Vancouver gallery to use new fund to purchase works by emerging artists

The Vancouver Art Gallery has received a $2-million endowment that will allow it to buy the works of emerging artists.

The Vancouver Art Gallery has received a $2-million endowment that will allow it to purchase the works of emerging artists.

The VAG announced the gift from the Vancouver-based Audain Foundation on Thursday.

The first work to be bought by the Audain Emerging Artists Acquisition Fund will be That's That's Alright Alright Mama Mama from local photographer and multi-media artist Mark Soo.

For the photo, which is a manipulated image meant to be looked at with 3-D glasses, Soo recreated the Sun Studio space where Elvis Presley recorded  That's All Right (Mama) in 1954. 

VAG curator Grant Arnold said Soo's work centres on an important moment in social and artistic history.

"It was time in which the emergence of the baby boom created the kind of audience who formed a market for things like music and in a lot of ways shifted or transformed the culture of that time," Arnold told CBC News.

"And this particular [work] refers to the debate of whether Elvis gave birth to rock 'n' roll or whether this was kind of a white appropriation of black music and because you can't take this in from any one perspective I think he's pointing out it's not so simple — it's more complicated than that."

The endowment will be used to purchase work by artists under age 35 who show promise but have not had a solo show at a major gallery.

The Vancouver Art Gallery Foundation now holds a total of $9.3 million in its acquisitions fund, which is meant to remain in perpetuity. The money will be invested to generate about $80,000 a year to buy work by new artists.

Philanthropist Michael Audain, who is currently chair of the Vancouver Art Gallery Foundation, as well as a trustee of the B.C. gallery and the National Gallery of Canada, supports visual arts projects throughout the Audain Foundation.

Four years ago the family gave $2 million to endow the position of curator of B.C. art at the VAG.

"Our family foundation is interested in the visual arts and we believe that the Vancouver Art Gallery is one of the leading art galleries now in the contemporary sphere of art in North American and they certainly deserve our support," Audain said on Thursday.

"There are so many promising young artists in Vancouver whose work should be collected by the Vancouver Art Gallery. It's a shame if that couldn't happen."

In the fall, the Vancouver Art Gallery will commission Kwakwaka'wakw artist Marianne Nicolson to create a large-scale projection work for its Georgia Street facade.


  • The work is called That's That's Alright Alright Mama Mama, not That's Alright Mama Mama as originally reported, and its creator is Mark Soo, not Michael Soo.
    Sep 26, 2008 10:40 AM ET