A Curator’s View: Ian Thom Selects

Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC

VANCOUVER ART GALLERY, VANCOUVER BC - Sep 22, 2018 - Mar 17, 2019 
By Michael Turner
The announcement last spring of VAG Senior Curator Ian Thom’s retirement allowed many in the Vancouver art community to reflect on the curator’s work, as well as what it means to give 30 years of your life to a single institution. For those who entered the workforce after the late 1980s, a lifelong job seems as distant as your grandfather’s war. But that’s when Thom joined the VAG as Senior Curator – in 1988 – and his contribution to the VAG is as much thestory of the gallery as it is the story of Thom.
For his final exhibition, Thom selected from the VAG’s 12,000+ permanent collection a range of historical and contemporary works that he considers foundational, both to the collection and to himself. These include works by Emily Carr, Robert Davidson, David Hockney, Beatrice Lennie and Andy Warhol. To find out more about what motivated his selection, Preview requested an interview.
Preview: Is there an exhibition you are most proud of?
Thom: The first major show I did at the VAG – David Milne. It was the most comprehensive retrospective of Milne’s work and remains very close to me. Otherwise, I am proud to have enabled Vancouverites to see the Leonardo drawings during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Preview: What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your time at the VAG?
Thom: Perseverance will usually get you there in the end.
Preview: Is that lesson reflected in your Selects exhibition?
Thom: Yes, in some of the works that I facilitated entering the collection.
Preview: Is there a work from the VAG collection that you will miss the most, one that you wish you could take home with you?
Thom: No. The works that I helped bring into the collection are where they should be – available to the public.

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