Burnaby Art Gallery “New Acquisitions”

Small histories.

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Nestled in an idyllic corner of Deer Lake Park sits the quaint but mighty Burnaby Art Gallery (BAG). The building, with its unassuming cottage-style exterior accessorized with river rocks, is actually home to an impressive and international collection of art. With a focus on works on paper, including etchings, prints, and drawings, the gallery has amassed an intriguing and focused assortment. The latest exhibition, simply titled “New Acquisitions” and running from Feb. 5 to March 27, 2016, displays 85 of the 200-and-some pieces acquired by the regional gallery over the past two years. With work ranging widely from contemporary Vancouver art to 18th century Spanish Romantics, the BAG’s latest show is exemplary of the gallery’s far-reaching mandate.

In between the last moments of hanging, BAG director and curator Ellen van Eijnsbergen explains the logistics of acquiring such a diverse range of art. “We’ve had a couple of large donations in the past two years, and that will be reflected in the work that we’re showing,” she says. “And then, in addition, we have a small acquisitions budget, whereby we purchase new work.” Included in those donations are two pieces from the celebrated Spanish artist Francisco Goya of his seminal series Los Caprichos. Hailing from the same series as his famed The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, the pieces are essential to the cannon of art history. “They’re a bit dark, as Goya’s tend to be,” says van Eijnsbergen. “Actually, when they were originally produced, they were not very popular—they didn’t sell well, although now they are considered to be quite significant. They’re satirical works, aimed at the wealthy aristocracy.” The pieces, fueled by rationality ignited by the Enlightenment, poke often morbid fun at the establishment, marking a significant turning point for the artist and transforming the role of political satire.

Van Eijnsbergen is quick to draw a connection with another, completely different acquisition from Vancouver artist Eric Metcalfe, whose leopard works made in collaboration with Kate Craig may have captivated Vancouver Art Gallery audiences at the recent “Between Object and Action” exhibition. “Those two could be considered a critique of society as well,” says van Eijnsbergen, referring to pieces such as Metcalfe’s garish Banal Beauty Inc. Other works included range from new pieces by Vancouver’s own Elizabeth Zvonar and Stan Douglas, as well as historic work by Dutch master Rembrandt and English satirist William Hogarth.

Looking to the next two years, the BAG hopes to broaden its efforts even further. “We’re focusing on works by women, which are underrepresented in the collection, as well as adding photography and watercolour as well,” says van Eijnsbergen. For the moment, however, the latest exhibition is a promising landmark for the small gallery in the woods.

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February 5, 2016