Hope Springs Eternal
By ANN ROSENBERG
Alexander Popes 1734 An Essay on Man contains the oft-cited adage that no matter what the adversity, Hope Springs Eternal in the human breast. In the last five years natural disasters have devastated many parts of the world and monetary crises have shaken the foundations of financial institutions including those in the United States. Several countries have recently declared bankruptcy, a fate the U.S. has so far narrowly escaped. These days, capitalisms favourite panacea of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul will become more difficult and more expensive to achieve. Clearly, only an optimist would dare to initiate any business, especially a gallery, in the present economic circumstances.
Last issue I described the Waldorf Hotel on East Hastings (which opened in October 2010) as an excellent example of a new approach to creating a stimulating (and financially viable) venue where art, music, and food convened under one roof. People could eat, drink and be merry while gaining an amazing range of aesthetic experience and knowledge. At the Waldorf, high and low culture carom like balls on a pool table gaining energy and animation from each other. The infamous black velvet paintings of Edgar Leeteg, hung on the walls of the Tiki Bar, flaunt naked breasts in plain view of an open-minded audience.
A March 2010 issue of Business in Vancouver featured an article on former Graceland owner Vince Alvaro who had just opened Club Five Sixty on Seymour, an operation with a philosophy similar to that of the Waldorf Hotel. He hoped his club would cater to urbanites seeking a little nightlife who also appreciate art, fashion and film.
His business concept was blessed by Charles Gauthier, Executive Director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, who saw the need for a club like the one the Alvaro team proposed for that particular urban core location a nightspot that would bring sophistication and class to an area that was often rowdy, especially after the bars closed. The four-storey edifice of Five Sixty contains 29,000-square-feet carved into three dance floors, five bars, two lounges and two galleries on the mezzanine that are leased from the club. The Blanket Gallery is a commercial space and neighbour of the Satellite, which is connected with non-profit institutions like the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery, the Museum of Anthropology, and Presentation House Gallery, and run in accordance with the mandate of the Michael OBrian Family Foundation.
A Satellite gala event on September 17 will celebrate a major show of new works by Don Payne, a senior artist from Hornby Island. Behind the main bar of Club Five Sixty a group of back-lit photographs by well-known florist Thomas Hobbs will be installed. Will they be images of flowers? I asked of him, expecting a yes. No, replied Thomas, They are digitally distorted images of the deeply troubled people, like the one I call Marilyn, who bare their souls on talk shows. As at the Waldorf, the only thing that can be expected here is the unexpected.
Alternatively, to start and run a successful stand-alone gallery, one has to have a passion, an ever-developing expertise and the appropriate zeal. Craig Sibley of the Trench Gallery on Vancouvers Alexander Street conforms to that ideal by providing exhibition and consignment space especially for those who began their careers in the 1960s. The summer exhibition Monomania, for example, featured historically significant pieces like Gary Lee-Novas Sinking Ship.
His exhibitions not only demonstrate his energy in making contacts with appropriate artists and assembling lists of potential buyers, but are bearing fruit. According to Sibley, the gallery name is a metaphor for the good fight because sometimes you have to fight to keep a gallery going.
Finally, the Lúz Gallery for Photographic Arts in Victorias Oak Bay has been operating from its present Art Deco storefront and backroom studios since 2008. Director/Curator Diana Millar offers exceptionally high quality shows in the rather small-sized gallery that frequently include very few pieces as in the Still Pendulum show by Dan MacDougall. Her partner in business and life, Creative Director Quinton Gordon, is responsible for most other tasks including the organizing of specialized workshops led by known practitioners in the field of photography which are now drawing students from many parts of the world.
Lúz, the Spanish word for light, summarizes the essence of one aspect of the photographic aesthetic; the opposite of which is oscura or dark. The fact that its name is not in English reflects the international experience of the couple and their aim to create a centre that will be known everywhere. Perfect presentation is the hallmark of all aspects of this enterprise including its on-line promotions.
Beauty that expresses all things significant (including even unpretty truths) is what gives the optimistic proprietors above their raison detre. As Craig Sibley said, If you have an art work you love, you will never toss it into the landfill.
Ann Rosenberg is a freelance curator, critic