Kathleen Bartels to step down from Vancouver Art Gallery helm after 18 years

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      Vancouver Art Gallery director Kathleen Bartels has announced she's leaving her position.

      In a statement today, the VAG said she is departing her post of the last 18 years to "pursue other professional and personal interests".

      Bartels has been a key figure in leading the gallery to a new, expanded 300,000-square-foot landmark at West Georgia and Cambie streets, just south of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The $300 million project is on track to open in 2023. Earlier this year, she led a press conference announcing a massive $40 million private donation from the Chan family for its new location. She also unveiled a final design by Swiss-based Herzog & de Meuron architects that added glass to the previous proposal's wood cladding.

      At the announcement of the building design plan in 2015, Bartels enthused, "British Columbia will now have a building that matches the ambition of the outstanding artists who live and work here."

      She is to remain as a special advisor to the facility's interim director, former chief curator and associate director Daina Augaitis, who left her position in January 2017. She had held those roles since 1996. Bartels is also to serve as special advisor to board chair David Calabrigo.

      Daina Augaitis


      Under Bartels, the gallery increased its private-sector donations by 250 percent and its attendance by 37,000 members annually. Its collection also grew by 49 percent from 2001 to 12,000 works.

      In November, the VAG announced a record-breaking 2017-18 year at its AGM,  reporting 600,000 visitors attended exhibitions and programs at the facility and its public art site, and surpassing 2016/2017 visitation by close to 100,000 people.

      Prior to taking the helm of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Bartels was assistant director at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles for more than a decade. 

      The VAG says an executive search for a permanent director will begin immediately.

      The newest plan for the Vancouver Art Gallery's purpose-built building.