. Upcoming is Gathie Falk: Revelations (November 25, 2023, to May 6, 2024), a touring exhibition from the McMichael Canadian Art Collection of the iconic artist, and Tom Thomson: North Star (June 29, 2024, to September 30, 2024), which will be a highly anticipated survey of Thomson’s artistic legacy.

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