Sunday, May 28, 2017

A day with Audain

Okay, so I don't usually like modern buildings, but the entrance to the sleek new Audain Art Museum in Whistler is pretty impressive. I was there on Saturday for a class tour  as part of my "Arts, Criticism and the City" course at Simon Fraser University. All photos by John, who graciously joined the action.

Philanthropist Michael Audain spent about $40 million on this building to house his extensive B.C. art collection, much of it indigenous work. That's reflected nicely in the metal sculpture at the entrance. 

Me and my classmates busily taking notes at the beginning of the tour, led by chief curator Darrin Martens. At far left on the bench is Professor Sasha Colby. Notice the gorgeous natural landscape behind us.

One of the first things you see when you begin touring the museum is this work by Haida master carver James Hart, called The Dance Screen (The Scream Too). Audain once had it at his home; it must have been in a very big room.

In the E.J. Hughes room. John said seeing one of the paintings was worth the $18 price of admission all on its own. The painting was of a ship, of course.

Tucked away in a treed section of Whistler village weaves Michael Audain’s sleek new art project. I’m usually not a fan of modern minimalist architecture, but even I could appreciate the beauty of the Audain Art Museum’s glass-walled hallways overlooking natural landscapes, its geometrically stunning entrance, and an underbelly so well-designed that it’s impressive even when it’s the first thing you see of the building.

Audain, founder of Polygon Homes, a major player in the B.C. real-estate world, created the $40-million museum to provide a home for the extensive collection of B.C. art he and his wife had collected over the years. Much of the art is indigenous – both old and modern -- but one section is devoted to Emily Carr, and there is a fine selection of E.J. Hughes’ work, as well as a room of more modernist work by Jack Shadbolt and Bill Reid and huge photos by artists like Jeff Wall and Stan Douglas.

I came away from the tour – part of the "Arts, Criticism and the City" course I’m taking at Simon Fraser University – with stunning visual memories of brightly coloured paintings; solemn ancient masks, a wall-size screen alive with indigenous carving. But when our class gathered after the tour, our professor expected us to think beyond the impressive surfaces. And so we asked about the viability of a big-city-quality museum in a resort town with a permanent population of 10,000; who will pay its operating costs now that it’s been built, and what First Nations people think about their masks and other artifacts ending up in the museum.

Chief curator Darrin Martens, who conducted the tour, handled our questions like a pro. But there are course papers to be written, and I expect these issues will be as much a part of them as the fabulous creation Audain has slipped into Whistler.

This painting, Clearcut to the Last Old Growth Tree,  by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, caught my attention with its brilliant colours.

And here we are in the Emily Carr section,  busily taking notes and texting away.

Chief curator Darrin Martens talks about Jack Shadbolt's six-panel painting, Butterfly Transformation Theme, 1981. 

The class gets a look at Greg Girard's Shanghai View 4.

This was one of the more modern works, called Guitar # 5. It's a collage of guitar-related photos from the internet.

I don't know what the vaguely map-like work behind me is all about, but it's called Ploy, by Graham Gilmore.

And here we all are, near the end of the tour, which concludes with modern works. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow!!! I can't wait to see this...a whole room of E.J. Hughes.! We are going up July 12/13 to celebrate turning 70 and I just booked our hotel yesterday. What a wonderful amazing brings tears to my eyes.