Director's Welcome

from Kathleen Bartels, Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery

Photo: Pardeep Singh

As we kick off a new year and a new season, we look forward to four thought-provoking exhibitions that will enliven the Vancouver Art Gallery with extraordinary artwork from across the globe. Engaging both history and the present, the Gallery’s Winter/Spring lineup encompasses the dynamic cultural commentary of world-renowned Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, international historic and contemporary Expressionist art, and diverse responses to the ever-present threat of nuclear disaster. In these exhibitions, art helps us to reflect on global realities and to orient ourselves in international dialogues.

A major highlight to kick off the season is the first-ever solo presentation of Takashi Murakami’s work in Canada, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg. One of the most visionary and influential artists working today, Murakami is no stranger to the Gallery—he recently co-curated the remarkable group exhibition Juxtapoz x Superflat (2016–17). This year’s exhibition is an in-depth survey of Murakami’s paintings from the 1980s to the present that draws attention to some of the unique concepts and cultural conditions that shape his practice. His work presents a contemporary Japanese sensibility influenced by the spectre of nuclear catastrophe, global pop culture, and Eastern and Western philosophies, aesthetics and politics. At once playful and serious, this meditation on the state of Japanese society in a globalized world builds on the Gallery’s longstanding commitment to fostering cultural connections throughout the Pacific Rim, particularly through the work of our Institute of Asian Art.

Education and public programs will complement, extend and unpack the ambitious content of Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg. Before the official opening, on January 31 a lecture by the artist will be an opportunity to hear about the interlocking ideas and interests that inform his work. On opening weekend, you are invited to view the exhibition during our special Members Mornings on February 3 and 4.

In March, three other exhibitions round out this season’s thoughtful, international approach. With BOMBHEAD, guest-curator John O’Brian, University of British Columbia professor and specialist in nuclear photography, presents reflections on the nuclear age that resonate with Murakami’s own grappling with the subject. Living, Building, Thinking: art & expressionism delves into the development of German Expressionism and its lasting effects on contemporary practice. A Cultivating Journey: The Herman Levy Legacy, with significant works by a range of British, Dutch, French, German and Japanese artists, demonstrates the significance of Levy’s collecting to Canadian art audiences. Additionally, there is still time to view two exhibitions that opened recently: 空/Emptiness: Emily Carr and Lui Shou Kwan, a dialogue between the icon of Canadian painting and the founder of Hong Kong’s New Ink Movement; and our Offsite project by New Delhi-based artist Asim Waqif.

This season’s broad, global focus is consistent with the work of former Chief Curator/Associate Director, Daina Augaitis, who has been named Chief Curator Emerita in recognition of her tremendous contribution to the Gallery. This title honours Daina’s lasting impact on the Gallery and marks out her new role as advisor, which will include working on exhibition projects and contributing to the development of the permanent collection installation for the new Vancouver Art Gallery. I offer my heartfelt thanks to Daina, whose extraordinary intellect and determination have been instrumental to our successes over the past two decades.

A key element to the Gallery’s continued success and progress is our new building, and we are counting on your ongoing support to make it a reality. We recently reached out asking you to tell the new provincial government what the Gallery’s new building will mean to you personally and to your community—if you haven’t yet, I encourage you to take a moment to do so now.

Thank you all—our valued members, donors, and sponsors—for your vital support. I wish you all the very best for a happy new year and look forward to seeing you at the Gallery throughout 2018!

Kathleen S. Bartels