Wing Sang Building will become home to Chinese Canadian Museum with help from province and Rennie family

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      The family of Vancouver real-estate marketer Bob Rennie has taken a big step toward making Vancouver home to Canada’s first major Chinese Canadian museum.

      It comes in the form of a $7.8-million contribution that the rennie foundation will make to the Chinese Canadian Museum Society of B.C.

      In addition, Rennie will part with the 133-year-old Wing Sang Building at 51 East Pender Street.

      The B.C. government announced on February 11 that it has provided the society with a grant of $27.5 million to help cover its planning and operating costs as well as buy the red-brick building. It will be home to the Chinese Canadian Museum, which is expected to open in 2023.

      The Wing Sang Building was once home to a Chinese schoolroom in Chinatown, which Rennie has preserved within the structure, complete with the original blackboard.

      “Our family’s duty to 51 East Pender has always been to be a good custodian and we are honoured and excited to have Vancouver Chinatown’s oldest structure now celebrated as home to the Chinese Canadian Museum for all Canadians to experience this piece of history and the journey of Chinese Canadians,” Rennie said in a B.C. government news release.

      The B.C. government released this video about the Chinese Canadian Museum.

      In the late 19th century, businessman Yip Sang built the Wing Sang Building to house his import-export firm, the Wing Sang Company. He expanded it as his business continued to grow at a time when Chinese Canadians were being subjected to tremendous bigotry.

      Rennie bought the building in 2004 and spent more than $20 million restoring it. It become home to his real-estate company and privately owned rennie museum, which held its first show in 2009, featuring artworks by Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum.

      Since then, the rennie museum has exhibited the work of many other internationally renowned artists, including Kerry James Marshall, Barkley L. Hendricks, Yoko Ono, Ian Wallace, and Rodney Graham.

      Bob Rennie stands in front of artist Martin Creed's light-based work, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT, which is on the sixth floor of the Wing Sang Building.
      rennie museum

      The Wing Sang Building is also the site of artist Martin Creed's light-based work, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT, which is on the sixth floor parapet. It's made of neon text on the building's restored masonry on the southern façade and can be seen from great distances.

      The Wing Sang Building was home to one of Chinatown's most prosperous businesses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
      The building's red brick façade shines in the sunlight.
      Charlie Smith