Vancouver’s business culture is dominated by two men: Jim Pattison and Bob Rennie. Their influences are seen everywhere in this city: Rennie Marketing Systems has been at the forefront of the gentrification of East Van, and Jim Pattison was largely responsible for the success of Expo 86 – an event that helped transform Vancouver into the city it is today. But here is the burning question: does this influence also extend into this city’s art scene? According to Garry Neill Kennedy’s Pattison the answer is yes.
The exhibit itself is pop art at its simplest. It consists of two walls painted orange with the words ‘Bob Rennie’ painted within the Pattison logo (all in black). It is simple yet effective, for it shows the interplay between corporate and personal identities. When we see these logos we think not only of these men’s companies but of the men themselves. Kennedy reminds us that these men’s corporate and personal identities are inexorably intertwined, and it is a powerful message. Can you imagine someone thinking of you every time they see a billboard or condo with your logo on it? It is something that would make Andy Warhol proud.
Now, what about these men’s influences on this city’s art scene? Pattison has not been the noted patron of the arts that Rennie has become, but he is responsible for helping turn Vancouver’s economic fortunes – transforming the city from being overly-reliant on exporting forestry-related products to a diversified one with a growing service, tourism and high-tech sector. Thus, his is an indirect one, as the influx of people and money that has happened post-Expo 86 has helped create a thriving arts scene.
Ultimately, we are reminded of the need for artists to have wealthy patrons, because those starving artists need money to buy food, and if you’re not able to eat then you tend to produce far less art. Perhaps that is really what Kennedy is trying to tell us: that without wealthy patrons to support artists there would be far less art in this world. Whether you think the link between money and art is a corrupting one is up for you to decide.
Pattison can be found at the Or Gallery until December 7, 2013. It is located at 555 Hamilton Street in Vancouver. For more information on the exhibition, visit www.orgallery.org.