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CURRENT COLUMN

Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers
September 2013
Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers

Audain Art Museum
June 2013
Siting an Art Museum in a Forest

Gordon Smith Gallery
November 2012
Boosting the Profile of Artists for Kids

Equinox
September 2012
From glacial meltwater to contemporary art

Morris & Helen Belkin Gallery
June 2012
Professional curators of contemporary art were once as scarce as hen's teeth

Equinox Gallery
April 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Equinox Gallery
February 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Jacana Gallery
November 2011
Nothing is certain but death and taxes

Satellite Gallery
September 2011
Hope springs eternal


June 2011
The Hotel Waldorf
reimagined


April 2011
Education for the eye,
soul and mind


February 2011
Fine art inkjet prints
are here to stay


November 2010
SAAG endows the old
with new possibilities

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Gallery Views

By ANN ROSENBERG

Woodward’s 2010: Better Than One Could Imagine

Woodward’s ‘W’

Replica of the original revolving Woodward’s ‘W’ is illuminated by 6,000 low-energy LED lights, Photo: Gorrman Lee

Atrium of the Woodward’s complex

Atrium of the Woodward’s complex with the photomural, Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, by Stan Douglas over the entrance

The Woodward's Department Store, first established at Main and Georgia Streets in 1892, moved in 1903 to Hastings and Abbott, a short walk from Gastown. In 1908 and several times thereafter, it expanded to almost fill a city block. Some parts of the earlier portions of the sprawling edifice featured roof-line pediments and curved concrete arches over upper storey windows that were typical of the Italianate style popular in Vancouver at the time.

In 1993 bankruptcy forced the store to shut down. The mammoth art show, Artropolis ’93, was staged in the lower floors after the closure, and was the last important public event held in the premises. As an Artropolis board member, I had the opportunity to peek into Woodward’s secret places such as the dungeon-like sub-basement, and to view several of the 10- to 12-foot high floors that were suspended from an internal grid of steel girders which could never be reconfigured. It was difficult to imagine how any part of the old structure could be re-used and as the area deteriorated, Woodward's became an empty ruin besieged by squatters. Everyone knew that all significant change to the neighbourhood depended on what would happen at Woodward's.

On September 4, 2004, after 10 years of futile negotiations, the City of Vancouver chose Westbank Projects/Peterson Investment Group to develop and Gregory Henriquez Partners Archtitects to design the $400-million Woodward’s project. In the fall of 2006, after the landmark 1944 ‘W’ sign with Eiffel Tower-like support and parts of the original edifice were removed, what was left of the department store came down in a thundering implosion.

The exciting new multi-purpose Woodward’s complex is comprised of four major structures, two of which are towers containing more than 700 units of market and subsidized housing. The flat-iron shape of tower W-43 makes an intentional allusion to Vancouver’s historic Hotel Europe and the Dominion Building. The SFU Woodward's structure is home to the Simon Fraser University School for the Contemporary Arts, the Audain Gallery and the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre.

The Stan Douglas masterwork above the entry into the atrium had its formal introduction on January 15. The amazing 30 by 50-foot photomural Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, is a digitally manipulated photodocument of the Gastown Riots. Douglas depicts the events not where, nor exactly how they were, nevertheless his recreation allows his image to be more universal, witty and wise. Ken Lum’s text piece, installed in several Hastings Street windows on January 13, launched the Audain Gallery's Coming Soon ongoing project of public art installations. The first show to open within the Gallery space, First Nations/Second Nature, will be exhibited from February 6-March 20, 2010.

The 2.5 ton replica of the revolving illuminated ‘W’ secured in the original roof-top position on its "Eiffel Tower" and studded with 6,000 specially designed, low energy LED lights, was ceremoniously lit on January 15. The whole complex is a wonderful example of revitalized history.

Ann Rosenberg is a freelance curator, critic and author.

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