Vancouver artist Jeff Wall has had his work shown all over the world since the 1970s — but as a non-skier he has never visited Whistler.
This will change with an exhibition of Wall's large-scale photos being the first temporary show at the Audain Art Museum when it opens on Saturday, Nov. 21.
In a phone interview from his Los Angeles home, 68-year-old Wall said he was putting together his show, Jeff Wall: North & West, using 21 images shot in British Columbia from the mid-1980s to 2013.
"I'm going to come to Whistler for the first time in my life in November," he said.
"I was intrigued to do it, I hadn't thought about (founder) Michael (Audain's museum) project all that much because I don't really know Whistler... But he told me something I didn't know; that between one and two million people come to Whistler every year from all around the world."
Even if a small percentage of those people get to the Blackcomb Way gallery next winter, Wall realized the attendance numbers would be significant.
"It would be a way that British Columbian artists and the history of what happened to the province can be presented to a global audience that doesn't come to Vancouver. A lot of people who come to Whistler don't spend much time in Vancouver and very likely wouldn't go to the Vancouver Art Gallery," he says.
"I realized that it makes great sense, what (Audain) is doing in Whistler. It's highly unusual and I think it was kind of important and an original idea. I, of course, was interested in being part of it."
Wall's art photography has been significant in contemporary Canadian art since the 1970s and he is the recipient of the Hasselblad Award and a member of the Order of Canada.
In 2012, one of his pieces, Dead Troops Talk, sold at Christie's Auction House in New York for $3.6 million.
The Audain Art Museum's executive director Suzanne Greening said they were thrilled to have Wall's involvement.
"I was just in Denmark because he had a major opening there — he's had three exhibitions in Europe in the last year... it was exciting," she says.
"Jeff is probably the best-known contemporary Canadian artist right now and we're very, very honoured to have him as our inaugural exhibition."
Wall said the work would be shown in four rooms.
"It's the first time this particular combination of pictures will be shown together," he said.
"Michael (Audain) asked me to do this show a while ago, it would be appropriate to use pictures that I've made in Vancouver or British Columbia because (the gallery celebrates B.C. art)... It will be about what Vancouver looks like from my point of view."
So North & West was created accordingly.
"It's a span of how I see things over 30 years or so. It's a bit of a survey but a small-scale one, though I think it's expansive enough to show how I experienced the place over time," he said.
Asked if the show will express how his views of Vancouver have changed, Wall said there were "probably echoes" that connected his recent to older work.
"Of course, I've evolved in some ways and I think the exhibition will get into that," he said.
"You sort of love aspects of B.C. and other aspects of it you don't love at all. I've always tried to let my attitude just be what it is and not try to say that I have to show this about British Columbia or that about British Columbia. If you look at my work, you might be able to see an attitude but it's not very unified because my feelings are not that unified."
Meanwhile, admission to the museum has also been set; $15 for adults and free to those 18 and under.
Greening said: "Michael (Audain) feels very strongly about children being free. He tells stories about when he was maybe 12 or 13 and going into art museums on his own and engaging. One has to think that this probably helped to inform who he is today.
"We are very pleased. We want it to be as accessible as possible."
The gallery staff is due to take occupancy of the building at the end of July.
"We're just so excited about the thought of getting in and doing what we love to do," Greening said.
"When we open we want to be perfect because you only have that one chance for the first impression."
Audain and his wife Yoshi Karasawa have collected art for 40 years and have spearheaded the creation of the art museum in Whistler.
Pieces coming to the resort will include important First Nations cultural artifacts, along with works by Emily Carr, Lawren Harris and E.J. Hughes.
"This is a remarkable legacy that Michael and Yoshi are giving to Canada, not to mention B.C. This is an important part of Canada's history of artistic endeavour," Greening said.
The Audain Art Museum will be Canada's newest Category A art venue and one of the largest in Western Canada. It will be open year round.
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