Indigenous art authority Donald Ellis kicks $1.5 million into Vancouver Art Gallery new-building campaign

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      The Vancouver Art Gallery has $1.5 million closer to its major new building.

      That's the amount donated to the institution yesterday by Donald Ellis, a longtime gallery supporter who's a Canadian art dealer and founder of the Donald Ellis Gallery.

      The donation brings the total amount raised from the private sector to $86.5 million—the highest amount ever raised by an arts group in B.C. Including initial support in 2008 from the Province, the campaign has reached a total of $136.5 million

      Ellis's capital-campaign gift will be recognized in the historical Indigenous gallery in the new gallery building at West Georgia and Cambie streets. This recognizes Ellis's expertise in that area; he's so recognized in the field that he's a regular appraiser of Indigenous art on the The Antiques Roadshow--PBS, CBC, and BBC versions. Ellis has gifted the VAG collection with Indigenous works, including five Charles Edenshaw artworks.

      “The artistic contributions of Indigenous Peoples over centuries—from the Coast Salish, the Kwakwa̲ka̲ʼwakw, Haida (Xaat Kíl) and beyond— are essential to the history of Canada," Ellis said in a statement released with the announcement. "I am deeply committed to the expansion of the Vancouver Art Gallery and the potential it has to advance reconciliation through art. By remembering the effects of history, art can be a healing act providing the public with opportunities to develop a deeper understanding of Indigenous history and culture. It is my hope that my contribution will inspire others in the community to participate and have a hand in shaping Vancouver’s cultural identity.”

      The new 300,000-square-foot purpose-built gallery facility's completion date has been projected for 2023. It will incorporate more than 80,000 square feet of exhibition space (more than double the current capacity), a 300-plus-seat theatre; a gallery store and restaurant, and art storage and preparation spaces.

      A year ago, the Chan family—the same philanthropists behind the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts—said it was giving the VAG $40 million toward the new landmark.  

      The VAG still has not received any federal funds, and has said it needs about $100 million from that government level to push forward with the project.