Every two years, Vancouver has been blessed with the sculpture Biennale – a celebration of art in public space. And Price Tags has been documenting the Biennale since 2006, when we were still producing a magazine-style documentation of urbanism in the city.
Credit goes primarily to entrepreneur and philanthropist Barrie Mowatt, who has a long and accomplished history supporting the visual arts in this city, beginning with the establishment of the Buschlen Mowatt fine art gallery in 1979, and then the Biennale in 1998. The latter would just be a good idea or a one-off without Mowatt’s ability to deal with the astounding logistics required to organize an international exhibition of this quality – especially one that takes place in some of our most prized public spaces, the waterfront parks of Vancouver, cautiously protected by layers of discretionary approvals.
But Mowatt has been aiming to do something more than just plop down big chunks of art on goose-strewn grass (or more politely, “transforming the urban landscape into an Open Air Museum.”) He has expanded the scope of the exhibition to transform some of our leftover urban spaces into true gathering places for community – most notably “A-Mazing Laughter” (right) at English Bay. The art truly does change how people see and use our public spaces.
He has also found a way to unite scattered pieces into something cohesive (that ‘outdoor museum’) by sponsoring the ‘Bikennale’ – so that numerous pieces can be viewed, appreciated and comprehended in a day. With the pandemic making a single crowded event impossible, he has adapted the Bikennale (and Walkennale) into a month-long sequence of experiences – “SIX SUNDAYS THIS SUMMER” – that take cyclists not only along a route that connects the art but also brings in past pieces, the history of particular neighbourhoods and anecdotes about us as a people.
If you like to cycle or walk, sign up for the 2020 BIKEnnale/WALKennale Six Sundays (July 26 through August 30), check out www.vbbike.ca to learn more – a great chance to get outdoors (with appropriate physical distancing) and explore the history, architecture, and culture of a neighbourhood or two.