Media Room

The Director


Biography

Kathleen S. Bartels
Director, Vancouver Art Gallery


As Director, Kathleen Bartels has led the Vancouver Art Gallery through a period of unprecedented growth. Her leadership of the 85-year-old institution has resulted in a significant transformation in the program, melding a dynamic mix of contemporary and historical exhibitions that exemplify the Gallery’s commitment to bringing the best of the art world to Vancouver and the best of Vancouver to the world.

The Gallery has gained an international reputation in the contemporary art community through such groundbreaking exhibitions as KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art (2008), Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture (2012), Unscrolled: Reframing Tradition in Contemporary Chinese Art (2014), and How Do I Fit This Ghost in My Mouth? An exhibition by Geoffrey Farmer (2015). Outstanding historical exhibitions have become another Vancouver Art Gallery hallmark, including original presentations such as Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man (which attracted more than 150,000 visitors to the Gallery during the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2010), The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art (2011), and Charles Edenshaw (2013). In addition, Bartels has co-curated four Gallery exhibitions with artist Jeff Wall, including Anthony Hernandez (2009), Kerry James Marshall (2010), Patrick Faigenbaum (2013), and Martin Honert (2013). In 2014, in association with the opening of The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors, the Gallery launched the Institute of Asian Art to reflect its deep commitment to exhibiting contemporary and historical Asian art and the rich cultural mix that our city and province offers. Vigorous audience engagement has also been a priority for Bartels, and today the Gallery delivers a diverse range of public art education programs for more than 190,000 people annually.

With an annual operating budget currently at approximately $17 million, the Gallery has dramatically grown the levels of contributed and earned income during Bartels’ tenure, with private sector donations increasing by more than 250%, the institutional endowment growing fifty-fold from $200,000 to more than $11 million today, and significant growth in attendance, including an average of 36,000 members annually. The Gallery’s collection, which represents the most comprehensive resource for visual culture in British Columbia, now numbers 11,617 representing a 49% increase from 2001. Since 2006, the Gallery has ensured broader access to its collection throughout British Columbia by delivering Across the Province, a Gallery-sponsored exhibition program from the collection.

For more than a decade, Bartels has led the institution on its journey to build a new, expanded Vancouver Art Gallery. In 2008, the Gallery received a gift of $50 million from the Province of British Columbia, representing the first contribution towards a $350 million capital and endowment campaign. In 2013, Vancouver City Council unanimously approved the designation of a City-owned site at West Georgia and Cambie Streets for the new Gallery, and in 2014 the Gallery announced Herzog & de Meuron as the design architects. The goal for the new Gallery, scheduled to open in 2021, is to provide the citizens of Vancouver and all who visit with an amazing experience of art that celebrates British Columbia and its unique place in our world.

Kathleen Bartels has received many awards and honours during her tenure at the Gallery, most recently the 2015 Outstanding Individual Award by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. She is proud to serve as a Board member of the British Columbia Achievement Foundation.