Event: “The secret in inve$ting in art” at the Chali-Rosso Gallery

Vancouver has the Vancouver Art Gallery, Bill Reid Gallery, Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery, and numerous art studios and galleries all around town. Periodically we have events like the Vancouver East Cultural Crawl, where artists open their studios to the public and we can meet the artists and enjoy their work. So far as art goes, even if Vancouver is not quite London or New York, we are quite lucky.

Everyone dreams of stumbling across an immensely valuable artist’s work in their attic or at a rummage sale, and it might be more probable than winning the 6/49, or at least more so than PowerBall. But what if you want to buy some art of your own? If you are thoughtful and do good research, art can be as good, or better, an investment as standard blue chip stocks. And, while stocks are not exactly gorgeous to look at, the right art can really enhance your home or office.

In order to aid potential art investors, Chali-Rosso Gallery offered an evening soiree, with the theme “The secret in inve$ting in art”. First, attendees were invited to peruse the lovely collection of limited edition works of European masters such as Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Chagall, Miro, Renoir, and others (the gallery has over 500 pieces of art). I can’t think of any other gallery in Vancouver which focuses so much on these established Masters.

Besides the framed works, there were some lovely sculptures. We had some nibbles and wine while perusing the art, and then settled down to hear the speakers.

Peter Szeto, of the Peter Szeto Investment Group, is a financial advisor. He focused on the performance of fine art in the market over the past few decades. In short, based on several fine art indices (like the Mei Moses Fine Art Index), art has outperformed stocks, and is somewhat less volatile. Of course, art is not without risk, and it is illiquid, meaning not instantly salable (unlike, say, Apple stock). Szeto clearly stated he is not himself an artist, nor does he feel himself qualified to speak on the artistic side of things, but he did provide the numbers to demonstrate art is a reasonable choice to include in your investment portfolio. Significantly, considering supply and demand, when there is great demand for an artist who is dead with no more discoverable works, the price will surely go up.

peter.jpg(Peter Szeto in front of some great art. Photo credit John Gurcharan Nijjar)

Andrew Fisher, founder of Fisher Fine Art and International Fine Art Acquisitions, has been in the art business since the 1970s, and has a specialty in the work of 19th-century and 20th-century masters. His expert advice is highly sought by art dealers, and he finds himself unable to actually retire. Fisher pointed out that although he comes to art with a different perspective than Szeto, they essentially arrive at the same conclusions: art can be a good investment, and it has many positives that go beyond the strictly financial.

andrew.jpg(Andrew Fisher explaining Warhol’s genius. Photo credit John Gurcharan Nijjar)

If you are interested in current contemporary artists who are not well-known, and possibly on an upswing of popularity, your purchases are more risky, but also potentially more rewarding. Fisher emphasized the importance of learning the market thoroughly if you want to buy cutting-edge art. I am sure there are many Warhol contemporaries who wish they had been a bit more prescient.

Given the importance of Chinese investors in the local economy, the speakers had Mandarin translators. I definitely feel like I am missing out by not knowing Mandarin, so maybe now is the time to start learning! Westerners know about Sotheby’s and Christie’s as well-known art auction houses, but what about Poly Culture, which is China’s largest auction house? I enjoyed this Financial Post article about Poly Culture (but note it’s almost 2 years old).

Still unconvinced about the importance of art as an investment? Consider this statement by Larry Fink, chief executive at BlackRock, the world’s biggest investor with $4.6 trillion. “The two greatest stores of wealth internationally today is contemporary art….. and I don’t mean that as a joke, I mean that as a serious asset class,” said Fink. “And two, the other store of wealth today is apartments in Manhattan, apartments in Vancouver, in London.” (Quoted by Bloomberg.)

Once the lectures had concluded, we were treated to some door prizes. My friend won a ticket to Miss Asian Vancouver beauty pageant. Here’s event hostess Alice Zhou with a prize bag:

az.jpg.jpg(Photo credit John Gurcharan Nijjar)

And here’s a photo of many of the people who made the evening possible:

group.jpg.jpg(A good-looking group, I must say. Photo credit John Gurcharan Nijjar)

The Chali-Rosso Gallery is open to visitors and potential purchasers, and I have no doubt they will work with you to help you make an art investment choice that works for you. Despite the value of the art on the display, it is a friendly and approachable gallery. Visitors are welcome, and group tours are offered (art students and seniors are among those who have taken these tours).

C H A L I – R O S S O
549 Howe Street
Vancouver, BC V6C 2C2


A night at the salon: Global Civic Policy Salon, October 28

I liken the Global Civic Policy Salons to a tasting menu at a high-quality, innovative restaurant. Each course is well-prepared, and some are exactly to your taste, but the other courses are still intriguing and fun.

The salon follows a format of seven minutes per speaker. It is always astonishing how much can be said in that time with a well-prepared speaker.

