Vancouver

First Nations Art

Discover First Nations Art in Vancouver

From the moment you land at Vancouver International Airport, you’ll find yourself surrounded by local First Nations art. You’ll see the symbolic designs telling stories, marking events and decorating buildings throughout the city. Many of Vancouver’s must-see attractions incorporate sculptures, story poles and other artworks, such as Bill Reid’s beautiful killer whale sculpture at the entrance of the Vancouver Aquarium.

For visitors, First Nations art can be a way to truly experience a unique culture. Because art was often worn or used for practical purposes — in ceremonies and storytelling, for example — First Nations art pieces provide a great deal of insight into aboriginal life. You’ll find excellent examples of First Nations art in places such as the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, and the UBC Museum of Anthropology.

After learning about First Nations art, you may well find yourself looking for a unique souvenir to take home. Along with both attractions having high-quality items in their gift shops, Vancouver is home to some spectacular private galleries that specialize in First Nations art. Here are three great choices for finding yourself a First Nations masterpiece.

Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery

Celebrating its 20th year, Coastal Peoples showcases museum-quality master carvings, basketry, glasswork, jewellery and more, in both traditional and contemporary style. Pieces display the artists’ skill in embracing their heritage while also pushing the boundaries. In addition to displaying artwork in a warm environment that encourages browsers as well as buyers, the Gastown-based gallery hosts exhibitions, books signings and other events.

Inuit Gallery of Vancouver

Opened in 1979, the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver has become one of the leading purveyors of Inuit and Northwest Coast Native art. To put it frankly, this is a place to “ooh” and “aah” at the remarkable sculptures, graphics and jewelry that the gallery sells. Totem poles, masks, original drawings and other impressive works — all touted to be museum quality — compose the gallery’s impressive collection. New exhibitions rotate regularly through the gallery, some featuring First Nations artists and others presenting a theme such as contemporary Inuit art or Arctic wildlife.

Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery

A completely different gallery experience, the Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery is a social enterprise, providing a community-owned resource for Aboriginal artists. The gallery is dedicated to sharing the artistic and cultural work of the urban Aboriginal community, and offers authentic, hand-crafted items, from beautiful bentwood boxes and traditional jewellery designs, through to paintings and prints to adorn your walls when you get home.