The Vancouver Art Gallery is the largest art gallery in Western Canada. With the most significant collection of works by Emily Carr, BC’s preeminent artist and writer, it is well worth the entry fee. The gallery specializes in impressive national and international exhibitions, with innovative approaches to old masters as well as contemporary visionaries. The gallery’s collection comprises more than 10,000 works, including a large collection of photo-based art by Vancouver’s international art superstar Jeff Wall and renowned Haida artist Robert Davidson. Housed in a Neo-Classical heritage building redesigned by acclaimed local architect Arthur Erickson, the gallery opened in 1983.


prac_info 750 Hornby St • 604 662 4700 • www.vanartgallery.bc.caOpen 10am–5pm daily (to 9pm Tue) • Adm adult $24, seniors $20, students $18, children $6.50, under-5s free, by donation 5–9pm Tue

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  • The Gallery Café patio is lovely on sunny days, and is ideal for catching a break in between exhibit tours. You do not need to pay admission to the gallery to eat at the café.
  • The Gallery Store sells contemporary art books, posters, paper goods, jewelry, and giftware, including a wide range of Emily Carr merchandise.

1. Court House Building

Built in 1912 as the Provincial Court House, the building reflects the imposing style of the era’s leading Canadian architect, Francis Rattenbury.

2. First Nations Art

Paintings, carvings, and sculpture by Pacific Northwest First Nations artists are part of the gallery’s rotating permanent collection, which includes sculptures by late Haida master carver Bill Reid. Reflecting the Modernist style of many First Nations artists, Eagles, by Haida artist Robert Davidson, combines principles of abstraction with traditional First Nations iconography.


A ceremonial mask carved from wood on display at Vancouver Art Gallery

3. Architecture

Architectural icon Arthur Erickson added 41,400 sq ft (3,715 sq m) of exhibition space to the old Provincial Court House when transforming it into the gallery’s home. Erickson retained many of the original features, including the courtroom, with its carved judge’s bench.


The grand entrance to the Vancouver Art Gallery

4. Exhibitions Program

The celebrated works of Monet, Picasso, Botticelli, Cézanne, the Dutch masters, and the Group of Seven are just a sample of the recent exhibitions shown at the VAG. Works of local and emerging talents from around the globe are also exhibited.

5. Art on the Rooftop

Vancouver artist Ken Lum’s innovative Four Boats Stranded: Red and Yellow, Black and White stands out on the gallery’s roof. The installation includes a scaled-down version of a First Nations longboat.

6. Emily Carr Collection

The Gallery holds more than 200 works by Emily Carr. This renowned West Coast artist studied local First Nations cultures, capturing their way of life in her paintings. Haida artifacts such as totem poles were a common subject. Stormy West Coast colors as seen, for example, in Totem Poles, Kitseukla, dominate her work. Items such as her tiny sketchbook are also on display.


Old Village of Kitseukla by Emily Carr

7. Photoconceptual Collection

The gallery is world-renowned for its permanent collection of contemporary photo-based art. It spans two decades and includes works by the Vancouver School of artists, such as Jeff Wall, Stan Douglas, Ian Wallace, and Ken Lum, as well as famous international artists Nancy Spero and Cindy Sherman, among others.

8. Family Programming

The gallery makes art accessible to younger visitors with family-focused activities every Sunday, as well as several “mega” family-oriented weekends each year. There are also regular events organized for teenagers.

9. Jeff Wall Collection

Local artist Jeff Wall’s photographic works, presented in large light boxes, focus on complex urban environments and feature images inspired by social issues.

10. Southern Façade

Overlooking Robson Street, the original steps into the court house are a popular meeting spot for locals. On the portico is the work Placed Upon the Horizon (Casting Shadows) by conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner. The letters here were carved in yellow cedar.


The Southern Façade of the Vancouver Art Gallery


Although Emily Carr was born into a very wealthy Victoria family in 1871, the eccentric artist chose a bohemian lifestyle instead, painting on a pauper’s budget, often in the old-growth forests of Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). It was only in 1937 that the Vancouver Art Gallery bought one of her works. Largely overlooked during her lifetime, Carr’s works now command some of the highest prices in Canada.

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