Monday, 25 May 2015

Vancouver - demonstrations and disappointment

Many people love Vancouver - several have told me it's their favourite city.  But not for me.  It's too big, too confusing, too expensive.  I think you need to know where to go here and you need transport - the distances are just too great on foot.  This image sums the city up for me.


I consoled myself with breakfast in a Chocolate Cafe - about 2000 calories of waffles, cream and Belgian chocolate (best skip over that one!) - and made my way through the steel and glass canyons to find the Vancouver Art Gallery, where I stumbled into a massive demonstration against GM Foods and Monsanto Spraying. Apparently it's a big problem in Canada.



I sat for a while listening to some passionate, very well informed speeches and pledged my whole-hearted support for food that hasn't been poisoned. Even the trucks were non-gmo here!


It was a very well-organised, well-behaved demo - children waving balloons, stalls selling food, people picnicking. But the riot police were just around the corner and they didn't like me taking pictures.


Vancouver Art Gallery has some fantastic collections, so I had high hopes of a pleasant afternoon, but the reality was a big disappointment.  The gallery is being totally refurbished - builders everywhere and the 2 lower floors completely empty where the permanent collection is supposed to be.  I saw some labels about to go up that suggested Cezanne might eventually be located there and another for a room that would be showing Jacques Lipschitz.  But no paintings, just the relentless banging of builders.  The third floor had a very thin display of contemporary young Canadian artists and the top floor (which I'd specifically wanted to see) a few tree paintings and drawings by Emily Carr in one small room.  And I mean a few.  Having been charged the full price for admission, I felt thoroughly cheated.

But what made me very, very, angry, was the fact that the Art Gallery has no work by any Canadian artists, historic or contemporary, who are of indigenous origin.  The exhibits are all European art, or Canadian artists working in the European tradition.  It's a kind of Art Apartheid.  It's OK to have Emily Carr, a European who painted indigenous works of art, but ....  You want to see indigenous art? You have to go to the Museum of Anthropology.  Or down the road, where a gallery in memory of one of the greatest artists that Canada has ever produced, Bill Reid, is showing work by him and by other indigenous artists. The Bill Reid gallery is a small art-deco gem among the tall buildings and manages to survive the flashing neon sign outside advertising the underground carpark that serves the shopping mall next door.


No photographs are allowed, but I saw some beautiful sculpture, paintings, fabric work and jewellery and had a much better time than in the Vancouver Art Gallery.  Apparently a new Art Gallery is planned for 2021 which 'will connect the past the present and the future' and display 'a commitment to the diverse communities we live in'.  I'm not hanging about in anticipation.

Mythic Messengers - a sculpture illustrating the Haida saying 'Everything is connected'.  Bill Reid Foundation
Tomorrow I'm off to Victoria on the bus and the ferry, to begin exploring Vancouver Island.  Victoria is where Emily Carr was born and lived for most of her life, so I'm hoping to be able to see her home.

Meanwhile - here's a young musician and indigenous activist called Kinnie Starr, making an appeal for the oceans of the world.





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