Saturday, 16 February 2013

Gallery Shift

For years, the hottest spot in the city of Vancouver for contemporary art was a 10-block span from 6th to 16th, on Granville Street. This area was known commonly as Gallery Row. Only a few years ago it contained the highest concentration of art and antique galleries in Western Canada. But times are changing and the private art galleries are moving east.

Main Street is now becoming the center of the privatized art world in Vancouver. It has lower taxes, larger spaces for rent and is closer to many of the studios used by the artists themselves.

Gallery owners on Granville Street have been hit by huge property tax increases, due to staggering spikes in property values. Renters are also feeling the pinch, as landlords are forced to race rent prices to offset the tax hike.

With lower taxes, Main Street offers financial relief for gallery owners determined to show emerging artists, instead of the works of stable, established artists.

The properties being snatched up by the galleries moving to Main are much more conducive to large showings as well. With higher ceilings, larger doors and more creative spaces, dealers feel that the new Main properties are better suited for showcasing contemporary works.

Jennifer Winsor, the owner and operator of the Winsor gallery made the move to Main Street in December. "We have a space that's comparable in size to what we had on Granville," she claims, "but it's a better combination of warehousing and exhibit space. It just works better, from all points of view."

And it's not just the interior space that is attractive. "Parking was always an issue on Granville; we don't have that problem here."

Monte Clark is the latest to leave Granville for Main, moving to Great Northern Way in January. Before him, Elliot Louis made the switch and before him, the pioneer of the movement, Catriona Jeffries relocated to the South Main area in 2006.

With the influx of high-end art to the area, it won't be long before Main Street is attracting the same upscale residents seen in the South Granville area. This attraction could create a cyclical effect, once again forcing the galleries to move further east.

The benefit for homeowners is the spike in property value. The galleries, like those in New York, might need to play musical chairs, moving from district to district, but if the Big Apple is any example, each burrow they touch will turn to gold for property owners.

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