Home » The VAG move: Roy Arden Responds

The VAG move: Roy Arden Responds

There’s a brou-ha-ha brewing in Vancouver over the Vancouver Art Gallery’s proposed move. Some Vancouverites have suggested that the VAG should not move, but instead remain – with an expansion – in its downtown location.


The VAG. Image: bcheritage.ca

Earlier this month, the Vancouver Sun posted an article written by the late Abraham Rogatnick, a professor at the school of architecture at UBC and interim director of the VAG in 1971-72, when he advised on the move from its old quarters on Georgia Street to the refurbished courthouse. He wrote it last summer, shortly before he passed away.

Read a synopsis of the debate in THIS Globe and Mail article.

In reply to some of these naysayers, Vancouver artist Roy Arden has circulated his thoughts, which he sent to the Sun as a letter to the editor, only to see them rudely edited down. He has asked for his thoughts to be republished in full, so VoCA has obliged.

Here is the gist:

“When the VAG moved from its former site to the courthouse, it signalled a new era and was a huge boost for the role of visual arts in Vancouver.

Vancouver is ready for, and needs a stand-alone, purpose-built facility.

As an artist who has exhibited at, and guest-curated exhibitions at the VAG, I am very familiar with its numerous practical shortcomings, many of which would not be apparent to a casual visitor. Yes, many think the courthouse is a fine building, but I am sure they will like the new building too – once they experience it.

Those who imagine that this will lead to a folly need to look around at the many other museums around the globe that serve as models. I have been in cities half the size of Vancouver that have already built new museums along the lines that the VAG proposes.

In most of the developed world this project would be seen as an inevitable no-brainer.

Vancouver used to have a sense of long term investment in institutions but seems to be losing it. There is little that humans do that can compete with a new museum for it’s positive ratio of civic and economic good versus downside. In fact, I can’t honestly see a downside.

There is a tendency here of boasting about how “World Class” Vancouver is. Yet, it is only when locals succeed abroad that they are lauded at home.

Truly world class cities do not think of themselves as such. They know something local is good because they can see that it is good – they don’t need other people to tell them that it is good. We had to wait for the rest of Canada and the world to tell us that Vancouver has an exceptional visual arts scene, maybe now we should see this for ourselves and give it the flagship it deserves.”

For Arden’s full letter to the editor, please click HERE.

2 Responses to “The VAG move: Roy Arden Responds”

  1. Roy set out to hit the nail on the head, and, having located the bit that needs pounding, he doesn’t hold back with the blows. Anyone interested should follow the links provided above and see the whole letter.

    I can only add two things. First, a common concern that I’m reading on comment boards wherever this issues arises is that the VAG needs to stay where it is because if it moves (keep in mind the move is only a few blocks away) that somehow the centre of the city will be hollowed out and left barren. I know there are many organizations that would love to have the old courthouse as a home base, and I think that if we handle it right, even more of the space inside/outside that building could be used for community-accessible programming and events that would make the place even more vital and integral to the life and times of Vancouver.

    Second, my biggest fear about this whole issue has to do with the media. The people who are opposed to the move are powerful and smart and very accustomed to the strategies required to sway public and political opinion. The forces who are interested in seeing the VAG move out of the Old Courthouse and into a purpose-built home are less practiced at being united.

    I hope that the substantive and logical case for a new home for the VAG gets a fair day in metaphorical court. Perhaps that hearing could happen in the new Arthur-Erickson designed courthouse across the street from the VAG– the purpose-built home of our judicial system constructed after the machinations of justice outgrew their previous home. It happens.

  2. thenagainwhatdoiknow? says:

    could the two buildings not just coexist with one another?

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