Vancouver Art Gallery officials were celebrating this week, after learning the city is recommending they receive a 99-year lease for two-thirds of a block known as Larwill Park.
But of course, securing the land – currently a parking lot on the edge of downtown, a few blocks from their current site – is hardly a done deal. There is money to raise – and lots of it.
At this time a multimillion-dollar funding commitment is not something the government can afford.
Provincially, Culture Minister Bill Bennett said on Friday that providing an additional $50-million in the short term is “not very likely,” even though his party supports a new VAG (and under Gordon Campbell, already provided $50-million).
Should the NDP win the election, culture critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said this week that his party “would be more than happy to consider this, but in the context of many other requests.”
This does not mean the project is doomed; the city has indicated to The Globe that should private donors come forward with that money rather than government, that condition would be satisfied (although such as scenario is perhaps hard to imagine in this economy).
But in any case, let’s dream for a moment: Should the VAG raise the money, get the land, and build a new museum, it opens up possibilities for its current home, the old provincial courthouse designed by Francis Rattenbury which is at the heart of the city, geographically and otherwise.
The city wants a cultural use for the site. What might it become, years down the road?
There has been talk about the possibility of an Asian art museum moving into the VAG space. Robert H. N. Ho, a wealthy West Vancouver-based philanthropist with an interest in bringing Chinese art to western audiences, heads a foundation that recently gave millions to the Guggenheim Museum in New York to commission works from contemporary Chinese artists.
Other potential uses: a museum for First Nations art or more room for the University of British Columbia, which already has a presence in Robson Square.