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Audain Art Museum reinvents gala and auction for 2021

Music, food, dance and, of course, art abound at Illuminate Gala & Auction on April 24 
Stan Douglas’ Solitaire is one of 16 pieces up for sale in the Audain Art Museum’s live art auction.

Last year, the Audain Art Museum’s Illuminate Gala & Auction was scheduled for April 4—perhaps the most unlucky timing to have a large-scale event planned. 

“The pandemic caught us off guard and took us by surprise,” says marketing and communications manager Justine Nichol. “As the biggest fundraiser of our year—and really a principle revenue source—it was a major setback.”

But with one year of navigating uncertain times and adjusting events to adhere to ever-changing public health protocols under their belt, the team felt ready to host an outside-the-box, COVID-19-friendly event for 2021.  

To that end, this year’s Illuminate event is set to take place virtually on April 24. Hosted by CBC media personalities Gloria Macarenko and Fred Lee, the 90-minute production will include a live auction with major works of art, a silent auction, a series of performances, and a curated dinner, delivered to your door by The Lazy Gourmet, as well as wine and cocktails from Mission Hill Family Estate. 

“We wanted [the virtual broadcast] to be a little like an old-school variety show,” says Curtis Collins, director and chief curator with the museum. “We want people to dress up like the virtual Oscars. So, in thinking that through, we wanted to have a good pace to it; not too long, it’s 90 minutes, to have some high points.”

Performers include local musician Jaycelyn Brown from the JUNO Award-winning band Said the Whale, as well as two dancers from Vancouver’s Arts Umbrella who have choreographed a dance specifically for the museum space. 

“[The dancers] came to the museum about a month ago and I asked them, ‘Could you folks tailor a piece around the museum spaces? … We’re going to give you access to everywhere,’” Collins explains. “I had them in the freight elevator, the boiler room … so they’re now [choreographing] a piece that will take you behind the scenes of the museum and into the public part as they dance through a few spaces.” 

Another unconventional piece of the evening comes via the live auction. Alongside pieces by artists like Jack Shadbolt, Gordon Smith, and Stan Douglas, the museum will be auctioning off a personalized custom commission by Paul Wong.   

“What that means is this: he will come and visit you and then you’ll hand him over archival material, either to do with yourself as an individual or from your family. Letters, postcards, photographs, a medal that you got for being the top hurdler in Grade 9. He’ll leave with a box of your personal possessions. He’ll take those and he’ll scan them all and make an Inkjet work on canvas with a variety of these objects,” Collins says. 

While you can place bids now on the 16 live auction pieces, it will heat up during the gala when an auctioneer leads the live event. Online, absentee, and phone bids will also be open to the public. 

“To date, our ticket sales are going well. We put up the live auction online and we’ve already got starting bids on a number of items,” Collins says. “So that’s a really good indicator that we’re going down the right path.”

(Silent auction items will open up for bidding online on April 18.)

There will also be a live auction preview of the featured art until April 11 in Whistler—with the in-person viewings booked by appointment—before the pieces are moved to a Vancouver gallery for a similar four-day preview. 

“People are welcome to just look at things online, but it’s another way for us to connect in-person in a way that’s safe and [B.C. Public Health Officer] Bonnie Henry-friendly to walk people through,” Collins says. 

Tickets for the virtual event, meanwhile, are available now in six different packages. In the end, the fundraiser is doubly important this year after having to forgo it entirely in 2020. 

“This is our biggest fundraising effort of the year and because we missed it last year, it had a profound impact on our budget for this year,” Collins says. “So this is critical for us. There’s no way around that … We have been fortunate to receive federal assistance and some municipal assistance on a project basis, but in terms of our core operation, it’s almost wholly supported privately and this one is a substantial amount of our revenue source for the year. So it’s critical.” 

For full details on tickets and the event, visit