Friday, November 4, 2011

The Michael Audaine Collection in the Vancouver Art Gallery

Emily Carr
War Canoes, Alert Bay, 1912.
oil on canvas

I was listening to The Current, on CBC Radio this morning and heard a delightful interview between Michael Audaine.  It was a spellbinding interview.  Michael Audaine has spent his adult l and Jim Browne. Audfeime, as a private art collector and his interview told the story of a man who has lived a life of commitment to collecting West Coast art.  Audaine said that he  is really excited about West Coast Art and he cannot say enough about Emily Carr. He says that her star is still rising and that if she  had painted in Paris with Gaugin she would enjoy the same kind of international recognition. He also went on to say that he talks to his Native Masks, many of which were worn by native shaman.  He tells them such things as,"You are almost home now and have returned tot he West Coast, where you belong." 

The role of private collectors in the art world has always been essential to both artists and museums. Private collections are formed in a variety of ways, yet some achieve particular distinction for their depth, breadth and quality. The works assembled by Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa over the last two decades form one of the most important private holdings of work by First Nations and non-First Nations British Columbia artists. The Audains have created a collection that allows a particularly rich history of the art of British Columbia to be told.

Beginning with the powerful ceremonial objects of the First Nations peoples, Shore, Forest and Beyond: Art from the Audain Collection traces the important strands of artistic production in the province right up to the present day. The co-curators have selected some 170 works from the Audain’s personal collection, as well as past works they have donated for the Gallery’s permanent collection. It features their particularly strong collection of the work of British Columbia’s most distinguished painter, Emily Carr, while presenting work by other prominent Canadian Modernists, including Lawren Harris, Frederick Horsman Varley and B.C. Binning. Their holdings of historical west coast indigenous art are complemented by a significant group of contemporary First Nations works, a number of which have been newly commissioned by the Audains. The photo-based art of the region has also received their careful attention, and they have been generous donors of works by Jeff Wall and Scott McFarland to the Vancouver Art Gallery. Finally, the exhibition includes another major area of focus—Mexican Modernism—representing the most significant collection of this art in Canada, with works by Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siquieros and Rufino Tamayo. The works presented—the first extensive survey of the collection—provide an overview of its richness and strengths. 

Michael Audain has said that “living with art has been one of the great joys of my life.” These works attest to the wide range of his interests and deep commitment to the province and its history. Although was not formed with the intent of showing it to others, the strengths of their collection make it one of the most distinctive in the country.

To visit the Vancouver Art Gallery and read this article about the Audaine Exhibition, please click here. 
Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Ian Thom, senior curator-historical, and Grant Arnold, Audain Curator of British Columbia Art. 

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