Audain a step closer to reality with collection book 

Masterworks from the Audain Art Museum published ahead of its early 2016 opening

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Whets the appetite Masterworks from the Audain Art Museum shows many of the artworks that will be on display when the museum opens in early 2016.
  • Photo submitted
  • Whets the appetite Masterworks from the Audain Art Museum shows many of the artworks that will be on display when the museum opens in early 2016.

The Audain Art Museum has published a new book that gives a tantalizing look at the collection that is coming to Whistler early in 2016.

Masterworks from the Audain Art Museum shows 57 artworks, just under a third of the collection, and is the first major indication of the vast scope and quality of the museum's treasures, most of which come from the museum's founder Michael Audain and his wife Yoshiko Karasawa.

The collection is a cornucopia of British Columbian art.

There are six Emily Carr paintings in Masterworks, representative of her work from early in her career as a student in France to her masterpieces Quiet a forest scene painted in 1940, and The Crazy Stair (1928-30), which Audain purchased for $3.39 million in 2013.

As well, there are paintings by Group of Seven artists Frederick Varley, Dusk — Tantalus Range (1929), and Lawren Harris, Abstraction 119 (1945).

Other B.C. artists include Jack Shadbolt, Butterfly Transformation Scene (1981), Takao Tanabe, Strait of Georgia: Raza Pass (1990), and Toni Onley's Juno (1962).

There is a wealth of First Nations art represented, including the bronze sculpture Killer Whale by Haida artist Bill Reid (1984), and works by unknown masters of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Modern indigenous artists represented include local carver and sculptor Xwalacktun (Rick Harry) of the Squamish Nation, painter Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, carver Robert Charles Davidson and conceptual artist Sonny Assu.

Modern photography is also represented with work by Jeff Wall, Ian Wallace, and Steven Shearer.

The book was launched at the Heffel Fine Art Auction House in Vancouver on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Masterworks' author Ian Thom, a senior curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), knows many of the pieces coming to the Audain Art Museum as they were previously on loan to the VAG.

Thom was brought in by Audain to help select the best pieces for the new museum.

"The tough thing was deciding what to not put in the book," says Thom.

"I was trying to get a sense of the whole arc of the collection, to give a sense of the extraordinary importance of First Nations work from the 19th century that is there, but also the contemporary work. And particular attention needs to be paid to Emily Carr because it one of the finest holdings of Emily Carr in private hands."

Thom calls it a case of balancing out what is a diverse collection.

"I hope it will be an interesting series of juxtapositions. Essentially, it's going to be chronological," he says.

"The first room you are going to walk into in the Audain is going to be the 19th century First Nations art... All the historic pieces and one contemporary object, which is going to be a screen by Jim Hart.

"Then you go into two spaces with Emily Carr paintings in them, then to a space with E.J. Hughes paintings in them, and then the collection becomes more mixed afterwards.

The Audain's executive director Suzanne Greening says Masterworks will whet appetites for the museum, due to open late January 2016.

"I'm very proud of the publication. A lot of work went into it and I think Ian did a phenomenal job writing about the pieces and the artists who created them," she says.

Greening calls the objects in the book a good representation of what will be on show.

"The collection is a dynamic entity and we will continue to add to it," she adds.

Masterworks from the Audain Art Museum can be purchased at Armchair Books in Whistler Village, on or by contacting Sarah Bainbridge at

It will eventually be sold at the museum and on the museum's website.



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