Art Gallery of Greater Victoria opens two galleries to show new view

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV) recently made a big change in how it displays its collections. Having amassed a substantial archive of Asian, Indigenous, and Canadian art and artifacts, the AGGV has opened two ongoing galleries to permanently display their collections to the public. The new venture is called A View From Here, and Steven McNeil, one of the co-curators of the project, couldn’t be more excited. 

“It’s a co-curated show between myself, Dr. Hangzhou, who’s our curator of Asian art, and Mel Grandly, who was our assistant curator and a specialist in contemporary Indigenous art. We were trying to come up with an overarching title that would apply to all three of the collections that we were showcasing. We went with A View From Here in the end, because it is a way of looking at the collection at this point in time, literally being a view of where we’re at. We’re reassessing what the future of the gallery is going to be and how we’re collecting.”

Meryl McMaster’s Wingeds Calling is being shown in A View from Here at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (photo provided).

The gallery featuring the Asian art collection in particular has been a long time coming. The AGGV boasts the largest collection of Asian art and artifacts in Western Canada, but for most of its history there hasn’t been room in the main gallery to share both the rotating exhibits and the impressive Asian works they have. So, for decades they were kept in the archive. 

“It’s also sort of reimagining how we present our collection to the public, because most of what you see there has been in storage for quite a long time. We haven’t had a permanent gallery devoted to the Asian collections, for example, in quite a long time, but we used to… It’s also a sign of Victoria’s geography and history. You know, we have the oldest Chinatown in Canada here, we’ve had large Asian populations who have contributed a lot to the city over the years. So naturally, there are works of art and historical artifacts circulating in the city and have been for generations and generations. So it was kind of a natural fit for the gallery to collect in that area.”

McNeil worked on the Canadian portion of the new galleries and is keenly aware of the ways curating an exhibit and arranging art to tell a story is its own art form. 

“It’s a challenge to take one gallery and try to represent a historical collection that goes back several decades and generations,” he says. “Through dividing up the space with wall color, and just visual divides, we have a section for early 20th-century modernism, we have a section for mid-century modernism, and we have a section for Victorian painting with the big salon hanging at the back of the gallery where the ceilings are high. And then we have a contemporary section. So it feels like a series of rooms, even though it’s one big room, and that was fun to do.”

McNeil also wants students to know about a new development at the AGGV that will encourage them to come check out this, and other, exhibits.

“Admission is free for everyone who’s 25 and under now,” he says. “That’s a fairly recent change we made because we didn’t want the cost of an admission ticket to be a barrier to undergraduate students and young people coming into the gallery as often as they wanted.”

A View from Here
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

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