New kids on the Vancouver art block find strength in numbers

The first Combine Art Fair, a joint effort by five local galleries, showcases a wide range of work by emerging and established West Coast artists.

Credit: Steven Cottingham/Wil Aballe Art Projects

Dodge Charger by Steven Cottingham, represented by Wil Aballe Art Projects

The first Combine Art Fair, a joint effort by five local galleries, showcases a wide range of work by emerging and established West Coast artists

Still holiday shopping? Don’t miss this chance to check out several local art galleries, and the work of dozens of artists, under one roof.

Five emerging gallerists are joining forces to present the inaugural Combine Art Fair, taking place in North Vancouver from December 2 to 5. Griffin Art Projects will collaborate with Franc Gallery, Mónica Reyes Gallery, Unit 17 and Wil Aballe Art Projects (WAAP) to showcase new and seasoned artists from around the province.

The four-day event, at Griffin’s onsite residency spaces, is the first art fair held on the North Shore. By presenting a wide range of work by artists at various stages in their careers, including relatively affordable pieces, it aims to appeal to aspiring and veteran collectors alike.

“The Vancouver art ecosystem is built on a delicate balance of interconnected elements: artists, collectors, galleries and institutions,” said Lisa Baldissera, director of Griffin Art Projects, in a release. “Each is equally important in the process of nurturing a rich, diverse art scene. Combine Art Fair brings together emerging galleries while supporting collectors and bolstering the visibility of incredible artists all in one space. At a time when travelling to global art fairs is out of reach for many, the fair offers an experimental, collaborative model that will help reinvigorate the local scene.”

Credit: Kriss Munsya/Mónica Reyes Gallery

From Highway Reflection by Kriss Munsya, represented by Mónica Reyes Gallery

For the five gallerists, all of which have been around for less than 10 years, the event is a product of the pandemic. The other four participants approached Griffin about launching it after international art fairs got shut down in early 2020.

The fair is also a chance to recognize a shift in the Vancouver art scene, as work by a new generation finds its way into galleries and homes.

“The landscape has changed quite a bit,” says Tobin Gibson, founder and director of Unit 17 gallery in Kitsilano. “Vancouver’s known to have a core group of artists who are working between sculpture and photography, and some of the aesthetics as well as concepts are of that generation, so people start to react to it,” Gibson adds. “The practice is now much more mercurial, more about painting and the clumsiness of sculptures. So we are taking on these new voices.”

For Gibson, the first edition of Combine is just the beginning. “We really just hope the event will be one that will grow over the next few years, and we’ll be able to invite colleagues alongside the West Coast, outside of Canada and also younger projects that are popping up in the city now, which is exciting to see,” he says.

Attendees can also view Pivot, a thematic exhibition curated by Baldissera, in the Griffin residency’s bedroom-turned-gallery. An online panel discussion with the Combine Art Fair’s founders will take place on Sunday, December 5, at 1 p.m.