Audain Art Museum

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Overview  | Collections | Site Location  |  Construction and Design  |  Memorandum of Understanding  |  Zoning Amendment Bylaw  |  Next Steps  |  News


Site preparation and construction of the Audain Art Museum project began in September 2013 less than a year after initial discussions about the project.

The iconic 55,230-square-foot museum will house a unique collection of British Columbia art in the heart of Whistler Village, and will be a pillar of the cultural tourism experience in Whistler, British Columbia and beyond.

Axiom Builders Inc. are in charge of the construction of the building, which is being designed by Patkau Architects. It is projected to cost in the $30 million range and will be financed by The Audain Foundation for the Visual Arts.

“We have decided to present the visual art record of our province as the focus of the permanent collection in Whistler,” announced Michael Audain during a December 2012 Whistler council meeting.

“The Audain Art Museum will house one of the world’s finest collections of old First Nations masks, a superb collection of Emily Carr paintings, and works by some of Canada’s post war artists, who are known throughout the country as the British Columbia modernists and include Jack Shadbolt, E.J. Hughes and Gordon Smith and others. The collection will also include works from other internationally famous contemporary artists."

" The collection will not be the most comprehensive collection of British Columbia art but it will be of very high quality and we will be highlighting artists who have made major contributions to the visual art history of our region.”

In the fall of 2012, the Audain Foundation and Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden discussed the possibility of constructing a world-class art museum to house the Audain art collection, which was a major exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2011.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), the Audain Foundation, Patkau Architects and others have since worked together to make the project a reality with plans to open the museum in 2015. As part of the project, Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and Councillor Duane Jackson have joined the Museum's board of directors.

The creation of an art museum is consistent with long-term plans to build cultural tourism in Whistler. This project will provide a significant opportunity for both the Audain Art Museum and the resort community with the potential to enhance the visitor experience and to continue to build on Whistler’s reputation as a destination for recreation, arts, and culture. ~ Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden

Emily Carr - War Canoes, Albert Bay   

Painting from the Audain art collection:  Emily Carr, War Canoes, Alert Bay

Audain art collection (Kwakwakwaka'wak Ridicule)

First Nations mask from the Audain art collection:  Kwakwaka’wakw Artist, Human Face Ridicule


The Audain Art Museum will house a large number of old First Nations masks, Emily Carr paintings, and Canadian post war artists, as well as other contemporary artists.

In November 2013, Emily Carr’s 1928 painting The Crazy Stair was sold to the Audain Art Museum for $3,393,000. This was the highest amount ever paid at auction for an Emily Carr, as well as being the highest amount paid for a work by a Canadian woman artist, and the fourth most expensive sale at a Canadian art auction. Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa also plan to donate their important collection of over 20 paintings by Carr.

Canada’s finest collection of E.J. Hughes paintings will also be housed at the Audain Art Museum. 15 paintings from Jacques Barbeau and Marguerite Owen’s collection of 80 works by the B.C. artist where donated in October 2014, and will be exhibited along with 4 from Michael Audain. The collection will be on permanent display in the Barbeau-Owen Gallery

Site Location

The 1.22-hectare museum site is part of an 11.9-hectare land parcel between Day Lots 3 and 4 across from Millennium Place in Whistler Village. 

The land is owned by the RMOW, and was acquired from the Province in 2001 pursuant to Sponsored Crown Grant with the requirement that the site be used for park purposes. The operation of a public art gallery museum and ancillary uses is consistent with the park purposes.

The site is located near other cultural facilities such as Millennium Place and the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.  It is bordered by Day Lots 3 and 4 on the north and south, Blackcomb Way on the west, and the Day Lot connector road on the east.  It is suitable to accommodate a museum and provide park-like surroundings for outdoor art and sculpture.

Audain Art Museum Site Location

Construction and Design 

Audain Art Museum Design

At an open house on January 30, 2013 , John Patkau of Patkau Architects spoke about the art museum plans. 

The plans have the building situated in a way to minimize impact to the site, retain the forest, and transform the area adjacent to the museum into a meadow and sculpture garden. 

A foot bridge will be built from Blackcomb Way right into the building providing a public walkway to the museum and also through the museum and down through the site and beyond to the park and river. The building is designed to be raised significantly off of the ground to address flood plain issues, giving a feeling that it is “floating” on the site. 

Memorandum of Understanding 

On December 18, 2012, Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and Michael Audain signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formalize the relationship between the RMOW and the Audain Art Museum to proceed with the project.

The MOU signing came two months after the RMOW and the museum proponents entered talks to establish the art museum in Whistler. Following the signing, the non-profit organization Audain Art Museum was created to develop and operate the museum, Patkau Architects were hired, and the feasibility of the use of the land for the project were confirmed.

Read more about the MOU.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw

During the January 22, 2013 council meeting, Whistler council authorized municipal staff to begin a rezoning application and prepare a zoning amendment bylaw for municipally-owned lands for the development of the proposed Audain Art Museum and auxiliary uses on the site.

A public open house for the Audain Art Museum rezoning application was held on January 30, 2013 at Millennium Place. Community members had the chance to see the plans for the proposed site, building design and other project details. The rezoning proposal was reviewed by the Advisory Design Panel committee on January 30, 2013.   

On February 19, 2013, Whistler council gave first and second reading to the zoning amendment bylaw. A public hearing was held on March 5, 2013, which received support from the public, and the bylaw received third reading on March 5, 2013.

On April 16, 2013 council adopted Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Art Museum) No. 2023 to rezone the lands to accommodate an art museum and specified auxiliary uses with a maximum gross floor area of 4,000 square metres. On the same day, council approved the development permit for the development of an art museum totaling 3,640 square metres in gross floor area. The municipality’s Advisory Design Panel reviewed the proposed design twice during the rezoning and development permit process.

On May 7, 2013, the Audain Art Museum announced plans to expand the art museum to 5,131 square metres of gross floor area, necessitating another rezoning process  to allow for the additional gross floor area. A second development permit was also required.

On May 19, 2013 the Advisory Design Panel (ADP) reviewed and supported the expansion plans.

A revised zoning amendment bylaw and development permit for the Audain Art Museum were approved by council at the July 2, 2013 council meeting.

Next Steps

On July 16, 2013, council authorized the RMOW to enter into a 199-year ground lease, a green space license, and roadway easement with the Audian Art Museum. See the July 16 presentation to council.

Construction began in September 2013 with plans to open the Audain Art Museum in late 2015.

Audain Art Museum design