Today a coalition of Vancouver tenants, including artists, activists, and community organizers held an alternative tour and protest of Westbank’s Fight For Beauty exhibition.
The alternative tour presented a counter-narrative to Westbank’s exhibition, which featured an audio guide read by Westbank founder Ian Gillespie. The guide frames the exhibition’s artworks as the spoils of victory over city regulation, with Gillespie recounting indulgent anecdotes of Westbank’s attempts to push through development projects in the face of community and government opposition.
“This exhibition is elitist and egotistical – we want more affordable housing and less luxury condos. We came here to disavow this exhibition,” says co-organizer Josh Gabert-Doyon.
This action is in response to what the group suggests is “an attempt to rebrand gentrification and displacement as an art practice.” They believe that Westbank and development corporations like it are responsible for accelerating Vancouver’s ever-worsening housing affordability crisis. The action featured a roster of local speakers including:
Melody Ma, creator of parody website TheRealFightforBeauty.ca and member of the City of Vancouver’s Arts and Culture Policy Council, Justin Fung (Housing Action for Local Taxpayers (HALT), Steffanie Ling (art critic and writer), Byron Peters (artist and writer), Andrei Mihailiuk (writer and editor), Kara Hansen (artist, curator, writer), Vincent Tao (Chinatown Action Group).
“In a city gripped by a housing crisis, we can’t let Westbank enact violence masquerading as benevolence,” says Byron Peters.
The alternative tour and action took place at the Fight For Beauty tent on what was originally advertised as the final day of exhibition, Saturday, December 16. Fight For Beauty is located between two Westbank developments, the Shaw Tower and Fairmont Pacific Rim along Canada Place in Downtown Vancouver, B.C.
The core organizing group for this action, the Woodward’s Anti-Capitalist Society, are a group of artists and writers who have been independently researching the Downtown Woodward’s site and its redevelopment.
During the alternative tour, the group presented an open letter for artists to sign a refusal to work with Westbank in solidarity with groups organizing against gentrification and displacement in Vancouver
The organizers of Fight For Affordability would like to acknowledge that this protest, Fight For Beauty, and Westbank’s development projects in Vancouver take place on the unceded, stolen land of Coast Salish peoples.