Late last month, a converted industrial building in North Vancouver officially reemerged as an exciting new art space: Griffin Art Projects. The brainchild of Henning and Brigitte Freybe, prominent Vancouver supporters of the arts, the Griffin Art Projects will host regular exhibitions featuring artwork taken primarily from private collections—a rare and stimulating chance to see art that normally would not grace a gallery wall.
The first display, “Woosh: Two North Shore Collections”, features works from the Freybe’s collection as well as from that of Laing and Kathleen Brown. Helga Pakasaar, curator at the Presentation House Gallery, is the curator for the first Griffin exhibition. In choosing works from these two private collections, Pakasaar was spoiled for choice. “Both collections contain works by significant Canadian and international artists and are courageous in their scope and distinctive nature,” she says. In “Woosh”, she “sought to evoke social experiences”; included are works by notable artists such as Stan Douglas, Steven Shearer, and Ian Wallace. Pakasaar was excited at the prospect of working in a space such as the Griffin Art Projects, “where surprising dialogues can be presented and the scope of contemporary art practices, including artists we are unfamiliar with, can be celebrated.” She notes that Vancouver in particular “has had a vibrant contemporary arts scene for several generations, which is reflected in these collectors’ support of emerging local artists.”
The Freybes got their start in collecting and living with art in Vancouver in the early 1970s, working with the Douglas Gallery. “The gallery was in the same building on Davie Street as the famous Muck-a-Muck restaurant, where Andy Warhol dined when he visited Vancouver for the Contemporary Arts Society of Vancouver (CASV),” says Henning Freybe. “Brigitte [Freybe] helped to establish the CASV in the late 70s.” No doubt to the benefit of their collection, Henning and Brigitte take different approaches to art. “When it comes to our collecting, the bottom line for my wife is the language between her and the piece,” says Henning. For him, he explains, to quote Frank Stella: “What you see is what you see.”
With the inaugural exhibition officially open, the Griffin Art Projects is gaining momentum. In the same building as the gallery space are eight artist’s studios, with plans to launch an artist-in-residence program. In conjunction with each exhibition, Griffin Art Projects will have complementary programming: in November, there are plans for an event focused on collecting. For the Freybes, this endeavour is a chance to share the wealth. “We have been blessed in our life by art collecting, the arts, and knowing artists, art dealers, and curators,” says Henning. “To be able to give back to our community was always in the back of our minds.”
Griffin Art Projects, 1174 Welch Street, North Vancouver, British Columbia, V7P 2R5 Canada.