We had the chance to visit Vancouver, BC for a 3 day visit towards the end of January as I had a travel tradeshow that I was attending. So we turned business into Bherd business and extended our stay to explore the urban contemporary galleries of the area. We didn’t do any research before we went up and thought it would be no problem to just ask for recommendations while we were there. Although, the recommendations were good, we managed to somehow hit 70% of the galleries while they were changing out their exhibits or they were closed. Some were very gracious and let us in to look around, some were just too busy and too torn apart to allow us entry.
I wanted to put together a list of the urban contemporary, pop art, and low brow galleries that we had recommended to us, some we are able to put our 2 cents in, some we can only say check ‘em out and report back for us! This is not an exhaustive list and we hope that other art lovers will let us know their finds as they explore the Vancouver, BC area. We recommend calling the galleries and checking on their exhibit rotation and even planning on hitting some of these galleries during an opening night - specifically Canvas Gallery and the Contemporary Art Gallery.
2425 Main Street (the gallery is located behind the antisocial skate shop)
Mon – Sat: 11am – 6pm and Sun: 12pm – 5pm
We read about this place in the Georgia Straight (it’s like the Seattle Weekly). It sounded interesting and we were excited to explore it, however, when we arrived there was a sign on the door that said they were closed – something about attending someone’s trial? We then stopped at a coffee shop around the corner from Antisocial and they said it’s too bad we didn’t hear about the opening the night before – it was great and they always put on a good show. It always makes people feel good when you tell them how they just missed the big party! Well, we’ll have to come back and check this one out next time.
233 Carral Street (Gastown)
Tue – Sat: 12pm – 5pm
We did not get a chance to go to this one, but is was recommended to us by Canvas Gallery. Art Speak is a non-profit contemporary gallery that focuses on the integration of writing, poetry and visual art.
49 Powell Street (Gastown)
Wed – Sat: 12pm – 6pm and Sun: 12pm – 5pm (or by appointment)
This gallery was recommended by Pablo, one of the owners of El Kartel (another great find). This gallery/store was in the process of taking down their exhibit when we stopped in. It’s a smaller space that focuses on contemporary works of both established and emerging artists.
91 Powell Street (Gastown)
Mon – Fri: 10am – 6pm, Sat: 12pm – 8pm & Sun: 12pm – 4pm
The gallery space is cool to say the least. It’s split into a couple different areas: entrance corridor, lounge & entertainment stage with the art hung throughout the space. They were just hanging a new exhibit and did not have all the information up yet when we walked in. However, they were very gracious and let us take a look at what was up and check out their space. The photography that was up was stunning; the artist used cool blues and greens that gave the photographs a glowing eerie feeling. Canvas gallery not only features contemporary photography & art from high profile and emerging Vancouver artists, but also hosts entertainment and has a swanky lounge area. Definitely coordinate your visit with one of their exhibition openings or special events.
Contemporary Art Gallery
555 Nelson Street (Yaletown)
Wed – Sun: 12pm – 6pm
Believe it or not, we actually hit this gallery on their opening night for Fastwürms. Fastwürms are an art collective from Toronto. The group made this a fun and interactive experience with a multitude of activities going: the movie room had “Ninga vs. Witch” playing, a couple of “tattoo artists” drew tattoo’s with a selection of sharpies on a line-up of eager attendees; and a “hair artist” (and by the looks of what was going on, he was not a licensed hair stylist) was cutting some poor saps hair. I’m guessing the poor sap was drunk and thought it was a good idea at the time! The hair artist was dramatically trimming a centimeter of hair here and there around the guys head – I kind of think he was rounding the hair off into a bowl style but didn’t wait to see the end results. The exhibit also had murals, mirror paintings and giveaway posters. It was strange – in a good way!
1025 Robson Street, Suite 121-A
I’ve been up and down Robson 20 times since El Kartel has been in business, but it wasn’t until this last visit that I went in. It’s mostly a retail shop that sells t-shirts, shoes, hats & toys from the likes of Upper Playground, Fifty 24SF, Damage, Evisu, Kid Robot, and more. They have rotating urban/pop art exhibit and while we were in town the Woodpile Collective was on display. This is a trio of artists from Victoria, BC who create collaborative pieces on wood done in street style with urban design. John & I loved their work and are figuring out how we can woe them down to do a show in our gallery. Pablo, one of the owners of El Kartel was friendly and helpful when we told him we were looking for gallery recommendations.
644 Seymour Street
Mon – Sat: 11am – 10pm & Sun: 12pm – 8pm
We didn’t get a chance to see this place, but I ran across it while I was at home following up on the urban contemporary, low brow art galleries. The art gallery is on the 1st floor along with the retail space and upstairs is the tattoo & piercing studio.
350 E. 2nd Ave, #116
Wed – Sat: 12pm – 6pm
Another one that was recommended, but we did not get there. This is an artist run gallery that not only features contemporary visual art, but also performance, artist talks, publications and special projects.
JEM (Just East of Main)
225 E Broadway
We peered in from the outside, as it was not open when we stopped by. The great thing about the space is that we could see most of the artwork just fine from outside as it’s a small space with large windows.
480 Smithe Street, Suite 103
Tue – Sat: 12pm – 5pm
We didn’t get to see this gallery, but I thought it was well worth mentioning. It is a non-profit gallery run by a board of directors that are committed to exhibitions for contemporary art that is experimental, challenging or critical.
Western Front Gallery
303 E 8th Avenue (near Main)
Tue – Sat: 12pm – 5pm
The Western Front Society is one of Canada’s first artist-run centers. We would have 1st of all never found it, as it is off of Main, in a neighborhood and the building looks like an old Grange hall (I think maybe it is). So just get yourself onto main street and ask for directions! We were a little thrown off when we walked in. The only thing we saw was a movie playing in a darkened room. There were people walking around out in the hall busy doing something and I guessed that they may have worked there. But we ran out of time to explore and so we hot footed back out. The Western Front was recommended by several people we ran into, so I know that it is worth another visit.
All the galleries listed above are in or very close to downtown Vancouver. The one’s near Main are within walking distance of each other and we were told that there are a few other artist run galleries around Main as well. I look forward to getting another chance to re-explore the galleries and hopefully add a few more to the list!