Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Split the art gallery collections like London and Paris do

Instead of building a larger Vancouver Art Gallery to house its entire collection, a simpler and more economical plan would be to keep the existing heritage building for the more historical part of the collection, say that which predates 1945, and then to construct a new gallery for the more modern work. This idea is neither radical nor unique. Major art collections have been split in two of the greatest art cities in the world. In Paris, the Louvre moved its 19th-century artworks across the Seine to the Musee d'Orsay and later works went to the Pompidou Centre; in London, the Tate retained its old-master artworks and the contemporary works were moved into the Tate Modern.
As with the galleries in London and Paris, it would make little sense to abandon the current VAG facility, especially given the enormous financial investment which has already been made in creating it.
Moreover, the ambience of this prestigious, beautiful heritage building in the heart of the city could never be recaptured. With the modern art works moved to the new facility, much of the existing basement storage space could be converted into new exhibition space, effectively increasing the size of the gallery from four floors to five. All of this would have the effect of allowing the new facility to be built on a proportionately smaller scale and at a lower cost than what is envisioned.
The VAG often seems somewhat confused in its approach of trying to be both a historical and an avant-garde gallery.
No doubt there were many in Paris and London who argued against and lamented the splitting of their prestigious collections. Yet the new art galleries were able to be more focused with their collections and ultimately enhanced the arts scene in those cities.

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