Vancouver Art Gallery officials estimate it will cost $350 million to realize their plan for a new downtown location on a prime piece of city-owned property.
“At this point we don’t have an architect or a site yet, but when you look at institutions from around the world that is the rate that we’re looking at,” gallery director Kathleen Bartels told reporters today (April 28).
During a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon this afternoon, gallery officials presented their case for building a new home on an open lot across the street from the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
They argue a replacement is needed because the courthouse building on Robson Street no longer meets the gallery’s needs. The gallery board wants a larger space for exhibits, public and educational programs, as well as a growing art collection.
But the City of Vancouver has not yet made a decision on allowing construction of a new gallery on the site, which was formerly a bus depot.
City of Vancouver Coun. Heather Deal told the Straight by phone that the gallery has not yet presented a detailed proposal for use of the site.
“I do think they make a compelling case for needing a new facility. There’s a wide range of public opinion on that, but they’ve certainly made the case very well that they do need a new building,” she said.
During the board of trade presentation, gallery board chair Michael Audain noted the province has offered $50 million toward a replacement building and unnamed donors have promised another $40 million.
“It’s very difficult to say exactly how much the new building is going to cost because we don’t have a design for it yet,” he said, although he estimated the price tag could reach $350 million.
Fundraising efforts would target public and private donors and the federal government, he said.
Some critics argue the Robson Street gallery could simply be expanded underground. But Audain responded that the costs are too high and the gallery would have to close for two years.
While the presentation did not reveal many details on what the new gallery could look like, Bartels said the idea is to create a “landmark building” in the spirit of the great art institutions found in London, Paris and Barcelona.
David Aisenstat, gallery board chair, added that public support for the new gallery should persuade the city to support construction on the Dunsmuir Street site.
“Once that happens then we’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do,” he said.