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Art Lover's Guide to Vancouver

Take off the hiking boots and hit the galleries to explore Vancouver’s cultural side.

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Hi, I'm Diane!

Based in Vancouver, B.C., Diane Selkirk enjoys writing stories where science, history, or social justice intersect with travel. Her work has appeared in BBC Travel, National Geographic Travel, and The Globe and Mail.

Vancouver has long been known as a hub for outdoor lovers, but the Vancouver art scene is richly diverse and shouldn’t be missed. From spindle whorl carvings and totem poles to the multimedia exhibits at the Chinatown Storytelling Centre, Vancouver’s art culture is dedicated to celebrating the variety of people who call the city home. Art lovers will find plenty of things to do in Vancouver, so follow along for some insider recommendations to make the most of your time in the city.

1. The Bill Reid Gallery

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Foto: Bill Reid Gallery Of Northwest Coast Art / Tripadvisor

Quintessential Northwest Coast art.

Located in Vancouver’s busy downtown core, the Bill Reid Gallery was established to tribute Indigenous Haida artist Bill Reid, whose work has become a byword for Pacific Northwest art. Today the airy space is filled with color—weavings, carvings, and paintings from contemporary Indigenous artists are a reminder of the nations who have called the land home since time immemorial and a celebration of the nations’ resilience and creativity. Check out the gift shop for prints and small carvings to take a piece of the West Coast home with you.

2. The Belkin

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Foto: debpickman / Tripadvisor

A hub for events and exhibitions.

The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery is a modern art museum on the University of British Columbia campus—full of energy and with a history of innovation. Vancouver’s first wholly contemporary art gallery, the space focuses on the BC region and runs art events with a more academic angle. Their goal is to understand the creation of modern art as a form of research and knowledge production, and Belkin regularly hosts reading groups, artist talks, and curatorial discussions.

3. Chinatown Storytelling Centre

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Foto: Chinatown Storytelling Centre / Tripadvisor

Discover stories told across a multitude of mediums.

In the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown, the Storytelling Centre shares the experiences of Vancouver’s Chinese community and their contributions to the city’s history. In the center’s Rogers Theatre, photo exhibitions, short films, and archival footage are shared. It’s a great way to see historic art in Vancouver and learn about Chinatown’s history. The in-house gift shop, Foo Hung Curios, is also worth a visit, with work from Chinese Canadian creators and designers, including everything from cool graphic t-shirts to stunning pottery.

4. The Polygon Gallery

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Foto: Adam Melnyk / Shutterstock

A space filled with—and surrounded by—beauty.

This North Vancouver gallery looks out over the vast waters of Vancouver Harbour, with a view of Vancouver’s shining skyscrapers. Primarily focused on photography, the gallery features artists worldwide and hosts regular events and lectures. The Polygon concentrates on non-Eurocentric art and has committed to showcasing art from artists who are representative of the city’s diversity. After wandering this airy, light-filled gallery, check out the nearby shops and restaurants of Lonsdale Quay and the Shipyards District.

5. Vancouver Art Gallery

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Foto: Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock

Vancouver’s landmark art gallery.

The Vancouver Art Gallery is a fixture of the city—in the summer, folks lay out lawn chairs and blankets for public movie nights, and it’s where peaceful protests and rallies have traditionally kicked off. Inside, you’ll find a treasure trove; classic Canadian artworks are showcased by artists including Emily Carr and Susan Point, and exciting new exhibitions rotate frequently. As Western Canada’s most extensive public art gallery, it’s easy to spend hours exploring the collection. Most exhibitions focus on Indigenous artists, work from BC, and work from Asian artists. Check out the gift shop for gorgeous jewelry and unique textiles, or head to the bistro to sip a glass of wine and discuss the exhibitions.

6. Pacific Arts Market

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Foto: Pacific Arts Market / Tripadvisor

The perfect place to mingle.

A core venue for Vancouver art events on busy Broadway, Pacific Arts Market has a mixed gallery and market space that highlights local artists. Pick out the perfect piece to remind you of your time in the city, and get to know other art enthusiasts at one of their many events. Check their online calendar to see what they have on offer—their in-house studios are sometimes open to the public, so you can watch artists at work.

7. Main Street Murals

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Foto: Miss Nephew / Shutterstock

Enjoy a stroll surrounded by art.

The annual Vancouver Mural Festival has become a beloved tradition, boosting the presence of street art in Vancouver. The festival helps fund the new murals all over Main Street and hosts free and ticketed events, including silent discos, discussions with curators, and neighborhood street parties. Walk up Main Street to find some of Vancouver's most remarkable public art, from floral wonderlands to abstract sci-fi tapestries.

8. Monte Clark Gallery

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Foto: Monte Clark Gallery / Tripadvisor

An amuse-bouche of a gallery, perfect for a lazy afternoon.

Surrounded by cozy coffee shops and excellent restaurants, Monte Clark Gallery is tucked away from Vancouver’s more touristy hotspots, just south of Hastings Street. The small space is carefully curated to provoke dialogue around the creative process and is an excellent addition to Vancouver’s modern art scene. Check their website to learn about their featured artists and current exhibitions, and give yourself enough time to explore nearby treasures like the Railtown Cafe, Pallet Coffee Roasters, and Ask For Luigi.

10. Ceremonial/Art

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Foto: Ben Stock / Shutterstock

Learn about the land you stand on.

Another smaller gallery, Ceremonial/Art is committed to sharing the works of First Nations artists from British Columbia. It’s housed in the same space as their partner—the Macaulay & Co. Fine Art gallery on E. 2nd Ave. near the Olympic Village neighborhood, and the two galleries frequently collaborate. Artists blend traditional materials and techniques with modern sensibilities to create pieces representing Vancouver’s art culture, while historical ceremonial belongings help visitors understand the context of the featured works. You’ll find other small galleries in the neighborhood, craft breweries, and speakeasy bars.

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