Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bartels to Wing Sang

Another reason why VAG Director Kathleen Bartels has my sympathies concerns a dinner held at Bob Rennie's Wing Sang Building in early September. The story I am about to tell has been stitched together from a number of sources, all of them similar enough to make it less an instance of gossip than a crime beat necessity.

The dinner in question was a rooftop "dinner-for-twelve" Rennie had donated to a Vancouver Symphony Orchestra auction earlier in the year. The winning bidder was VAG board member Eric Savics, a principal at a brokerage firm (Haywood) that my late father once worked at in the 1980s. Savics's invitees included Equinox Gallery's Andy Sylvester, his partner VAG Chief Curator/Associate Director Daina Augaitis, VAG board member and mining/movie mogul Frank Giustra, VAG board member Michael Audain and his wife Yoshi Karasawa, and, after asking her three times, a reluctant Kathleen Bartels, who was brought to the event by the VAG's other Associate Director, Paul Larocque. Apparently Savics had also invited Rennie, but as Rennie and Carey Fouks had planned to spend the evening on Jimmy Pattison's yacht, Rennie declined.

It was at some point during the dinner that a Wing Sang security guard identified Bartels on one of the building's surveillance screens, leading him to call a) Rennie Collection Director Wendy Chang, who then called Fouks or b) Fouks directly. Whatever the case, the call was received just as Fouks and Rennie were disembarking, and Fouks's response was to fall to his knees, then leap to his feet, throw his phone to the ground and, amidst a bouquet of expletives, announce to Rennie that Bartels had breached the perimeter. Enraged, Rennie told Fouks that he would handle it and jumped in his car, leaving Fouks to follow.

Rennie entered the lobby of Wing Sang just as the diners had started into their desserts (Audain, Karasawa and Giustra had left by then), whereupon he let loose with an expletive-laden scream that could be heard all the way to the roof. Most versions of the story have it that Bartels was in the bathroom at the time, though one version states that, upon hearing Rennie's voice, Bartels ran to the bathroom to hide. Either way, Rennie ascended the building (by stairs or by elevator, I am not sure) and informed the diners exactly what he thought of Bartels. At this point it is alleged that Laroque, fearful of Bartels's safety, ran downstairs to the bathroom hoping to find the VAG director and remove her from the premises, pressing elevators buttons along the way in the event that she was on her way back to the table.

At this point Fouks entered the building and, while making his way to the roof, came upon an elevator at the moment its doors were opening (how Larocque and Fouks did not pass each other on the way is unclear). Inside the elevator was Bartels, whom Fouks proceeded to lay into, calling her a string of unrepeatable names as she brushed past him and ran upstairs, with Fouks in pursuit. Upon her return Rennie then redirected his invective at Bartels, moving ever closer, to the point where Sylvester stepped between them, at which point Bartels and the rest of Savics's party were ushered out of the building. Another version has it that it was Rennie who confronted Bartels outside the washroom and, upon her return to the table, Fouks stormed in and took his expletives to the next level, after which Larocque escorted Bartels to a nearby apartment, where she could collect herself before returning home to her family.

A common response to this story is indicative of the bad feeling many have towards Bartels; namely, that she should not have gone to this dinner in the first place, given Rennie's antipathy towards her. But I disagree -- she went to this dinner at the repeated urging of one of her board members, what I interpret as an act of loyalty, or support. Another way to look at this is to question the logic of such a statement, because to say that Bartels should not have gone to Wing Sang that night is tantamount to saying that rape is justified when women put themselves in situations where rape is likely. I refuse to blame the victim here, because what Rennie and Fouks threw at Bartels breached far more than Bartels's breach of their perimeter. What these two did is reprehensible. Poe's "Masque of Red Death" -- but inverted.


