Curator Helga Pakasaar contemplates changes in Vancouver institutions and art practices at a significant moment of change for Presentation House Gallery, where she has been curator since 2003, as it is transformed into the new Polygon Gallery. The Polygon is situated next to the Lonsdale Quay along North Vancouver’s waterfront, directly across the harbour from downtown Vancouver. The luminescent 25,000-square-foot building, designed by Patkau Architects, has a distinctive saw-tooth roof line and contains gallery and event spaces on the exhibitions floor, which is cantilevered over a bright, spacious lobby housing a gift shop and planned café. The ambitious first exhibition, N. Vancouver, curated by director Reid Shier, opens in November and includes commissioned and existing works by artists from the region. I asked Helga for her views on the situation and potential of the beautiful new space.
An interview by Karen Henry
KH: The Polygon Gallery is one of several new facilities either existing or planned in the next few years – the Audain Gallery in Whistler; the new Vancouver Art Gallery, which, we hope, will break ground next year; and there’s talk of a new Contemporary Art Gallery. How will The Polygon fit into this particular constellation?
HP: We’re out of the gate first and have set the bar for being able to achieve our goals and move forward into the next chapter of this institution’s life, which is long overdue. But in a more “cultural network” sense, we are now really positioned in relation to Vancouver, literally through this vista. Not that we weren’t before, but there was a slight disconnect, because of the low visibility of the old location. So now we will be able to attract audiences that may have lived very close to us before but never even knew that we were there. The new gallery is also a kind of declaration, culturally and politically; it’s a very important gesture that asserts that visual art galleries have a truly significant role in our social and cultural life. We’ve always considered ourselves an important part of the Lower Mainland visual arts sphere, but now it’s just more concrete, given this location and the scope of what we’re now able to generate in terms of exhibitions, education programs, and other kinds of activities that allow us to breathe and grow…