Exciting Vancouver Exhibitions to Check Out This Summer

Photo: Detailed exterior view of the Great Hall at the Museum of Anthropology at
UBC as seismic upgrades near completion, April 2024. Photo by Brannen

Vancouver’s rich cultural diversity has contributed to a thriving arts and culture landscape, with artists expressing themselves in innovative and powerful ways. This summer, galleries, museums, and gardens are presenting incredible exhibitions that showcase the exciting work and cultures of this city’s communities, including both traditional and contemporary Indigenous cultures.

Photo: MOA’s To Be Seen, To Be Heard; 1946_City of Vancouver Archives [371-34]
Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and Kwakwaka’wakw leaders and community members on their float
in the Diamond Jubilee Parade, Vancouver, 1946. Photographer unrecorded. Photo
courtesy of City of Vancouver Archives [371-34].

After an 18-month closure, the beloved Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at UBC is relaunching on June 13, 2024 at 5pm. During its closure, the Museum’s Great Hall underwent seismic upgrades (particularly of its concrete columns), and key displays of Indigenous cultural work were reconfigured. New pieces were also added, such as a canoe carved by Stz’uminus artist Qap’u’luq (John Marston). This return is particularly special given that the Museum is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

Opening on June 13 are numerous important and informative exhibitions. The first, To Be Seen, To Be Heard: First Nations in Public Spaces, 1900-1965, examines the time when potlatches were banned in British Columbia and Indigenous cultures were subject to assimilative pressures. Despite these strictures, Indigenous peoples found ways to be proudly visible at various public events and spaces, including at royal visits and parades. The exhibition encompasses archival photographs, film, objects, artwork, and belongings, as well as audio of current Indigenous community members reconsidering this era. The exhibition highlights the vitality and resourcefulness of Indigenous cultures—past, present, and future—in British Columbia.

The second exhibition is a mounting of In Pursuit of Venus [Infected], a work by Lisa Reihana, a Māori artist. Reihana takes as her point of departure a neoclassical wallpaper Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique by Jean-Gabriel Charvet and made by Joseph Dufour et Cie (a wallpaper company). The wallpaper shows Captain James Cook’s contact in three voyages, drawing upon stereotypes and imperial power dynamics. Using sound, live-action footage, and hand-painted landscapes, Reihana reimagines these encounters, challenging colonial narratives and recentering Māori and Pacific Indigenous peoples in the myth-making.

A third exhibition, From the Land, is also opening, displaying ceramics pieces from the MOA’s collections, including works by local artists such as Brendan Lee Satish Tang and Gathie Falk. A mural with sediment from BC reminds visitors of the connection between ceramics and the land.

Finally, In a Different Light: Reflecting on Northwest Coast Art reopens on June 13, The exhibition features 110 pieces of historical Indigenous art, perceived and reconsidered through the lens of Indigenous artists and community members in the present.

To mark its reopening, MOA is holding celebrations. Reopening Night (June 13, 5pm-9pm) features free admission, opening remarks, and a performance by Tsatsu Stalqayu Coastal Wolf Pack. The rest of the reopening weekend (June 14-16, 10am to 5pm) features half-priced admission, performances, activities, and tours.

The Museum of Vancouver (MOV), located in beautiful Vanier Park, not only tells the stories of those who make Vancouver so dynamic, but also situates the city within a global community.

Launching on June 19, 2024 is Creation Stories: Carrying Our Traditions Forward, which spotlights the work of recipients of a 2022 scholarship awarded by the YVR Art Foundation.

These 10 artists examine, in diverse ways, the importance of family and their relationship with tradition in the present.

Three other feature exhibitions are well worth visiting. True Tribal: Contemporary Expressions of Ancestral Tattoo Practices explores Indigenous tattooing over three decades, considering how artists around the world are reenvisioning their connection to their heritage, traditional territories, and past and present identities. Artists include Gordon Sparks (Mi’kmaq) and Nathalie Standingcloud (Cherokee), drawing attention to how contemporary tattoo practices can be empowering and resistant.

Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan, which launched last month, uses photography by artist Yao Jui-Chung to depict abandoned buildings in Taiwan for schools and sports that have become “mosquito halls” due to their lack of use. The exhibition is a commentary on capitalist excess, urban decay, and the creation of art from literal ruin, in this case.

Reclaim + Repair: The Mahogany Project is on until August 11, 2024. The creative and sustainable exhibition involves 31 local designers who reclaimed vintage mahogany pieces in unique and beautiful ways.

