Good public art is more than ornamentation. Making public art is a deceptively complex endeavour. What can appear, on the surface, as simple as placing an object outside is, in practice, labyrinthian, precarious and fraught with factors beyond any one person’s control. An artwork’s themes and content need to be calculated with respect for opinions and sensitivities – both cultural and social – of myriad, potentially antagonistic, audiences. All these prerequisites conspire to deﬁne the art in advance of its own creation.
To commission and inaugurate a work of public art while still holding a commitment to and respect for an artist’s singular imagination can be herculean. Good public art is, therefore, rare. Thankfully there are large and tangible rewards, and the diﬃculties in making public art are (ideally) oﬀset by the importance it can have and the vitality it can bring to a city or community.
Westbank began incorporating public art into its developments in 1996, and in the past twenty years has rapidly evolved as the leading private commissioner of artwork within Vancouver’s urban environment. Beginning with the Palisades development on Alberni Street, Ian Gillespie and his team have marshalled projects with a growing list of internationally recognized contemporary artists.
0Major public art projects
As of 2016, the company has mounted 17 major public art projects across Canada with another 4 commissions slated for completion in the coming years
Public art contributions are a central organizing element of our projects. We are less interested in the idea of placing a great piece of art than we are in the integration of art into our city building developments. Often the art becomes enmeshed in the very fabric of a building, and the project concept will evolve so as to relate to the art. Westbank’s public art program follows a markedly sympathetic path to that of artist, and our most recent projects are evidence of an ambitious engagement with the potentials of public art, from urban and architectural decoration to fully-ﬂedged contextual and architectural negotiation, with formal interdependence and thematic resolve.
Successful incorporation of art in urban development projects depends upon collaboration. As the most recent commissions are evidence of, Westbank’s public art projects are developing with an evident increase in ambition and scale, and vitally, an increasing role of artists as active collaborators.
SFU Woodward’s School for Contemporary Arts
The new facilities in the redeveloped Woodward’s complex in downtown Vancouver include the state-of-the-art Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre.
Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite
Located at the base of the Shangri-La Hotel, Offsite is the Vancouver Art Gallery’s outdoor exhibition space in the heart of urban Vancouver. It offers a rotating program of innovative public art projects.
Situated in an area bristling with art galleries, the subsidized artists’ studios included in the 6th&Fir program are a contextually appropriate addition to the local community and a significant contribution to the cultural fabric of Vancouver.
Musqueam Nation Public Art Program
In collaboration with the Musqueam Nation, we wove the work of recognized Coast Salish artists into a public display at our Granville at 70th. The works represent the artists’ connection to their culture, ancestors and community and highlight the deep-rooted history of the area.