At the October 28 salon, I was particularly taken by Alexander Weimann on the harpsichord. In seven minutes, he not only explained how and why he had moved to Canada, and eventually Vancouver, in his dual roles with Early Music Vancouver and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, but performed a couple of beautiful pieces on a lovely harpsichord. I am constantly encouraging people to take advantage of the great cultural opportunities Vancouver offers, rather than pining and complaining about what it does not. The music that Weimann brings to Vancouver is top-quality, and we are very lucky to have his talent in our city. I strongly recommend you look up the Early Music Vancouver schedule and attend a concert.

2015-10 Public Salon-10

Sam Sullivan, who with his partner Lynn Zanatta, pioneered this salon format which originated from personal dinner parties they gave, said that he specifically tries to avoid themes when selecting speakers, but that themes always emerge. That phenomenon was clear when we heard both from Judy Graves, a tireless and well-spoken advocate for the homeless in Vancouver, and from Bob Rennie, better known as “the condo king”. Graves reminded us how the homeless crisis has mushroomed, how we never used to see homeless people hanging around downtown, because just about everyone, save for a very few, could somehow find some room somewhere. Things have changed fundamentally, for various reasons. She urged us to consider the plight of a homeless person stuck in the rain, with wet socks and shoes. The average homeless person loses 20-30 years of life expectancy. Graves often tried to find shelter spots for homeless people, and did not always succeed. For such a complex subject in seven minutes, Graves masterfully led us through the current situation, how it got this way, and what the consequences are.


In a way, I thought Bob Rennie was brave to speak after Graves, knowing that many people blame him for the current high prices of real estate in Vancouver, and see him as an evil force of gentrification, which I consider to be a gross oversimplification. But Rennie did not mention that, nor talk about condos. Rennie was there to talk about the art he has collected, including some explosive American photographic images that make very serious points about gun violence. Rennie has a public art gallery in the Wing Sang building (which he has renovated), and is Chair of the Tate North American Acquisitions Committee (have you ever been to the Tate Modern in London — if not, go!).

Another speaker, Daniel Kalla, focused on how to have a dual career, in his case as an emergency-room physician and as a fiction author (it’s interesting that Rennie also has a dual career of sorts as an art collector and condo developer). The key, as one might expect, is not to waste time on frivolous pursuits. Kalla claims to be lazy, but his literary output suggests otherwise. It is true that emergency room physicians do have the benefit of strictly defined shifts, but that just means they have what approximates to a 40-hour work week. I am always trying to balance my cultural pursuits with my need to stay current in my technical field (which I also really enjoy), so I can relate somewhat.

Corey Ashworth talked about his campaign to help LGBT seniors who have been forced by circumstances to go back into the closet. How can this be, in 2015? Sometimes they have to rely on people who are not accepting of who they are. Take a look at Ashworth’s March Sweater Project:

Nicole Bridger spoke about the importance of fashion with a conscience, and the sadness of recently closing her Vancouver factory, although she hopes to develop some other approaches to this problem. Kevin Chong sounds like a very interesting author, and Dale McClanaghan offered us the promise of a Granville Island with a lot more creative spaces, once Emily Carr University makes the move to east Vancouver.

For the $20 ticket price, you will rarely find such a stimulating and diverse set of ideas in one evening. Not to mention, the evening started with the folk duo “No Mothers” playing some fun music. Sign up so you can be sure of finding out about the next salon in a few months time.

Wassily Kandinsky

I haven’t had much of a chance to blog in December (although check my Facebook page for some events), but I decided to reblog this interesting article I found (from a great blog too).

Life Through A Mathematician's Eyes

These days, more exactly on 15th December, I saw the new doodle at Google and I thought that it is incredibly wonderful. It just showed me a lot of geometric constructions in just a small image and I thought that it must be math related or geometry and art related. They were celebrating Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky’s 148th birthday.

New SkitchI tried to find more about the geometry hiden into this picture, but I could find much. For my surprise it seems he is

the first painter to produce purely abstract works, used color as an expression of emotion, often likening the process of painting to composing music.

He studied law and economics, so I am presuming he did some mathematics in economics, but I don’t know how much geometry. His life was a hard one I am sure, living in a period of War (WWI and WWII) and moving…

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Leaving numbers to the bros, and lots of great journal articles

Amber A’Lee Frost writes in Bro Bash in Jacobin about a disturbing tendency to leave quantitative analysis to the “bros”.

Whatever the dubious populist cultural trends might suggest, radicals, especially feminist radicals, should not be eschewing quantitative scholarship. We should be engaging with it, critiquing it, and expropriating it from the broterie.

In Limits of the Locavore in Dissent, L. V. Anderson decries unfair labor practices related to harvesting the gorgeous organic, local food that you see at farmer’s markets; Anderson argues the workers’ conditions are worse than on large-scale industrial farms. (I happened to have purchased the magazine, but only a blurb is available for free online.)

These are just two thought-provoking articles of the dozens and hundreds published regularly in various semi-obscure journals (undoubtedly to those in certain Brooklyn communities, the semi-obscure label would seem ridiculous, but I think most people have scarcely heard of these publications).

The Atlantic, Harpers, The New Yorker, NY Times Review of Books–these are all publications we know (and probably less often read). But there are a host of other lovingly constructed magazines with thought-provoking articles that simply do not get the attention they deserve. Slate, Salon, Gawker, Jezebel–these publications aim for clickbait headlines and facile, puerile analysis (with many notable exceptions, but the trend is unfortunately clear).

