Our Exhibits

The Vancouver Art Gallery presents exhibitions of work by artists ranging from historic masters to leading-edge contemporaries. These include major thematic exhibitions, presentations of solo artists and smaller, more focused showcases. In a typical year, 2 to 3 exhibitions are borrowed from other institutions and 10 to 12 exhibitions are developed in-house, drawing on our permanent collection and loans of works from around the world. In addition, the Gallery tours a few of its exhibitions each year.

Past Exhibitions

Charles Edenshaw

October 26, 2013 to February 2, 2014

Charles Edenshaw
Sea Bear Bracelet
late 19th century
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Purchase 1974, 1981.108.1

Charles Edenshaw
Platter, c. 1904
Courtesy UBC Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada
Photos: Trevor Mills, Vancouver Art Gallery

Click here to view the Charles Edenshaw microsite featuring exhibition sections, essays, selected works, events and more in both English and French.

Charles Edenshaw (1839-1920) was recognized in his time as an exceptional Haida artist and remains an iconic figure in Northwest Coast art. His work serves as a testament to a tremendous individual spirit and a singular talent. With over 200 pieces assembled from public and private collections from around the world, this first major survey of Edenshaw's work features the full range of objects that he produced and is organized around five central themes.

The exhibition begins with Haida Traditions, which affirms the Haida foundations of Edenshaw's craft and features both traditional objects used by the family or that depict family crests as well as commissioned objects such as model poles, model houses or model canoes that were made to illustrate the Haida way of life for far-away audiences. Working at the turn of the century, Edenshaw's life spanned a period of great hardship and tragedy for the Haida people, yet he found ways to adapt and produce outstanding work.

The way that Edenshaw incorporated subjects from traditional Haida stories into his work is one of his crowning achievements. His development of overlapping and interwoven forms was unprecedented and brought new vitality to these subjects. The Narrative section of the exhibition highlights Edenshaw's extraordinary carved argillite platters, where stories come to life in the design.

The Style section is dedicated to the artist's refined approach to line and form. It opens with his masterful argillite chests—an updated and ornamental version of the traditional bentwood box—and also includes painted hats and baskets, model poles and carved bracelets that raise the art form to new heights of elegance and sophistication.

In New Forms we see the artist exploring materials and ideas introduced through increased contact with Europeans. This section includes innovative objects—carved canes, decorative mantle pieces and silver spoons—that feature hybrid forms and untraditional iconography, such as floral designs, American emblems and exotic animals such as elephants, lions and snakes.

The exhibition concludes with a consideration of the artist's tremendous Legacy among artists past and present. Featuring copies of Edenshaw's designs as well as works by his contemporaries for comparison, this section reveals how successive generations of scholars have developed and contributed to our knowledge of Edenshaw's work.

Haida art and culture is recognized around the world and Edenshaw, to this day, stands as one of its greatest luminaries. This exhibition marks a homecoming of sorts, the first time that such a large number of Edenshaw's works in many mediums have been brought together, providing audiences with a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to explore the collected works of this Northwest Coast master. The exhibition is complemented by a fully-illustrated book co-published by the Vancouver Art Gallery and Black Dog Publishing (London).

Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Robin K. Wright, Director of the Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Coast Art and Daina Augaitis, Chief Curator/Associate Director with Haida advisors: James Hart and Robert Davidson.

Presenting Sponsor:
The Audain Foundation

Generously Supported by:
Heritge Canada
Canadian Heritage

Visionary Partner:
David Aisenstat
Additional Support from:
Donald Ellis
The McLean Foundation
Media Sponsor:
Vancouver Sun

Charles Edenshaw Leadership Opening Gallery

October 25, 2013

Click here to view the Charles Edenshaw Leadership Opening gallery via our facebook page.