"Displacement is not beautiful": Vancouver and artwashing
October 23, 2017 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Major Vancouver real estate developer Westbank Corporation has come under fire for its free downtown art exhibit, Fight for Beauty, which contains works by renowned Vancouver artists Fred Herzog, Stan Douglas, Shane Koyczan and Douglas Coupland. Vancouver activist Melanie Ma, however, calls the Westbank exhibit "artwashing," or using "arts and culture as a facade or Trojan horse to go into neighbourhoods and claim it as revitalisation, when in fact it's a profit-driven motive that results in displacement and gentrification of the residents in those neighbourhoods." Ma and other critics in Vancouver's art and activist community have launched their own satirical website, The Real Fight for Beauty.

From Westbank's Fight for Beauty website: "Everything we do serves to propagate culture. We invite unique and interesting collaboration between cultural pioneers, showcasing their work and influencing ours. We take on the role of patron of culture, and distribute it globally. We are a culture company."

From satirical site The Real Fight for Beauty: "Westbank is not a cultural practice. Period. It’s simply a real estate development company that thinks way too much of itself....Through 'Fight for Beauty', Westbank is co-opting the arts for PR purposes, while artists are being economically and physically displaced in Vancouver due to unaffordability perpetuated by real estate development companies like Westbank."

Stephen Pritchard: Artwashing: Social Capital & Anti-Gentrification Activism

Artwashing previously on MetaFilter
posted by hurdy gurdy girl (10 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't even know. Yes gentrification is a problem, but when it's happening no matter what, wouldn't you rather have a developer who is doing things like this over bland condo tower #7 from a numbered corporation?
posted by thecjm at 8:13 AM on October 23


The thing about the exhibition itself is that it doesn't sound like a real thing it sounds like a guess at what an art exhibition should sound like. I don't know that much about the art works but I do know about corporate execs who go to their underlings and say "I need to you to make a ___", the underling says "OK but I don't know how to to that and I have no resources. I went to school for marketing." and the boss says "Doesn't have to be good, just make a guess. Nothing matters except my bizarre whims" and that is exactly what "Fight for beauty" sounds like to me.
posted by bleep at 8:22 AM on October 23 [8 favorites]


wouldn't you rather have a developer who is doing things like this

they're also doing things like this so no, I'd rather not, thanks
posted by majuju at 8:31 AM on October 23 [2 favorites]


I'd take bland condo #7 if it had square corners everywhere and a 2 bdrm 2 bath was at least 900 square feet. The ones that look pretty on the inside have impossible to use rooms inside.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:45 AM on October 23


I used to live in Vancouver. At the time (2013) it seemed like the city had decided to suffer the commuter traffic from Surrey/Richmond in exchange for the real estate income. You can find places to rent, usually if you like find between 1 and 3 other people to live with (I did this in a terrible mold ridden house and then in a nicer 4 bedroom basement suite in the Knight&32nd area).

Open up padmapper and see if you can find something outside the city center that is reasonable. Say, $2500 for a 2 bedroom. Not in a tower, not new. There were maybe three dozen (limits bounded by Richmond and Surrey) that looked legit.

Three dozen apartments for rent in the entire area. And that's taking all those options at face value as "livable". I ran into two at the time which had 6 foot ceilings (I'm 6'6"), several which had """bedrooms""" (the house we moved out of had a bedroom that was workshop with all the tools removed. Advertised as "lots of drawer space"), and a few just looked rank with mold or worse.

Even better were the people trying to rent out their condo living room to eke out a little more rental income. Or had the gall to call the living room a third bedroom and list the place as 3 br, 2 bath for new groups of tenants.

I love Vancouver. It's a hot goddamn mess for people trying to actually live on the usable bits of the transit system though.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:59 AM on October 23 [2 favorites]


I don't even know. Yes gentrification is a problem, but when it's happening no matter what, wouldn't you rather have a developer who is doing things like this over bland condo tower #7 from a numbered corporation?

I disagree with your premise and so does Melanie Ma.
posted by capricorn at 9:54 AM on October 23 [5 favorites]


I'll still never understand how Vancouver can have SF Bay Area rents without the corresponding high salaries. I periodically look at job listings when I think about moving back to Canada and Vancouver just doesn't work.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:35 AM on October 23 [3 favorites]


I have lived in this city for decades now, and the very best description I have come across as far as what Vancouver has mutated into is that it's a bank vault, with people living in it. Money gets parked here in the form of real estate, at a much higher rate of return than a bank offers. It's considered a safe haven, and because of 16 years of provincial(under the recently turfed Liberals), and federal neglect as far as housing goes, it's also become a prime destination for money laundering.
The impact has been enourmous, and with very little rental housing been constructed in the last 35 years, along with land values skyrocketing, that's how we compete with places like the SF Bay Area as far as obscene rents go.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 12:26 PM on October 23 [8 favorites]


Vancouver isn't actually lived in. It's just staged by the realtor.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:19 PM on October 23 [7 favorites]


wouldn't you rather have a developer who is doing things like this over bland condo tower #7 from a numbered corporation

No, no, and again no. At this point I would vastly prefer the developers to be mustache twirlingy, nakedly profit driven. There's something reassuring, in a way, about that, whereas people rapaciously hollowing things out while apparently simultaneously believing they are propelling the world into a glorious shining future is just heartbreaking.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:42 PM on October 23


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