Vancouver Art Gallery Receives $1.5 Million Gift from Indigenous Art Specialist Donald Ellis for New Building, Bringing Capital Campaign to $136.5M

  • VANCOUVER, Canada
  • /
  • February 26, 2020

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L: Donald Ellis, Photo: John Bigelow Taylor. R: rendering, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada, © Herzog & de Meuron, Herzog & de Meuron

The Vancouver Art Gallery has announced a generous $1.5 million capital campaign gift from Donald Ellis, a longtime supporter of the Gallery. Ellis, a Canadian art dealer, founded the Donald Ellis Gallery which has an international presence including New York. For the past four decades, Ellis has served private collectors, corporations and museums in Canada, the United States, Europe and in BritishColumbia to build remarkable collections. As a recognized authority in historical Indigenous art, among other notable accomplishments, Ellis has been a regularly featured appraiser of Indigenous art on the PBS, BBC and CBC Antiques Roadshow.

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

“Through his monetary and art donations over the past decade, Donald Ellis has been a generous donor to the Vancouver Art Gallery,” stated Daina Augaitis, Interim Director at the Gallery. “I’m thrilled that he is making such a remarkable commitment to showcase historical Indigenous art in the new Gallery building. His generosity brings us one step closer to realizing
a new Gallery building.”

The Vancouver Art Gallery was among the first Canadian galleries to consider Indigenous objects as art rather than ethnography. Continuing Doris Shadbolt’s perspective, the Gallery has contributed considerably to the preservation and documentation of Indigenous art, particularly of the West Coast through major group and solo exhibitions and publications.
Collecting Indigenous art is a more recent endeavour, one that was greatly aided last month with Ellis’ recent gifts to the Gallery’s collection including five finely carved Charles Edenshaw artworks. His capital campaign gift will be recognized in the historical Indigenous gallery in the new Gallery building.

“The artistic contributions of Indigenous Peoples over centuries—from the Coast Salish, the Kwakwakaʼwakw, Haida (Xaat Kíl) and beyond— are essential to the history of Canada. I am deeply committed to the expansion of the Vancouver Art Gallery and the potential it has to advance reconciliation through art. By remembering the effects of history, art can be a healing act providing the public with opportunities to develop a deeper understanding of Indigenous history and culture,” stated Ellis. “It is my hope that my contribution will inspire others in the community to participate and have a hand in shaping Vancouver’s cultural identity.”

This $1.5 million gift illustrates the forward progression of the Gallery’s capital campaign. Today’s announcement brings the total amount raised from the private sector to $86.5 million—the highest amount ever raised by an arts and culture organization in British Columbia. Including the initial support from the Province of British Columbia, the campaign
has reached a total of $136.5 million to date.

The new 300,000 square-foot purpose built Gallery will incorporate Passivhaus design, widely recognized as the most rigorous energy standard in the world making the Gallery a showcase for environmental sustainability in the Canadian and global cultural sector. Additionally, as a strong economic and tourism catalyst, construction of the new Gallery building will support
the equivalent of 2,973 jobs. Once it is built, out-of-town visitors to the new Gallery are anticipated to contribute more than $78.6 million annually to Vancouver’s economy. 

The new Gallery will be a creative and cultural gathering place for British Columbians, local members, the public and international visitors of all ages providing opportunities for public dialogue, education and life-long learning. It will reflect the diversity of our communities connecting people and improving the quality of life. Located at the intersection of West Georgia and Cambie Streets, the Gallery will incorporate over 80,000 square feet of exhibition space (more than double the current exhibition capacity) half of which is dedicated to the Gallery’s permanent collection; two Free-Access Galleries; a 300+ seat Theatre; four classrooms, a Library/Archives; Gallery Store and Restaurant; and state-of-the-art museum facilities for art storage and preparation. The new Gallery building will firmly establish Vancouver as one of the world’s leading cities for arts and culture.

Watch a video featuring Donald Ellis, Tarah Hogue, Senior Curatorial Fellow of Indigenous Art, Vancouver Art Gallery and Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, artist and author.

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