For two and a half years, Hot Art Wet City has been presenting serious art for lighthearted people: kittens in bonnets, John Hughes films, boobs – it’s all fair game on these gallery walls.
From the one night-only button gang bang that is Hot One Inch Action, to Carded’s addictive trading card swaps, to the self-explanatory Boobies & Wieners (making its third-annual appearance Oct. 2), the gallery has captured the imagination of the fun-loving, entry-level (ie affordable) art crowd.
But owner and event organizer Chris Bentzen has been working the low-brow angle for much longer than that. Chilling just five steps away from the increasingly sexy intersection of Main and 6th, we caught up with Bentzen to suss out his fall programming and learn more about the little gallery that should.
What was the inspiration for Hot Art?
I wasn’t seeing a gallery in the city that I wanted to see, and it didn’t seem like anybody was going to open one, so I did. Like the galleries that I’d see on other cities on the West Coast – Seattle, Portland, San Francisco. Smaller spaces showing pop-surrealist work, low-brow work, contemporary figurative work. Something a little different than the Granville Street galleries or down here [in Mt. Pleasant].
It’s a terrible term I use too much, but it’s this stuff. [Gestures to current exhibition]. Things inspired by car culture or pop culture … Weird, but still usually narrative work, so telling a bit of a story. It’s not abstract, usually.
What drew you into the gallery world?
My background is psychology and graphic design, two separate degrees. And also organizing art shows, which I kind of fell into. I did a bit of painting on my own and I ended up, rather than painting, organizing.
The first show was one that I did of my own art, and then the one after that was with my friend Jim Hoehnle. We started doing the button show, Hot One Inch Action, 12 years ago. On Sept. 26 we’ll have the 12th show. And also the trading card show, Carded; same thing.
And then I’d do random art shows here and there – I’ve done a couple of bicycle-themed art shows and that kind of thing – and decided three years ago now to open up a pop-up gallery to see if it would work, to see if I liked doing shows more regularly. I did that for six months and it worked really well, and then I found this space.
What was the pivotal show? When did you know you were on to something?
The first Boobies & Wieners show. Now it’s the third-annual in October. I’d only seen those kinds of crowds for the button show and the trading card show. That was the first one where I was like, ‘Okay, this is something now.’ That was about six months or so into running the space. People were coming out to the openings, it was a popular place to go, but that show… We had a lineup just jammed in here.
Nude work in Vancouver; people love it.
Art doesn’t really sell all that well. [Laughs] It’s a small market, not a lot of spare money, I think? Or people don’t really spend it on art. They spend a lot of it on other things: entertainment, meals, those kinds of things. But art is not really on their minds. An afterthought, I guess. That’s sort of the concept of the September show.
That’s right. You’ve priced all the artwork [by artists like Ali Bruce, Jeff Wilson, Jay Senetchko, and Andrea Hooge] with receipts from big nights out?
Yeah. They’re all from Mark Brand’s bars and restaurants. So Save On Meats, the Diamond … I guess he’s collected them in some way through those restaurants. That show will be arranged from $100 pieces to the most expensive one probably being around $2,000.
It’s interesting that people will easily spend $200 on a birthday dinner or a night out with friends, but they won’t buy someone art. Or buy art for themselves...
That’s what it came out of. Mark and I were just sitting there talking about how people are willing to spend a bunch of money on a night out, and we said, let’s just do this as a show. It worked out well.
More fall visual arts highlights
Bradley Harms: Halberds Army
The second comprehensive exhibition of Canadian abstract painter, Bradley Harms in Vancouver.
Sept. 10-Oct. 10 at Winsor Gallery.
Ryan Gander: Make every show like it’s your last
An ambitious exhibition with UK artist Ryan Gander comprising a shifting selection of new and recent works centered on the his ongoing conceptual investigations and playful cultural spoofs.
Sept. 11-Nov. 1 at the Contemporary Art Gallery.
Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven
Featuring major works by figures such as Cornelius Krieghoff, Tom Thomson, members of the Group of Seven, Emily Carr and David Milne, this exhibition surveys the history of artistic engagement with the Canadian landscape from the mid-19th to mid-20th century.
Oct. 30-Jan. 17 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.