Friday, October 12, 2012

What Does Rennie Want?

Michael Audain, Kathleen Bartels and Bob Rennie have huge hands in the symbolic production of this city. At the root of the symbolic is not certainty, like the market craves, but ambiguity, those liminal spaces where the mind and body suddenly veer left or right or cycle back; folding, unfolding. What we enjoy in our art experience is that uncertainty; how, with a little knowledge, we can travel, let go, either to affirm what we think we know or arrive at a new place, a place where everything around us, and within us, can be experienced in an entirely different light.

Michael Audain has a vast collection of art objects and wants a permanent place in which to display them ("in my lifetime"). Kathleen Bartels is the director of a public gallery (VAG) that, as it stands, is too small to display Audain's collection, and was hired by a board (on which Audain sits) to "sell" a new gallery to public (government) and private (business) sectors. Bob Rennie also has a vast collection of art objects, as well as a building in which to show them -- his own (Wing Sang). We know what Audain wants, we know what Bartels wants, but what does Rennie want? What does Rennie want that he does not already have -- besides certainty?

Recall the City's insistence that the VAG's proposed new building share the City-owned Larwill Park block with other cultural amenities  -- with a market housing tower to subsidize these amenities. Recall, too, that Bartels, Audain and former VAG board chair David Aisenstat came out of the gate two years ago insisting that the VAG have the entire block, a proposal that was not well-received at the City. What part of this situation, if any, does Rennie object to?

Given Rennie's gold standing with the City (for helping it out on Olympic Village), and the City's potential as a Larwill block development partner (as it was with Olympic Village), might Rennie see the loss of this capital-generating tower (would he not be the sales agent for its condos?) as money out of his pocket? I ask this not to be coy but as a Vancouverite in search of both an answer to the question and a motivation for Rennie's rage against the VAG. Is this what Rennie is seeking, assuming he is out for something other than certainty?

What ails you, Bob Rennie? And why won't you share it with us?


  1. It's obvious to anyone the current VAG space is inappropriate as an art gallery. The only ideal aspect of that building is its location. It's also blatantly obvious that the VAG cannot come remotely close to raising the $300 million required for the kind of building Bartels wants. She ran a near $1 million dollar deficit last year and we are economically nowhere for that kind of fundraising. Rennie says he wants money put into content, not building. That's all we know. If he has ulterior motives, he's been hiding them well and they may yet become visible over time. But the content, not edifice approach is the only intelligent way to go. It's time for VAG supporters to get real and get things done. Running around trying to get support for a mega building they cannot come close to paying for is a waste of everyone's energy and time... resources better put towards an affordable functioning building and smart programming and strong acquisitions.

    1. I agree with you that the current VAG location is the best location. If UBC were to quit Robson Square in favour of the VAG expanding into those spaces, great. As for "content" (collection) over "edifice" (stand alone "iconic" building), I am with you there too (see my comments in the link below).