Internationally renowned Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky donates 34 works to the Vancouver Art Gallery’s permanent collection

The Vancouver Art Gallery is pleased to announce the addition of 34 photographs by world-renowned Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky to its permanent collection. Through the tremendous generosity of Burtynsky who personally donated the 34 works, the Gallery now houses 44 photographs by the artist, all of which will be featured in the upcoming exhibition A Terrible Beauty: Edward Burtynsky at the Vancouver Art Gallery from March 1 to May 26, 2014.

“We would like to express our gratitude to Edward Burtynsky for this significant body of work,” said the Gallery’s Director Kathleen S. Bartels. “This extraordinary addition not only greatly expands the range of Burtynsky’s oeuvre in the Gallery’s collection, but also builds further depth to the Gallery’s already significant photo-based collection of works by leading contemporary artists.”

Burtynsky’s large-format colour photography has aligned him with outstanding artists such as Stan Douglas, Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth who are also represented in the Gallery’s collection. Burtynsky’s works focus on human incursions into the natural landscape, documenting the impact between human beings and their evolving environment with well-known subjects such as the marble quarries, the oil industry, ship breaking, the Three Gorges Dam and more recently, water. A prolific artist, Burtynsky’s film directorial debut Watermark has recently won the 2014 Best Canadian Documentary Film prize, awarded by the Toronto Film Critics Association.

Previously, the Gallery held 10 photographs by Burtynsky in its collection, ranging in date from 1985-2002. The new addition of 34 works comprises three decades of picture-making, representing each of Burtynsky’s major series from 1983 to 2013, demonstrating a comprehensive view of his profound career.

Shot locally, in British Columbia, nationally and around the world in Australia, Iceland, Spain and China, these 34 works speak to the tremendous global scope and the universal nature of Burtynsky’s subject matter through eight different series. The Breaking Ground series features images of cars, structures and roads in British Columbia, documenting the CN track as it traverses the sublime landscape of this province. Burtynsky travelled to India, Italy and China to shoot the Quarries series to find architecture within the landscape itself. The extraction of resources has been an ongoing subject matter for the artist, forming the series of Oil, Fields, Mines and Tailings. In the China series, Burtynsky documented the controversial construction of the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric engineering project in the middle of the Yangtze River. The most recent series Water has led Burtynsky to travel around the world to understand the use and misuse of this ubiquitous resource. These works include the depiction of the result of human-inflicted disasters such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, as well as imagery of circle pivot irrigation, farming, marine aquaculture and rice terraces.

Edward Burtynsky was born in St. Catherines, Ontario in 1955 and received a BA in Photographic Arts from Ryerson Polytechnical University in Toronto and a Diploma in Graphic Arts from Niagara College in Welland, Ontario. Burtynsky has exhibited his work extensively in solo exhibitions since 1982. Burtynsky’s work is in numerous public collections including Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal; George Eastman House, Rochester; Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; National Gallery of Art, Washington; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Winnipeg Art Gallery; and Vancouver Art Gallery. Burtynsky was one of the inaugural recipients of the TED Prize in 2005, and was awarded the Order of Canada in 2006.

The Vancouver Art Gallery’s permanent collection currently includes 10,772 works. Well-known for its renowned contemporary photo-based artwork, the Gallery now has one of the most significant international photo-based collections in North America, which includes Canadian artists such as Nikki Alexander, Roy Arden, Stan Douglas, Rodney Graham, Ken Lum, Jeff Wall, Ian Wallace, as well as international artists Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Cindy Sherman and Thomas Struth among others.

Edward Burtynsky, Dryland Farming #7, Monegros County, Aragon, Spain, 2010, chromogenic print, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of the Artist, © Edward Burtynsky, Courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto/Paul Kuhn Gallery, Calgary