By Matt Law
Whistler is well known for being at the peak of certain things locally- sports, nature, social events, and in case you weren’t aware, the arts.
The storied mountain town is one of the few places that could claim to host the “most adrenaline-fueled art event of the year,” and mean it. Trash-talking, elbow-throwing, and the occasional use of colourful language are all part of the Anonymous Art Show Buying Night that’s back for its fourth year on April 8 at the Maury Young Arts Centre.
“It’s a night of hilarious organized art chaos,” says Mo Douglas, Executive Director for Arts Whistler at Maury Young Arts Centre. “It is high energy. It’s a little bit irreverent … and that’s the kind of thing people here love.”
For this year’s show, there are 296 pieces of art created by 183 artists. While the mediums range from 3D glass to ironwork to oil on canvas, each piece is created to fit 8×8-inch dimensions. And the artists range from professionals to those putting their work on display for the very first time.
“Some of the work is mind-blowing. Because it’s anonymous, it gives people the courage to try something,” says Douglas. Anonymous art shows are a pretty straightforward concept. Patrons buy a piece of art without knowing who the artist is until it is in their hands. But the folks in Whistler have taken things a bit further.
Instead of directly buying a work of art, people can purchase a spot in a tier that dictates when they can choose their favourite piece off the gallery wall. The first tier is at $500, the second $400, the third $300 and so on. People will draw a random number within each tier to decide who picks first.
This is where the hilarious, trash-talking, art chaos begins. Watching helplessly as someone in a higher tier chooses that gorgeous 8×8 canvas that you’ve had your eye on all night is bound to elicit a string of choice words. But that’s part of the good-natured, competitive fun.
“It feels like you’ve walked into an art-based nightclub,” says Douglas. “There is literally shrieking in the gallery.”
The atmosphere is part of Arts Whistler’s effort to make the event accessible to everyone.
“We are trying to bring in people like extreme mountain bikers who have maybe never considered themselves to want to engage with art,” explains Douglas. “We really work to take any perception of elitism out of art because it’s the polar opposite of how this community functions.”
Mix in good food, a glass of bubbly at the door, live music, and a few big personalities, and the evening promises to be anything but your typical gallery show.
For anyone planning to attend, Douglas recommends creating a shortlist of 20 pieces that you like. This way, even if your first few picks are sold before you can select them, you’ll still leave with a piece you love. There’s an online gallery just for this. And while many of the pieces will be snatched up during the Buying Night on April 8, decals of the pieces will remain in place on the gallery wall until May 25.
All the money raised is used to fund community art programs to make the whole thing even better.
The Anonymous Art Show runs from April 1 to May 25.
Again, the Buying Night is on April 8, in case you need to rent some hockey pads.