Give yourself a break, and enjoy some articles from the following magazines and journals, whether you get an online or print copy. Although the two examples above are political, literature, art, music, and culture are worth exploring in much more detail too.

  • Jacobin
  • Dissent
  • Lapham’s Quarterly
  • n+1
  • World Literature Today
  • Monocle

These are better known, but still worth considering:

  • The Nation
  • The Walrus

And among my not-so-guilty pleasures, I include The Economist. Definitely not obscure, tending towards or perhaps embodying establishmentarianism in its most centrist form, but with fascinating articles about subjects that you do not think to think about, until you see a trenchant analysis right in front of you.

What journals do you like?

I have to include a few online publications which have a model of gems among the rough. These include Longreads, Longform, and Medium. Lots of great writing taking place there too.



BC Buds Spring Art Fair, Firehall Arts Centre, May 7-11

BC Buds Spring Art Fair, Firehall Arts Centre, May 7-11

By Donation 
May 11 to 13, 2012 
Friday 6 to 10:30pm 
Saturday 4 to 11:30pm 
Sunday 4 to 8pm 
Sat & Sun – KidStuff 1 to 4pm

This yearly event showcases some up-and-coming theatrical work, and it provides some family-friendly programming as well. Check out the program–something is sure to interest you.


P.S. The name refers to the nascent characteristics of the young artists’ work, rather than some other meaning of “bud”. What were you thinking?

James Picard presents The Dark and the Wounded

Human history has shown us that though we may progress in many ways, many negative events repeat themselves. In books we chronicle injustice, hatred, wars, and even today we still see such play themselves out. Such tragic occurrences seem almost a foregone, and so we become desensitized, turning a blind eye to suffering when it suits us. However, though we accept such things will happen, we continue to ask ourselves why? Why do these things occur? Why can’t we stop them, and bring the cycle to an end?

Perhaps we do know the answer, though. Within all of us is a dark side, and while we don’t explore such so readily, we all know it exists, and fear what it might do if provoked, whether we are all capable of committing those acts. James Picard hopes to bring us to talking about it, to confront it, and in doing so, fight it through understanding it.

Picard, an accomplished Vancouver-based artist who has exhibited in over one hundred shows and with works in prominent display with collections throughout the world, heard about the tale of a friend who, having been sexually abused by her father, would visit him for holiday dinner and both would treat the event as having never occurred. Recalling his own childhood with an alcoholic father, he realized that this silence was pervasive. Societal pressures to maintain a good outward appearance internalize themselves, spurring us to block out negative experiences from our conscious memories. However, he feels this doesn’t also erase their effects from our psyches, and so this causes people to act out in a variety of ways.

To try and break this silence, Picard decided to do what he did best: paint. But instead of pursuing aesthetically pleasing art, he decided to pursue the uncomfortable, to depict scenes of violence, of loneliness, of agony. Preparing his work required immersing himself in the crimes of others, and creating it in the most chilling environments. Closed prisons, mental institutions, and sanitariums became his artistic haunting grounds. And the result is The Dark and the Wounded.


Displayed in the Vancouver Police Museum (Vancouver being the site for the world premiere), Picard will also be showing his paintings in Alcatraz, Kingston Penitentiary, and numerous graveyards and camps across Europe. In doing so, he hopes to amplify the discomfort by throwing the observer in an environment which is unsettling, driving home the fragility of their existence. In doing so, he hopes to bring us to speak to one another about our collective unease, helping us to confront our demons, one by one.


Looking at a painting may not seem a challenge, but the longer I fixated on one in particular, the more difficult it became to study it. Picard’s skill is in transporting people to that plain of experience – staring at a painting of a shadow, I felt myself sinking in feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and despair. I sought out conversation – about anything – in order to dispel these feelings, and at once I started to understand what Picard was trying to do.

The paintings are all made with tender care and precision, which is incredible considering that Picard, by all accounts, produced paintings at the rate of approximately 1,200 a year for this series. “I felt incredibly depressed at the start,” he confided to us, “As I saw these scenes continually unfold before me, I didn’t know if I could continue.”

I had the same feeling and I was just seeing the paintings. So, what did happen?

An epiphany. “Afterwards, I saw that I appreciated the small wonders of the world so much more. A simple walk outside, the sunshine – I felt beauty so much more acutely.” He looked pensive as he said the words, almost as if he was lost in that moment once more. “The world has so much that’s beautiful about it,” he reflected, to no one in particular, “But we still need to discuss that which is not.”

Walking out of the gallery, I think I understand. It’s not really about the actual depictions, about actual murderers or depravity, but rather our reactions to them and our ability to reach out and connect with others.

It’s about realizing that all of us are, at our cores, the dark and the wounded.

But, that through understanding the darkness inside us, we can also find light.

The following is a preview of The Dark and the Wounded:

Read more about The Dark and the Wounded at http://www.jamespicard.com/james-picard-the-dark-and-the-wounded/.

James Picard’s website can be found at http://www.jamespicard.com/.