By Christopher Reynolds, Vancouver Sun September 22, 2012 6:01 PM
VANCOUVER – Former mayor Sam Sullivan inaugurated a week-long exhibition of Chinese art at a downtown Vancouver gallery Saturday, welcoming a visiting delegation of prominent artists to the city.
Except the artists were nowhere to be seen. They were still thousands of feet in the air following a flight delay, leaving them hanging over the Pacific Ocean as the opening ceremony for the week-long Henan Master Painters and Calligraphers display continued on without them west of Chinatown.
That hitch didn’t stop Sullivan from enthusiastically introducing the event, held in the atrium of the International Village Mall, one floor below the International Arts Gallery that features the works.
“We would like to say that we believe strongly that cultural interchange is very important for artists and for the world,” said Sullivan, founder of the Global Civic Policy Society, which organized the exhibition.
He continued to address an audience of about 60 people in Cantonese, saying afterward, “I just think we’re so lucky to have this connection with China. It’s a huge advantage to the city.”
The ceremony featured several speakers and solo singers, who opened and closed the event with operatic Chinese songs that resounded throughout the atrium.
Hosting the ceremony was former city councillor B.C. Lee, no stranger to the stage himself, having performed in a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with the Asian Canadian Theatre company in 2009.
“We’re not only talking about public policy, we’re talking about civic society, the foundation of which is art and culture,” he said.
Art collector Michael O’Brian of the Michael O’Brian Family Foundation took the opportunity to extoll the artistic virtues of Vancouver.
“We are so blessed to live in this city. It has so much culture, whether it’s music, art, theatre,” he said, exhorting event attendees to explore Vancouver’s stages and galleries.
After the ceremony, around the time the artists’ plane was touching down, attendees circulated in the International Arts Gallery upstairs. The second day of the exhibition featured both traditional and contemporary paintings in ink and oil, some priced up to $18,000.
“There’s some very traditional, meticulous Chinese ink painting and there’s some more modern paintings,” said gallery president Katherine Chan.
She pointed to a classical Chinese calligraphy piece she said exhibited western influence by the mere fact it was done in oil paint.
“It’s a mixture of east and west, and this is a reflection of art in China. It’s booming in every direction.”
On the walls of the white, high-ceilinged gallery hung several dozen paintings, all from the Henan province of China and many with floral and forest themes.
A private art auction on Wednesday will see proceeds will go to covering the costs of bringing the visiting artists to Vancouver and to the Global Civic Policy Society.
A cultural and artistic delegation from Vancouver will visit China later this month.
The Henan Master Painters and Calligraphers exhibition runs Sept. 21 to Sept. 27 at the International Arts Gallery.