  1. Penelope's Suitors

    "The citizens of Ithaca have followed Odysseus on the road, planning to avenge the killing of the Suitors, their sons. Their leader points out that Odysseus has now caused the deaths of two generations of the men of Ithaca: his sailors, not one of whom survived; and the Suitors, whom he has now executed. The goddess Athena intervenes and persuades both sides to give up the vendetta, a deus ex machina. After this, Ithaca is at peace once more, concluding the Odyssey." (

  2. The incredible animosity between Bartels and Rennie is a well known two-way street. So why would her board PRESSURE her so intensely to enter the 'home' of her enemy? The board pressure is either false or her board must hate her. Either way it sounds incredibly juvenile to have a dinner in his building, in his absence, with her included. If I were her, Rennie would have to beg me to cross his doorstep so I don't understand why she would ever step foot in his building. Is the VAG being run by a bunch of nitwits?

  3. By the way, while I respect your right to have your own opinion, applying the rape analogy in this instance is horrifically offensive to women (including Bartels) and I strongly recommend you re-consider your choice of words.

  4. I agree with Unknown above. A better analogy might be if you discover a trespasser in your home and yell at him/her to leave.

  5. Bartels went to a dinner, first -- Bob Rennie's, second. Rennie provided a dinner at his building as part of an auction donation. As far as I know, no conditions were placed on this dinner -- the winning bidder was free to invite whoever he or she chose. Bartels was not a "trespasser" that night but an invited guest.

    The assault Bartels endured at the hands and mouths of Fouks and/or Rennie -- from verbal abuse (the repeated use of a euphemism associated with the female anatomy, a four-letter word that begins with "c" and ends with "t") to a raised hand (the prodding finger of her approaching accuser) -- was far heavier than I conveyed in my post. Not rape, but the abuse of another human being.

    I chose the analogy because Vancouver streets remain unsafe for women, particularly those working the corners and alleys not far from Wing Sang; and because it is an analogy often raised in that area, especially in light of our municipal government's slow response to the plight of this city's missing women, some of whom were found dead at another killing field -- "Willie" Pickton's farm.

  6. This is kind of like the telephone game we played as kids, where the original story gets changed as it gets passed along. How do you know that your sources are actually telling the truth, and not embellishing to suit their purposes, since you weren't actually there? Presumably all the guests of this dinner were in support of Bartels, so it stands to reason that they would tell a story that would be pretty kind to her. It also seems, based on previous posts, you have some sort of axe to grind against Rennie - what heinous thing did he do to you to inspire such vitrol? Seems to me that everyone just needs to take a step back and remember we all love the same thing - art.

    I think Rennie and Bartels would both be appalled that you published this. I don't think you've served anyone by putting this up - you've become part of the problem, rather than the solution. Congratulations.

    1. If you have read my previous posts you will have noticed that I have applied my close reading of this city to Michael Audain as well. That you are so selective in your reading as to accuse me of having an "axe to grind against Rennie," and not Audain, tells me that you too are part of the problem. As for your "Congratulations," spare me the sarcasm.

  7. Michael, I don't know you at all, so as one human being to another, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and ASSUME you mean well. Your continued defense of the rape analogy is so heinous that it casts serious doubt on your judgement and ability to "report" on an event that you did not witness, describe private moments that you could not possibly know about and draw conclusions that can be in any way valid? Your entire post is so irresponsible.

  8. I love it. I was enjoying the corruption scandal, few minor earthquakes and spate of Molotov cocktail blasts that have headlined the daily news here in Montreal. But Michael your story tops all those. Keep up the fine reporting and don't back down to those that think journalistic integrity means that a report should be bereft of the trace elements of story. Keep it juicy and fry it later!!! Dylan C

  9. People, an analogy is an analogy. It does not mean that the situations are the SAME, only that the same PRINCIPLE can be applied. Get a grip. And if you disapprove of gossip columns, then avert your eyes and pay no attention.

    One wonders, might Bartels have put herself on Rennie's turf in order to inflame the situation for some motive. The question does not excuse Rennie's/Fouks' alleged behaviour but could lead to an explanation for the same. After all, we are dealing with humans here, presumably.

    In any case, reports like the above, about the oligarchs who are running the show, provide quite useful insight, if only indirectly.