Described as “erudite, serious and passionate collectors,” Andrew Gruft (1937 – 2021) and his partner, Claudia Beck, played a crucial role as collectors, critics, patrons, boosters and curators in Vancouver’s art community for almost fifty years. From 1976 to 1982, they ran NOVA Gallery, an influential commercial gallery that specialized in photography and was a nexus for artists, collectors and curators. During its run, NOVA staged a number of important exhibitions of contemporary, modern and historical photographs and was widely known as the first gallery to exhibit the groundbreaking lightboxes of celebrated Vancouver photographer Jeff Wall. After NOVA closed in 1982, Gruft and Beck continued to actively collect art and donate work to the Vancouver Art Gallery, up until Gruft’s passing in September 2021. The Gallery’s 2004 acquisition of almost four hundred photographs from the Beck/Gruft Collection – most of them as gifts – marked a radical shift in its collection. Prior to that time, the Gallery’s holdings included little in the way of historical and modern photography; with the addition of these works, it became a photography collection of international significance overnight. This significance grew over the following years through regular donations by Gruft and Beck. Their extraordinary generosity, intelligence and passion will play an important role in the Gallery’s programs for decades to come.
This exhibition features a selection of photographs gifted by Gruft and Beck, including images by Eugène Atget, Anne Brigman, Robert Frank, and William Henry Fox Talbot, and a group of photographs by artists such as Gabriel Orozco, and Helen Levitt bequested by Gruft.
Everything Under the Sun: In Memory of Andrew Gruft is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Grant Arnold, Audain Curator of British Columbia Art.