Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Chinatown Modern


Chinese Cultural Centre, 50 East Pender Street, Vancouver


Chinatown Modern was a collaborative artist-research project between Centre A and artist Steven Tong, that sought to increase the public’s awareness of Vancouver contemporary (modern) art and culture produced by residents of Asian descent. One key aim of this project was to celebrate the thriving, contemporary spirit of Chinatown that is often overshadowed by the static and archaic representations of this community.

This project addresses the lack of public recognition of Asian Canadian artists who emerged in Vancouver during the 1960s and 1970s, when there was no official policy of ‘multiculturalism’. The marginalization of Asian Canadian art from the curriculum of Canadian art history at the secondary and post-secondary levels of education has resulted in the noticeable lack of public recognition for Asian Canadian art in the local and national mainstream. Yet the influence of Asian Canadian artists on the local and national culture is still being felt. Everyday, hundreds if not thousands of people interact with Allan Chung’s sculptures, Spring (1981, located at the Robson St. Law Courts) and Gateway to the Northwest Passage – a Monument to George Vancouver (1980, located in Vanier Park). He is just one of the many artists explored in Chinatown Modern.

The exhibition’s multimedia installation was constructed from photographs, reproductions of archival materials, interviews, and other items related to the emergence of printmaker Anna Wong, Raymond Chow, Allan Chung, Paul C. Wong (founder of the Bau-Xi Gallery). Slides, paraphernalia, and archived recordings of a radio series Pender Guy, aired in the 1970s, all added to the understanding of the period in which these artists worked.

The speaker series also brought the public into dialogue with several of the aforementioned artists. Raymond Chow, Barry Wong of Pender Guy, and Paul C. Huang each spoke on separate occasions about their stories and experiences as artists in the 1960s and 1970s, and about the process of this research-based installation. Art historian Xiaoping Li, also provided a commentary on the project.

Chinatown Modern was also a component of this year’s Chinatown Arts and Cultural Festival, which incorporated the activities of the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. This festival represented a joint community effort of the City of Vancouver with the Chinatown Revitalization Committee to foster a conversation about contemporary art in Chinatown.