British Columbia

Offbeat Vancouver gallery Hot Art Wet City closing at end of month

Vancouver's sky-high real estate costs have pushed a small art gallery that celebrated "weird" art out of business.

'Bad People: Portraits of the Punishable' will be gallery's final exhibit

For Valentine's Day 2016, Hot Art Wet City celebrated a different kind of love — the love of pizza — with their exhibit "I Chew Chew Chew You." (Hot Art Wet City)

A gallery that showcased local art, comedy and other creative events is leaving the Vancouver scene at the end of the month.

Hot Art Wet City on Main Street has been a centre for offbeat and affordable culture since 2012 but owner Chris Bentzen says the sky-high cost of real estate means this month's exhibition will be the last.

"It's the end of a lease, and art sales aren't good enough to justify renewing the lease," he told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko. "So it's time to move on.

"It's been a good run … but I can't keep going into debt running an art gallery."

Bentzen says his gallery aimed to fill a gap in the arts scene: it was smaller and offered art that was more affordable than at high-end galleries. It was a place that could give newer artists a chance, and also one that Bentzen says is just plain "weird."

"Contemporary surrealist stuff, lowbrow art, dirty art, nude art," he said.

The gallery was also home to weekly comedy shows, frequently hosted by Graham Clark, a mainstay on CBC Radio's The Debaters.

Friday saw the opening reception of the final show, "Bad People: Portraits of the Punishable" with art from the figurative art collective Phantoms in the Front Yard.

Speaking ahead of the event, Bentzen said it would bring him mixed emotions.

"I'm feeling lots of different things: relief, so I can take a break, but also a lot of sadness for not being able to see what artists in Vancouver come up with before anybody else," he said.

"Now I just gotta be a regular attendee to art shows."

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

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