Kostuik Gallery
Credit: Kostuik Gallery. Jennifer Kostuik 

The Yaletown art gallery is hosting a special exhibition and creating a catalog of fond memories with its artists

While COVID had some businesses closing up shop, Jennifer Kostuik’s art gallery in Yaletown pulled off some of its biggest art sales to date.   

“The biggest competition is not necessarily other art galleries—it's travel and people's lifestyles being so busy,” says Kostuik. “People would get all excited when they came in and discovered something, and then it would be hard for me to get back in touch with them. So not having all the distractions of everyone's busy lives, they actually got to focus on themselves.”  

Art rendering made those pandemic sales possible, as Kostuik could still communicate with clients online. “If you live in Toronto or New York and you send me a picture of your wall, we can Photoshop in, to scale, the different options that you’re looking at,” she explains. “Then I can send texts and videos, and we can FaceTime, too. We got over all those in-person hurdles.” 

The gallerist, who earned a degree in art history from Queen’s University in 1988, grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. To familiarize herself with the Canadian art market, Kostuik started working with different art dealers in Toronto after graduation. But when she started getting fired for her opinions, she realized that if she wanted to do things her way, she’d have to run her own business.   

“I decided to add variety,” she says. “I have sculptures, I have paintings, I have mixed-media and photography. No one was really showing photography in the early 2000s as an art form, unless you were a photography artist.”  

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Kostuik's unique vision may have been the best thing for her business. After relocating to Vancouver in 1997, the entrepreneur took over an old gallery with one artist on hand. She spent a lot of time hopping on planes and attending international art fairs to source new artists, some of whom were surprised to be offered a show in the first place. “Nobody offered a print artist a complete solo show in a fine art gallery,” she recalls. “They usually just showed them in a print gallery. So I just did things because I was interested in them, and then they became successful.” 

Now with its own space in Yaletown and a roster of 27 artists, Kostuik Gallery is set to celebrate 25 years in June. “I've asked each one of my artists to create one new special piece just for the exhibition,” says Kostuik, who also invited the artists to come meet the clients that bought their art in person.  

She's also creating a catalog of artists’ statements, recounting their fond memories with the gallery owner over the years. The success of Kostuik’s business throughout the pandemic is perhaps proof that good art will always have value, even in times of turmoil.