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Vision Into Reality: The Birth of the Collection
Vision Into Reality: The Birth of the Collection
Sep 25, 2009 - Mar 28, 2010
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria - Victoria
Victoria - Attractions


Today, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria holds the largest public collection of art in the province. Working with a nearly blank slate, Colin Graham, the AGGV's founding Director, imagined a collection culled from every corner of the world. He wanted to “give Victoria the whole gamut of ethnic cultures.” Building relationships with Victorians who had art in their homes, Graham appealed to them to help establish a collection that could be held in public trust for the citizens of British Columbia.

The Birth of the Collection explores the various strengths of the collection including examples from local, Canadian, and international artists working in fine and decorative art media. Highlights include a significant collection of old master prints by Rembrandt, Dürer, and Goya as well as works by other international artists such as Turner, Daumier, Rodin, and Whistler. Graham also developed a fine survey of important historical Canadian art including paintings by Emily Carr, David Milne, Fred Varley, and Arthur Lismer. Alongside these traditional works he introduced international modernism through prints by Wassily Kandinsky, Henry Moore, Odilon Redon, and Georges Rouault. Perhaps most significantly he represented the art of his time though modernist paintings by Mark Tobey, Jack Shadbolt, Roy Kiyooka, Jock Macdonald, and Jack Bush, among many others.



Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria   -   Website
1040 Moss Street
V8V 4P1


The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is a public art museum dedicated to the celebration of art. With vision, leadership and scholarship, we will engage and inspire diverse audiences through exhibition, interpretation and stewardship of the collection.

- Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Mission Statement, September 2006


The Art Gallery's Mandate/Purpose as outlined in our Constitution is:
• to establish, and preserve collections of the arts and crafts which are held in trust for the benefit of current and future generations; and to display these collections;
• to create a receptive field for artists and their work;
• to provide, in addition to the primary emphasis on the collection and presentation of the visual arts, public programs such as lecture, recitals of artistic, musical and other works of cultural merit; and
• to provide and manage facilities for the appreciation and study of the visual arts.

- Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Mandate Statement, June 6 1990



When it first opened in 1951, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria exhibited art in the historic 1889 mansion that is now adjacent to its seven modern galleries. With almost 17,000 works of art, the Art Gallery has the largest public collection in BC and is a vibrant and active part of Victoria's artist community.

The Victorian Mansion

Art Gallery and Mansion

The Art Gallery and Mansion

Designed by William Ridgeway Wilson, the Spencer Mansion was built in 1889. The property originally stretched from Fort Street to Rockland Avenue and incorporated formal gardens, two tennis courts, stables and a coach house. The crowning feature, the belvedere, commands an inspiring view of the ocean. The Mansion was donated in 1951 by Miss Sarah Spencer to become the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Today the Mansion houses The Gallery Shop and Art Rental & Sales as well as administrative offices on the 2nd floor. The Gallery Shop features handmade pottery, jewelry, scarves and other beautiful crafts by local artisans. Through Art Rental & Sales, individuals or businesses can purchase art or rent it for a low monthly fee. This program represents and financially supports artists in the community, while helping to raise funds for the Gallery. The Mansion can also be rented for meetings, weddings or special occasions. In the summer of 2004, the heritage mansion was repainted to reflect the original Queen Anne style colours.

Exhibition Galleries

Art Gallery and Mansion

Installation in the Gallery's contemporary LAB space

The exhibition gallery spaces were originally added on to the Spencer Mansion between 1955 and 1978. From 2001 to 2003, the seven galleries have been extensively renovated and outfitted with state-of-the-art heating, ventilation and air conditioning giving the Art Gallery one of the best climate control systems in Canada. These changes allow the Art Gallery to host prestigious touring exhibitions and bring a higher calibre of artwork to Vancouver Island. Substantial aesthetic improvements have been made to the front entrance, corridors and Gallery Shop.

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria prides itself on presenting a diverse assortment of exhibitions including showcases of own Canadian, historical and world-class Asian collection, as well as creating, commissioning and hosting important contemporary exhibitions. Both the Canada Council for the Arts and the BC Arts Council recognized the Art Gallery for its outstanding presentations in recent years.

On permanent display is the work of British Columbia's foremost historical artist Emily Carr. An exhibition including paintings, excerpts from her books and archival images offers an insightful look at this inspiring local artist who captured the BC landscape and the lives of its First Nations peoples in paint.

Asian Collection and Garden

Curator Barry Till examines Asian Artifacts

Curator Barry Till examines Asian artifacts

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is home to one of Canada's most important Asian art collections, second only to the Royal Ontario Museum. The collection of amber and ivory carvings is one of the largest and most exquisite in North America. The Gallery's collection has grown under the careful watch of internationally recognized Asian Curator, Barry Till. Several impressive objects d'art are on permanent exhibition including a grand Chinese Bell, cast in 1641 during the Ming dynasty that was presented to the City of Victoria in 1903. A popular attraction, it hung in Beacon Hill Park until 1989, when it came to the Art Gallery to ensure its long-time preservation. The Gallery's Asian Garden boasts the only authentic Japanese Shinto Shrine in North America. It is a fine example of the architecture of a Meiji period Shinto Shrine, now perfectly situated among bamboo and Japanese maples

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