Friday, April 19, 2013

Colours of the Market State

When travelling, news from home has a different sheen. What is big news sometimes appears small, depending on where one is looking. Conversely, what is small can sometimes find its parallel in a local variant, making the world smaller, more engaged. But again, depending on where one is looking.

When I heard the news that the Vancouver Art Gallery won City approval to fundraise for a move to Larwill Park I was enjoying the unsecured server of a cafe whose walls are filled with art. Not the art I see at the Vancouver Art Gallery, but that which its patrons gave it in exchange for meals.

The Vancouver Art Gallery has served up a number of thoughtful meals over the years, sometimes to my liking, sometimes because they are good for me, sometimes for those whose interests are so different from mine as to mistake art for fashion, conflict for affirmation, criticism for hype. But all in all I appreciate the VAG, and am among the first to recognize that in its attempt to be all things it can only skimp at times on what I want and what is good for me.

Although I am not in town to share the VAG's news, I imagine many are happy to hear it, particularly those who feel the most important part of the VAG is not its building or its location but its collection, which many of us hope to see displayed on a permanent basis, where the (symbolic) stories of our city and our moment can be discussed, debated, supplemented and synthesized.

Of course not everyone will be happy to hear about the VAG's move. Some will complain that taxpayers will be expected to bear the brunt of it, while others will say the collection is not worth a hill of beans, while others still will say that giving up the centre of the city as a site of ambiguity will only make Vancouver more certain, less mutable, the market state one step closer.

One person who will be unhappy about the VAG's move is real estate agent/artist collector Bob Rennie, who has proven over the years that his problem is not with the VAG but with its director, Kathleen Bartels, a problem he contracted from dealer/art consultant Patrick Painter, who once advised Rennie to acquire works by artists whose relevance has risen dramatically over the years and whose ongoing complaint that Bartels would not buy from him provided the starter for Rennie's sourdough.

Evidence of Rennie's unhappiness can be found in his recent de-accessioning of the work of an artist most active in the campaign for a larger, art-friendly VAG: Roy Arden. Further evidence can be found in another de-accessioned work, this time by an artist not active in the campaign but whose boyfriend is: me.

Is it a stretch to suggest that my girlfriend's work has been sent to auction (along with Arden's) because I have supported the VAG and, perhaps especially, because I have questioned Rennie's behaviour as a human being? I don't think so. In fact, I have evidence to suggest that Rennie's motivation is exactly that. But rather than divulge my sources, I would prefer instead to ask those of you who do business with Rennie to ask yourself what it is you are exchanging. Unless of course that exchange is, as they say, just business. In which case that is very big news, no matter where I am in the world.

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