Oct 12, 2012

I went looking for jeans and found 145K art instead

Tuesday was a great day, number one - it was the first day I hadn't had a headache in a month, and number two, I stumbled upon an exhibition of BC Binning, Karel Appel and Alexander Calder paintings - for sale. As I was starting my search for jeans on South Granville, I walked by a space with a midcentury Danish modern living room set in the window and backtracked - then I caught a glimpse of a BC Binning piece on the wall, and in I went. I was greeted by Kate Barron, the gallery manager, who let me wander around in peace. The further into the space I got, the more I was blown away by the exhibit's calibre of art. When I reached the back of the room and saw a Binning work that I'd previously only seen in books, I couldn't handle it anymore; I had to ask Kate what the heck was going on.

The current exhibition is entitled 'ABC: Outlining Abstraction.' What should we expect from it?

Everyone who comes to visit us should expect to see a world-class exhibition. We have three artists from three different countries, painting abstract art in their own way. The show is full of bright colours and hung in a salon style, forcing viewers to interact with the works rather than simply walking a circle around our gallery. The show, our collection speaks for itself, and so far, everyone who has come in has had his or her expectations surpassed.

Can you tell us a little about what thoughts went into curating this show? How was it pulled together?

We thought for a long time about having this show and which artists and pieces we would put together. Our goal was to use artists that we believe in, strong, international and work together smartly. It was literally pulled out of our collection, which should speak to how strong the collection of The Art Emporium really is.

You'd mentioned that Karel Appel is proving to be the stand out attraction of the show. Why do you think he is and not Vancouver's favourite BC Binning?

BC Binning is almost always a favourite; he’s sort of a local hero, but we’ve seen his work at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Auction Houses, and other galleries. Karel Appel isn’t seen every day in Vancouver. I can’t think of anyone who has the collection of first-rate Appel’s that we do. His work feels current, interesting and very different than anything being shown in the city right now. I think it’s interesting but not surprising that Karel Appel is a standout because his work is powerful and timeless.

This is The Art Emporium's first exhibition in 20 years. Why?

To clarify, this was the first opening we've had in 20 years and a large-scale exhibition. Still, in 2010, during the Olympics, Merete Kristiansen (former gallery manager) hung a great exhibition on historical Canadian masters.

We’ve been focused on building art collections for private collectors, and our clients generally appreciate that we’re low-key and a little more casual than other galleries. Our gallery is always open to the public Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm, and we love having visitors, but we’re a little hidden from the street. Torben Kristiansen, the owner and head dealer at The Art Emporium, has done a wonderful job building our world-class collection, and we’re constantly told that we should have shown because it’s not fair to keep what we have a secret. We also wanted to take a stand for “Gallery Row.” There have been a few galleries that have left Granville, and we’re saying, hey, wait a minute, Granville has built this reputation for a reason, and there’s still amazing art to be seen here. Galleries have left, but more have stayed on Granville and those that have, are in great company.

Galleries seem to be vacating 'Gallery Row' on South Granville. Where should we go to see up and coming talent now?

Firstly, “Gallery Row” is still one of the best places to see up and coming talent, but we’re fortunate in Vancouver to have Gastown, Main St and East Vancouver hosting such wonderful emerging talent too. I use online resources like The Art Market to find new artists and shows and make a point to visit studios during the East Side Culture Crawl, etc.

If you could recommend a local artist for us to invest in now, who would it be?

Just one…?!? Ahh, there are so many great artists in Vancouver, Jessica Bell, Yared Nigussu, Fiona Ackerman, Sarah Gee, Zoe Pawlak, Nick Lepard, and Brian Boulton … to name a few. Because of my budget and taste, I collect mostly emerging artists in my own collection. I wish I had more walls for the talent that we have in Vancouver and throughout Canada. 

Are there any other shows lined up for 2012?

Nothing planned as of yet… but you never know. I would love us to start producing two or three powerful exhibitions each year.

I always hear of these multi-million dollar hidden collections in Vancouver homes, businesses, and underground tunnels. The Art Emporium has been around since the late 19th Century (and is Vancouver's oldest gallery). Your catalogue must be huge! Would you care to divulge approximately how many pieces there are in the collection?

Ha Ha, no! We do have a large inventory – that’s no secret. Torben has been collecting for 50 years; use your imagination… and then double that.

If you could curate your dream exhibition, what would it be?

Honestly, ABC: Outlining Abstraction has been a dream come true for me. The works are strong, cohesive, colourful and first-rate; you can’t ask for much more than that. My dream would be to curate a powerful group show made up of emerging talent mixed in with very established artists, with each holding their own.

The show ends Saturday, October 13th so go check it out while you can - 2928 Granville St.

You know, I never ended up continuing on my search for jeans that day and ladies, you can relate to this; it probably would've ruined what was turning out to be a perfect day anyway.

images © Christopher Thorn and Kate Barron

The Wind