Discover First Nations Art in Vancouver
You see its influence everywhere in Vancouver — at the airport, on the streets, at new venues for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, or in some of Vancouver’s must-see attractions. One thing is certain: First Nations art in Vancouver is not easy to miss. Distinctive thunderbirds, massive totem poles and intricate masks seem to crop up everywhere. It’s somewhat surprising, given the fact that these traditional art forms were banned during the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the 1950s and ‘60s that First Nations art reclaimed its rightful place at the forefront of Vancouver’s art scene.
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. Of course, you’ll find the best examples of First Nations art in Vancouver’s galleries. So if you want a real dose of culture, here are five spectacular art galleries that specialize in First Nations art.
Museum-quality contemporary master carvings, basketry, glasswork, jewellery and more display the artists’ skill of embracing their heritage and pushing the boundaries of it at the same time. In addition to displaying artwork in a warm environment that encourages browsers as well as buyers, the two galleries (Gastown and Yaletown) host exhibitions, books signings and other events.
Our Pick: Chilkat Sun Mask by Kevin Daniel Cranmer
Hill’s Native Art
Lloyd and Frances Hill began selling First Nations artwork out of their general store in Koksilah, Vancouver Island, in the mid-1900s. Their momentum in the business grew over the years, and today, they have five outlets in British Columbia representing every tribe and nation of the Northwest Coast. The three-level Gastown flagship store contains an astonishing collection of artwork and goods including carvings, masks, totem poles, argillite, jewelry, bentwood boxes, moccasins, clothing, rattles, drums, books and music.
Our Pick: Loon Feasting Dish by Aubrey LaFortune
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 “ahh” 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.
Our Pick: Arctic Murres by Kananginak Pootoogook
For more than 40 years, Appleton Galleries has been showcasing First Nations art and specializing in finding distinctive Inuit stone sculptures. With more than 3,000 original carvings, the gallery features masters such as Abraham Anghik Ruben and Clifford Pettman. Of particular note are the 100-plus tapestries called neevingatah, or “something to hang.”
Our Pick: Maple Plate by Steve Smith Dla’Kwagila
Marion Scott Gallery
The late Marion Scott was actually the first curator to organize a major exhibition of Inuit sculpture on the West Coast. The tradition continues with this Gastown gallery, which specializes in both contemporary and traditional First Nations Art and has become one of the anchors for creative art exhibitions. Featured artists include Luke Anowtalik and Victoria Mamnguqsualuk.
Our Pick: Stone sculpture by Eva Talooki Aliktiluk
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