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Eugène Atget, Place du Tertre, Montmartre, Paris, c. 1922 (printed c. 1950s). Silver gelatin print. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of Claudia Beck and Andrew Gruft.

VANCOUVER.- In December, the Vancouver Art Gallery received significant donations of artwork to its permanent collection that build on its strengths in photo-based, Indigenous, Asian and Conceptual works of art.

Internationally-recognized photography collectors Claudia Beck and Andrew Gruft donated 36 artworks by 26 artists from their private collection. Beck and Gruft have developed a remarkable collection of photography over the course of several decades, considered one of the most important photography collections in Canada. The expansive holdings of these Vancouver-based collectors span a period of time from the invention of the medium in the nineteenth century to the present, and include works by national and international artists. Cumulatively, the couple has donated 552 artworks to the Gallery to date, including their recent gift of 36 artworks. 

Their gift enhances the Gallery’s photography collection in a number of ways. Vintage prints by nineteenth century practitioners such as Henri Béchard, Samuel Bourne, Adolph de Meyer, James McDonald, August Sander and Auguste Salzmann significantly augment the Gallery’s holdings of early photography. Works by photographers working in the early twentieth century such as Annie Brigman, Lewis Wickes Hines, Helen Levitt and Aaron Siskind speak to the ways in which the medium evolved conceptually and stylistically in the early 1900s. Prints by influential figures such as Eugène Atget, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Larry Clark, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Albert Renger-Patzsch and Alfred Steiglitz— all of whom shaped the course of photography in fundamental ways in the twentieth century— are indispensable to the Gallery’s collection.

The Gallery is so fortunate to possess an internationally-recognized collection of photography that has been impacted by the incredible generosity of discerning collectors such as Claudia Beck and Andrew Gruft,” said Daina Augaitis, Interim Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery. “We equally recognize the transformative value of exceptional works of art by Indigenous, Asian and Conceptual artists.

Donated by Donald Ellis, the Gallery received five significant silver and gold pieces by the renowned Haida artist Charles Edenshaw (Da.a.xiigang), including two finely crafted bracelets of remarkable provenance and three carved spoons. Edenshaw, a former Haida chief and prominent carver working in the late nineteenth century made many innovations in his silverwork. His artistic legacy continues to be an important influence on many Indigenous artists today. The Gallery acknowledges the acumen and generosity of donors who have contributed enormously to the growth of these holdings.

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Charles Edenshaw, Bracelet, Late 19th C., gold. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift from Donald Ellis in honour of Daina Augaitis. Photo: John Taylor.

The Gallery’s commitment to presenting art from the Pacific Rim is strengthened with fifteen artworks by six international Asian artists, including Qiu Zhijie, Zhou Tiehai and Koki Tanaka, each of whom participated in exhibitions in Vancouver in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This substantial donation from the art collection of Jack and Maryon Adelaar furthers the Gallery’s representation of artmaking in China and Japan from a period of significant growth and development.

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Zhijie Qiu, Tattoo II, 1994, chromogenic print. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Gift of the Adelaar Family.

The Gallery received multiple works by internationally-recognized contemporary artists Gareth Moore and Johannes Wohnseifer whose practices are informed by the histories of conceptual art. These important additions were made possible through a generous donation by influential collectors and long-standing donors Ann and Marshall Webb.

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Gareth Moore, How many people have cut their feet on broken glass in the Yucatan peninsula since 1969, 2003, c-print mounted on aluminum, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Gift from the Ann and Marshall Webb Collection. Image: Courtesy Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

One of the purposes of the new Vancouver Art Gallery building is to address the lack of dedicated gallery space for the collection in the current building. In the new building, 40,000 square feet of exhibition space will be dedicated to showcasing the collection, allowing visitors to learn about and enjoy the many acquisitions made throughout the year.

The Gallery’s collection continues to grow. From July 2018 to June 2019, the Gallery acquired 196 works through purchases and donations, bringing the total number of works in the collection to 12,167. The Gallery recognizes and extends sincere appreciation to the many donors who have contributed to the growth of the Gallery’s collection, making it an incomparable cultural resource in British Columbia.