Polygon Gallery opens at Lonsdale Quay

$20 million space 
will house the former Presentation House Gallery

Christine Beyleveldt // News Editor
Photo c/o Ema Peter Photography

After nearly 30 years of planning, the former Presentation House Gallery moved into its new space at Lonsdale Quay and opened on Saturday, Nov. 18, refashioned as The Polygon Gallery. Named in honour of Polygon Homes, one of the original donors who helped provide $4 million in funding to build the gallery, the brand new facility is a 25,000 square foot space that boasts the largest individualistic photography gallery in Western Canada, and is more than five times the size of the former Presentation House Gallery.

“For the first few years of its existence [the Presentation House Gallery] was just a community gallery, but in 1981 there was a devoted exercise in rethinking what the gallery would be and we inducted a mandate to show photography, which at the time was not deemed to be as privileged a medium as an artist’s is as it is now,” said Reid Shier, director and curator of The Polygon Gallery.

The lower level of the new Polygon Gallery is a glass atrium, designed to allow pedestrians to view the Burrard Inlet and Vancouver skyline across the water from the street, Shier noted. Various donors contributed over $20 million towards the project, including the Freybe Family, Chan Family, Denna Homes, TD Bank Group and the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, each whom have gallery spaces dedicated to them. Thanks to a donation made by the Bank of Montreal, admission to the Gallery will be by donation for its first four years.

The gallery’s inaugural exhibit, “N. Vancouver“, is the most ambitious undertaking by the Presentation House so far and it reflects the history and evolution of the North Shore, an underrepresented aspect of Greater Vancouver’s history, through weavings, videos, sculptures and photos. The exhibit includes a backlit triptych of the Railway Bridge by Ambleside Park in West Vancouver, photos of the bright yellow sulphur piles near the waterfront at the First Narrows and the grain terminals on the North Vancouver waterfront, both taken by Canadian photographer Greg Girard.

More than 15 artists were commissioned to create new pieces for “N. Vancouver” that t the theme of the history of the North Shore. A Burrard Arts Foundation (BAF) commission will be renewed annually for 10 years. Each new piece that is created for the gallery will show for about nine months. At the back of the Gallery’s stairwell, Nisga writer Jordan Abel has created a concrete poem using excerpts from existing novels about territory and land ownership that resembles the Burrard Inlet. “It’s important for me to show work by Squamish artists that has been produced here that also traces a kind of historical legacy that preceded that point of first contact,” Shier added, speaking to the weavings hanging from some of the walls of the Freybe Family Gallery.

On the ground floor in the Chan Family Gallery, a one eighth scale replica of Captain George Vancouver’s ship, the Discovery, created by Vancouver-based artist Myfanwy MacLeod specifically for the exhibit is the first thing visitors will notice. But it’s not Vancouver’s ship as it looked when it sailed into the Burrard Inlet in 1792, instead the replica shows the Discovery as it looked when it was decommissioned and used as a prison hull moored on the Thames River at Deptford, England after 1818.

The gallery’s former space on Third Avenue and Chesterfeld was part of a larger facility that included the Presentation House Theatre and Museum. The theatre will stay in the building until the City of North Vancouver decides to either demolish the building or renovate it. “It’s pretty decrepit but it has a historical value,” said Shier. The building stands in stark contrast to the new facility’s light-filled minimalist design created by Vancouver-based Patkau Architects. The museum meanwhile will be moved across the street in two years time into a new building. Now that they have the space to devote to it, The Polygon Gallery will run regular tours and host talks and lm screenings.

“N. Vancouver” will be on display until spring 2018.

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