ARTperspective

The Art Perspective blog is a collection of thoughts, musings, and reflections on art, artists, and current happenings in the art world. 

Behind the Canvas: Preview of the Remai Modern

Following the tremendous impact the Art Gallery of Alberta had on Edmonton's downtown revitalization, it should be no surprise that one province over in Saskatchewan, a quiet but monumental change was happening to the arts scene in Edmonton's sister city, Saskatoon. On the west bank of the South Saskatchewan River, located at River Landing, the Remai Modern Art Gallery of Saskatchewan is set to open in 2017. Originally scheduled for 2016, the 11,582 square-metre public art museum boasts award winning architecture designed by the Canadian firm KPMB (Kuwabara, Payne, McKenna & Blumberg).

Recognizing an opportunity, lead patron, Ellen Remai donated $30 million to kick start the project. She also ensured the permanent collection of the gallery would sustain for years to come, by donating the most comprehensive collection of Picasso linocuts known in the world, and valued at an estimated $20 million. Such philanthropic gifts rarely go unmatched, and so Saskatchewan born, London, UK based art dealer and print-making specialist Dr. Frederick Mulder donated an additional 23 Picasso ceramics, also valued at nearly $20 million.

The generous donations aside, the vision and design of the gallery would surely have been enough to launch Saskatoon as venerable player in the Canadian art scene, but they did not stop there. Enter Gregory Burke as the director and new CEO for the project. Those unfamiliar with Burke's work as a curator needn't look far. Burke has worked across Canada and as far as New Zealand curating over 90 world class shows and publishing over 100 texts on contemporary art. To say the new Remai Modern is in good hands with its leadership would be an understatement.

With all of this excitement does come some disappointment for those more acquainted with the Mendel Art Gallery and its founder Frederick Salomon Mendel and his family. The Mendel Art Gallery was founded in 1964, and its collection of over 7,700 artworks will find a home as part of the permanent collection of the Remai Modern. Additionally, one of the galleries in the new building will be named in honour of the Mendel as well as a potential international lecture series. 

It is a season of change in Saskatoon, as the community will be without the Mendel and without the new Remai under early 2017. CEO, Burke has been quoted saying that the time will be used to develop new programs, assess potential membership options, and prepare for the opening. Expectations are certainly high, after the opening of the AGA in Edmonton, the gallery saw an influx of patrons in the tens of thousands. Those numbers have tapered off over the months and years the gallery has been open, but it remains an iconic piece of architecture in a city not known for its design. Similarly in Saskatoon, the Remai is sure to join the status of the Bessborough hotel as part of the city's growing history and unique architecture.

 

 

Vancouver Art Gallery: Why It's Time

Every city reaches a point when rejuvenation of key elements, landmarks, or attractions must be undertaken to reinvigorate the city, to breathe new life into arts and cultural institutions. Such was the case in Edmonton, with the Art Gallery of Alberta. The original building was built in 1968, and after a design competition that saw Randall Stout Architects from Los Angeles win, the city opened the new gallery in 2010, to increased subscriptions and over 30,000 visitors in the first six weeks. This signalled a significant design shift in a previously stagnated city, once the Art Gallery of Alberta was opened, other projects started in development, five years later Edmonton's downtown core is almost unrecognizable as new design projects for an arena, new museum, entertainment district, hotels, restaurants and condos are all underway. Similarly a province over, Saskatoon is set to open it's new gallery the Remai Modern in 2016. Saskatoon and Edmonton share many similarities, both being river cities, both experiencing strong economies as well as cultural revolutions as a renewed focus is placed on the development and promotion of arts and culture in both cities.

Some may argue that Vancouver doesn't need a kick start like Edmonton or Saskatoon did; the city is filled with glass condo towers, new projects are a regular occurrence and Nordstrom's flagship opening speaks to a strong retail commitment. Vancouver needs this new Art Gallery space, not to kick start development, but to kick start culture. In a city as culturally diverse as Vancouver, it has kind of lost it's soul. Sold out to foreign investors who have never stepped foot, visitors who shop at world class boutiques like Dior, Chanel and Hermes - but what about the art? What is inspiring the next young generation in one of the best cities in the world?

Herzog de Meuron has for decades been an undisputed champion of revitalization projects. From the Tate Modern, to the Arts Center in Minneapolis and the Elbe Philharmonic building in Hamburg, they understand design and function in a way that invigorates and excites. Heck, they even took retail to a new level in Tokyo with the design of Prada's boutique. And so too will their design bring function and form to Vancouver's downtown core. In amongst the glass towers, their new design for the Vancouver Art Gallery pulls organic design elements, allowing flow and integration with the surrounding area, inviting busy pedestrians, and business folk alike to wander through, to sit, to experience something different.

Whether or not you like the design is irrelevant, Herzog de Meuron know what they're doing and they do it incredibly well. We are about to see another city transformed around a cultural iconic design. The people and visitors in Vancouver don't need another glass tower, they need a place to engage with art, a place that reflects the incredible surroundings of the city. A place that brings people together and challenges while it informs.