|THE OPENING is all about delving into the fascinating, quirky and wonderful visual arts in Vancouver. Each week we’ll feature an artist, cover an exhibition, discuss a lecture and everything else in-between to delve deep into who and what makes art happen!|
There is more to Hot Art Wet City than a catchy name: all at once, it’s a gallery, blog, and shop centred around unpretentious and exciting content. Though its origins lie in pop-up shows, its location on Main and 6th is now a permanent one. It has already housed such delightful absurdities as giant doll-heads, AT-AT mini-bars, snarling bicycle seats, and feathered Cariboo stubbies since opening its doors this April — and this is only the start.
The one-man show behind all of this is owner Chris Bentzen, who has curated, designed, organized, and videoed his way into the heart of Vancouver since putting on the very first Hot One Inch Action event in 2003. Along with the gallery’s monthly exhibitions, Bentzen is also committed to delivering weekly video interviews with local artists that are short, sweet, and to the point. In a way, this is Bentzen’s mantra: that art (and in turn, artists) should be fun and accessible. It’s one that he’s remained faithful to, and one that has been received well by the city at large. Art kids, fanboys, and curious pedestrians alike flock to Bentzen’s events, happy to engage with work that might be a guilty pleasure to some and a raison d’être for others.
I met up with Chris just as he was gearing up to open Great White North, a group exhibition about the often-hilarious kitsch of ’80s Canadiana. Though Vancouver was living up to its rain-soaked reputation, the gallery was bright and welcoming, warmed up with a the inclusion of a chalkboard wall, Edison-bulb lighting, and an array of artist-made goods ranging from prints to painted hoverboards.
Vancouver Is Awesome: You have a history working with advocacy groups, open-call projects such as Hot One-Inch Action, and now your open submission policy for a selection of gallery shows. It seems like you’re trying to single-handedly democratize the Vancouver art scene! What inspired you to take this particular path, and what are your motivations?
Chris Bentzen: Well, I’m not the only person doing that! I want to make that clear: there are lots of other people who do this, too. I like my space to be a stepping stone for people who are just getting started. For some people, this might be the first time they’re exhibiting because they don’t often get the opportunity to show.
I’m trying to do that more regularly, but I’m also putting on more curated shows. The next couple of shows will be more highly curated than “whoever submits gets to be in”, but I like having that balance, that accessibility.