Until May 8th, Griffin Art Projects is presenting Per Diem: The Gerd Metzdorff Collection, an intimate look at one of Vancouver’s most quietly influential collectors.
A flight attendant for more than 40 years with Canadian Airlines and then Air Canada, the late Gerd Metzdorff (1948–2020) began buying artworks with savings accumulated from per diems. Curated by Griffin director Lisa Baldissera, the exhibition features nearly 100 works of art, with highlight pieces by Lynda Benglis, Donald Judd, Robert Rauschenberg, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol.
“The unique origins of Gerd Metzdorff’s collection are testament to the fact that you can begin your own collection from exactly where you are — it is not a practice reserved solely for the wealthy or the privileged,” says Baldissera. “Collecting is for everyone, and that he began his extraordinary practice with modest and well-planned means offers a pathway to viewers on how to begin that process. There is also a feeling of getting to know Metzdorff through this selection of work: the conversation between the pieces is challenging, funny, incisive, tough, and courageous. There is a boldness in his choices that comes through, and a confidence in the jouissance of life as expressed in the contemporary.”
Born in Germany in 1948, Metzdorff immigrated to Burnaby, B.C., with his family in 1952. His love of contemporary art was developed as he worked as a purser with Canadian Airlines. His flights took him regularly to Germany, which along with the Vancouver-New York allowed him to spend his layovers frequenting galleries and exploring new works that city’s galleries. Metzdorff purchased his first artwork from Galerie Schmela — one of Germany’s most important galleries — following an introduction from Brigitte and Henning Freybe, the founders of Griffin Art Projects. He would later add to his collection with trips to Art Cologne, Art Basel, and other major fairs.
Back home in Vancouver, he began to introduce emerging European and American names to the West Coast. He cultivated meaningful relationships with many artists and scholars at the beginning of their careers. Some of the artists he introduced to Vancouver included American sculptors John Chamberlain and Lynda Benglis. He also brought in legendary feminist art historian Griselda Pollock; Herb and Dorothy Vogel, civil servants who built one of the world’s most important art collections from modest means; and Alanna Heiss, founder of the PS1 Contemporary Art Center and the alternative space movement. Metzdorff himself became one of the founding members of the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver, where he was naturally in charge of programming.
The collector was most drawn to German contemporary photography, American pop art, minimalism and post-minimalism. The Per Diem exhibition will focus on photography as part of the Capture Photography Festival, in addition to printmaking and drawing. Highlights include works by Andreas Gursky, Ed Ruscha, Thomas Ruff, and Cindy Sherman. A further exhibition planned for 2023 will showcase paintings by international and Canadian artists held in Metzdorff’s collection.
Per Diem: The Gerd Metzdorff Collection runs until May 8, 2022 at Griffin Art Projects, 1174 Welch St, North Vancouver, BC. Admission is free with pre-registration.
For more information about the Collection, and the pubic programming surrounding its exhibition, visit griffinartprojects.ca