Vancouver Art Gallery receives $ 100 million donation from Audain family for new building


The Audain family of Vancouver has donated $ 100 million for the construction of the new Vancouver Art Gallery building, a gift billed as the largest ever given to a gallery in Canada.

Michael Audain, president of Polygon Homes Ltd., one of the largest builders of multi-family homes in British Columbia, announced the donation from his family foundation on Thursday.

“Of all the art galleries I have visited, this is the one that has taught me the most about art and has given me many wonderful and inspiring experiences,” said Audain, a collector long-standing art gallery that has its own gallery in Whistler.

“This building will hopefully make Vancouver a unique place to honor the talent of our internationally respected artistic community,” Audain said at a press conference.

The Vancouver Art Gallery has been raising funds for an ambitious $ 400 million new construction project in Larwill Park in downtown Vancouver for more than a decade.

It would include a 300,000 square foot building designed by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron in consultation with Coast Salish artists.

Michael Audain, left, and his wife Yoshiko Karasawa on Thursday signed the official gift document to donate $ 100 million to the Vancouver Art Gallery. Gallery CEO Anthony Kiendl is also pictured. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

Staff have long said that its current building, which was once the city’s main courthouse, is too small and ill-suited for art collections.

After Audain’s donation, the gallery has $ 160 million left to reach its goal. Its CEO was optimistic about what could happen by 2022.

“If everything goes as planned, we can start in a year,” said Anthony Kiendl.

Budget increases to $ 400 million

The budget for the new building was initially set in 2013 at $ 350 million, but this cost has risen to $ 400 million.

The original plan to fund the site was to raise $ 150 million from private donors and convince the BC and federal governments to provide $ 100 million each.

With Audain’s contribution, the project exceeded its goal of private funding, but government funding proved more difficult to obtain.

In 2019, the province had pledged $ 50 million and the federal government had promised nothing.

“Ladies and gentlemen, our federal government needs to come to the party very quickly,” said Audain, who has served on the gallery’s board of directors for over 30 years.

“When you consider Ottawa’s generous support for our galleries in other parts of Canada, I’m frankly perplexed that they haven’t yet indicated their support for this project.

Michael Audain, a homebuilder and art collector, pictured Thursday when his family’s $ 100 million donation was announced. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

The City of Vancouver donated the land at Larwill Park for the project. Mayor Kennedy Stewart said Thursday the donation was “breathtaking”.

“It takes us to the next step of putting shovels in the ground and, more importantly, art on the walls,” he said.

Kiendl, the gallery’s CEO, said the building could open in 2026 at the earliest. He echoed the mayor’s remarks, saying the Audain donation was “unprecedented”.

The new building will still bear the name of the Chan family, who donated $ 40 million to the project in 2019.

Audain said the family, who have made their wealth in real estate and clothing and made other major philanthropic donations to Vancouver’s arts and culture scene, inspired him to make his own donation.

“Revitalized” design

Also on Thursday, the gallery announced that the design of the new building had been “revitalized” – in part because of Audain’s influence.

He said he ultimately decided to go ahead with the donation because the architects were ready to update the design to more reflect the First Nations communities on whose lands the gallery will be located. .

“There has been a big re-evaluation of the design and I think the most important aspect of that… has been to match the First Nations in this region,” Audain said. “For years we went to art galleries and saw no notion of the art created by the original inhabitants of the region.”

An updated render of the design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery was released on Thursday. The building will be made of wood and glass, surrounding a 40,000 square foot courtyard. (Provided by the Vancouver Art Gallery)

The facade design for the building was developed in consultation with architects and artists representing the three host First Nations: xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Artists Debra Sparrow, Chepximiya Siyam ‘Janice George, Skwetsimeltxw Willard “Buddy” Joseph and Angela George have been consultants on the project since March.

The new gallery will have over 80,000 square feet of exhibition space as well as a theater, library, research center and artist studios. There will be a daycare and nursery school, as well as housing for artists who come from out of town.

The building will be built around a 40,000 square foot courtyard.


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