Image from VAG’s Copy Machine Manifestos; EL213.058_ZINES: Robert Ford with Trent Adkins and Lawrence Warren,
Thing, no. 4, Spring 1991, offset zine, Collection Steve Lafreniere,
Courtesy Arthur Fournier, Photo: Evan McKnight, Brooklyn Museum

There is so much outstanding programming happening at the Vancouver Art Gallery this summer. Their latest exhibition is Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines, which opened last month and runs until September 22, 2024. This extensive exhibition, which features over a thousand zines produced by more than 100 artists, looks at the genre of the zine and its potential to forge community, express alternative points of view, and operate in relation to other subcultures and artistic forms. Copy Machine Manifestos includes a reading room that features the work of local zine artists. Accompanying this exhibition are fun Zine Nights throughout this spring and summer, including a talk by Jordan Strom (June 14, 4pm), a workshop with Sonja Ahlers and friends (June 14, 5:30pm to 8:30pm), and a workshop and talk with Ho Tam and friends (July 12, 5:30pm to 8:30pm). See here for a full list of upcoming events.

Launching June 9 and running until November 3, 2024, Black and White and Everything In Between: A Monochrome Journey draws from VAG’s permanent collection, looking at over a hundred monochromatic works, which represent a range of mediums, by 75 artists.

Other current exhibitions include Of and About Posters: The Lawrence Weiner Poster Archive (1965-2021) at the Vancouver Art Gallery (until August 25, 2024), which looks at the oeuvre of Weiner from 1965 to 2021—supplemented by other materials, considering his use of text in public spaces. Its companion exhibit is Horizons (until August 25, 2024), a project originally conceived by Garry Neill Kennedy. Landscape paintings are hung so that their horizon lines are in alignment, thereby rethinking how people view and present art.

And Emily Carr: A Room of Her Own continues until January 5, 2025, with 25 of her works from VAG’s collection. VAG has many more exhibitions and events, talks, and tours happening this summer. See the website for more details.

Fleurs de Villes has a gorgeous show ARTISTE at VanDusen Botanical Garden, running June 21 to 30, 2024. This marks the return of Fleurs de Villes, which specializes in international floral shows, to VanDusen after mounting VOYAGE last year. Found along the Garden’s Autumn Stroll, this multifaceted exhibition includes 25 floral installations by local artists. These artistic installations—  with mannequins—each have their own narrative, many using Vancouver’s art scene and prominent visual and performing artists as their muses.

In addition, every 90 minutes in the JARDIN tent, visitors can expect free floral demos, talks on floral design, gardening tip sessions, and culinary samplings by Chef Matthew Phillip, Executive Chef at Shaughnessy Restaurant. See here for the schedule. Aperitivo Truck will be on site selling food, hot bevvies, and cocktails, and there will be a fresh floral market Friday to Sunday selling bouquets from local florists.

Kids will enjoy the Paint by Numbers Children’s Trail, as well as the tons of photo opportunities and chance to vote on a favourite installation.

Vancouver Maritime Museum has a new exhibition that is on until November 2024: snəxʷəł: an art exhibit by Zoe George. In this exhibition, George, a səlil ̕wətaʔɬ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh artist, examines canoe culture through the display of canoes and paddles, as well as video and photographs that look at the significance of canoes for Indigenous peoples in British Columbia. George’s own personal connection to canoeing informs her creation of this exhibition.

The Chinese Canadian Museum is holding The Paper Trail to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act until the end of the year. This exhibition, curated by Catherine Clement and in partnership with the Chinese Canadian Military Museum, contains hundreds of identity documents that were issued during the period of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1923-1947). Through material history, visitors are invited to think about belonging within the nation and the evolving place of Chinese Canadians, in particular.

Photo: ANTI-ICON at Polygon Gallery; Martine Gutierrez; Maria, 2021; C-print mounted on Dibond, hand-distressed welded aluminum frame, optium plexi; Edition of 7; 109.2 x 163.8 cm

Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver will be the site of Martine Gutierrez’s first Canadian solo exhibition. ANTI-ICON: APOKALYPSISwhich runs from July 12 to September 20, 2024, is a provocative collection of 17 self-portraits in which Gutierrez, an American transdisciplinary artist, uses quotidian materials like cardboard and garbage bags to outfit herself lavishly into supposed female icons across history, mythology, and pop culture. They include the Queen of Sheba, Queen Elizabeth I, and Lady Godiva. These portraits were originally commissioned by the Public Art Fund in 2021 and were on bus shelters in cities like New York. The Polygon exhibition marks the first time these 17 self-portraits are displayed together. Overall, they pose questions regarding gender, icon status, and representation.

Overall, it promises to be a packed and illuminating summer for exhibitions in Vancouver.