Vancouver’s Best Artists

From the pricey pantheon of global artmakers to the accessible fl edglings and their decorative offerings, Vancouver’s commercial galleries yield paintings, photographs, and sculptures to suit any collector’s chequebook. The city is best known as a launchpad for the so-called photoconceptual movement — a loose concept that gets attached to luminaries like Ian Wallace, Ken Lum, Roy Arden, Stan Douglas, and Rodney Graham. But the “photoconceptualism” term has been bandied about since the ’70s, and those artists have been in steady evolution since then. Even the movement’s leading figure, Jeff Wall, was thought to be less himself than usual in his latest New York exhibit.

Whatever’s coming next is all around — and it’s got a much less intimidating price tag. Each May, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, down on Granville Island, hosts a grad show, which fi lls its main gallery space with a roulette wheel of student artwork. In November, the Eastside Culture Crawl lets buyers drop in on home studios and browse offerings from hundreds of artists and craftspeople, who often have a less academic approach.

Whatever your art-hunting style, keep the following 10 artists squarely in your sights.

Jeff Wall

The kingpin of the local art scene — and, by some accounts, the godfather of photoconceptualism — is such a hot-ticket item you can’t even buy his work in his hometown. Wall’s backlit, ornately staged photo work can be had through his New York dealers for upwards of a million dollars a pop.

Scott McFarland & Ian Wallace

McFarland is just a pup compared to the towering figure that is Wallace, but both are members of the city’s photography vanguard. And, unlike Wall’s work, their meticulous images are just within the realm of possible purchase. McFarland pieces, at the Monte Clark Gallery, are closing in on $30,000; for Wallace prices you’ll need to contact the Catriona Jeffries Gallery.
Monte Clark Gallery
2339 Granville St., Vancouver, 604-730-5000.
Catriona Jeffries Gallery
247 E. First Ave., Vancouver, 604-736-1554.

Gathie Falk & Gordon Smith

Not all Vancouver art comes with its own textbook. Two stalwarts of the scene (and two of the city’s most active senior citizens) are Falk — whose multimedia work is often feminist and always gorgeous — and Smith, whose landscapes have grown wonderfully abstract and brilliant in recent years. Falk canvases can be yours for $18,000, while Smith’s large-scale paintings hover around $25,000.
Equinox Gallery
2321 Granville St., Vancouver, 604-736-2405.

Michael Dennis

Tired of the garden gnome? Dennis’s powerful figurative cedar sculptures, carved from salvaged wood at his Gulf Island studio, will elevate any backyard’s aesthetic. They start at $3,500 for smaller works and skyrocket up to $24,000 for larger pieces. Several are always in conference in the gallery’s courtyard.
Diane Farris Gallery
1590 W. Seventh Ave., Vancouver, 604-737-2629.

Fred Herzog

Since his breakthrough (and terribly belated) solo show at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2007, Herzog has seen his vintage shots of city life become hallmarks of Vancouverite pride. They’re the ultimate souvenirs, too. Prices vary, but a 30-by-20- inch print will set you back about $3,000.
Equinox Gallery
2321 Granville St., Vancouver, 604-736-2405.

Takao Tanabe

This octogenarian master of minimalist landscapes has paintings, executed in his characteristic acrylic washes, hanging in private collections and galleries around the world. But his thoughtful woodblock prints (in editions of 50) are $3,000 offerings that might be better suited to your living room.
Equinox Gallery
2321 Granville St., Vancouver, 604-736-2405.

Luc Bernard

Having helped to revive the ancient art of encaustic painting (wherein pigment is applied to the canvas in thick layers of melted wax), Bernard has developed a signature style of landscape — with brooding smudges of deep sepia and water-stain grey — that makes his work ($400 to $2,800) beautiful but never facile.
Atelier Gallery
2421 Granville St., Vancouver, 604-732-3021.

Julie Morstad

Her ink and watercolour works, which start at $450, are an ideal entry point for would-be collectors. Thirty-somethings hungry for the faux-naïve stuff that the Royal Art Lodge made so popular will find Morstad’s surreal scenarios and delicate figures highly collectible.
Atelier Gallery
2421 Granville St., Vancouver, 604-732-3021.

The Itinerary

South Granville — that coffee-fuelled strip of shopping between the south end of the Granville Bridge and 16th Avenue — is home to the highest concentration of galleries in the city (over a dozen within six blocks). Further afield, the city’s many artist-run centres (and the farm league artists they foster) are well worthwhile. MUST SEE: the Western Front Gallery (303 E. Eighth Ave., Vancouver, 604-878-7563), specializing in electronic/media art, has been a mainstay of the local avant-garde for 30 years.

Vancouver also teems with galleries offering hand-carved argillite totem poles, silver Haida bracelets, and massive ceremonial masks. The trick is figuring out what’s art and what’s just ethno-shtick. MUST SEE: The Marion Scott Gallery (308 Water St., Vancouver, 604-685-1934) is your best bet for thoughtful Inuit art.