"This place is dead," said my artist buddy, looking around the empty Robson plaza.
It was a lovely, crisp late afternoon, but except for a couple of skateboarders riding the ice-less rink, the place looked like it had just been evacuated.
The city's premiere art gallery is open 10 a.m. to just 5 p.m. (Tuesdays it's 'til 9 p.m.). The VAG is not a bank, so why does it keep banker's hours? Heck, even bank hours are longer.
These are hours that suit the retired and field-tripping kids. Those who work and live in the downtown area, or like to head down to dine or socialize after work are pretty much out of luck if they hope to also take in some art.
And herein lies my beef.
In Paris, you can have your boeuf bourguignon then head for a post-dinner look-see at that contemporary art gallery mecca, the Pompidou, where they won't kick you out until 9 p.m. any night of the week. Even at the stodgy Louvre you won't get the boot until 6, or, if it's a Wednesday or Friday, you could linger until 10. In Berlin, the top-rated C/O Gallery is open until 8 p.m. every night. Yes, many major galleries in major cities close at the end of the normal working day, but that's no reason to follow suit.
It's like the dead-mall phenomenon. If you want to attract shoppers you need an anchor tenant, some major destination draw. Then the little guys open up and soon you have yourself a busy little retail centre again.
If the VAG adjusted its viewing times to, say, noon - 8 p.m., the grilled-cheese sandwich truck and the Peruvian toque kiosk might stick around. Soon a couple of buskers would follow, and before long you might actually have a little evening vibe going on in that plaza, different from the usual nine-to-five routine. My little group would rendezvous at a sushi joint, then duck into the VAG, marvel at the exquisite, rarely seen hand-embroidery in The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China's Emperors, maybe even wander by the gift shop while I'm at it. Ka-ching!
The VAG board is hell-bent on raising funds for a brand new building further east, when it's currently smack dab in the middle of a major plaza which is about to be anchored by a big-name U.S. retailer making its Vancouver debut next door.