This week we went to the Audain Art Museum in Whistler Village for the first time (we can hardly believe it has taken us this long), and we were blown away!

Before our visit weren’t sure what to expect. No, that’s not true, we knew exactly what we expected and that was a different shade of every other art gallery we’ve ever visited over the years. But boy were we wrong! And wrong never felt so good and looked so glorious.

Any and all expectations were shattered as we found ourselves brimming with pride that this incredible cultural, historical, and enchanting experience had been given a home in Whistler.

We’ll happily shout from the rooftops about how great this place is, but instead here’s a concise list of 7 things everyone should know about the Audain Art Museum.

1. It houses world’s most important collection of Northwest Coast masks


Home to 39 different masks created by the Coast Salish, Haisla, Nisga’a, Haida, Tsimshian, Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuxalx, Gitk’san, Tlingit, Heiltsuk, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Nuxalk nations, the Audain’s Crystal Family Galley (one-of-a-kind in Canada) gives visitors an insight into the creative and culturally sophisticated minds of the coast First Nations people.

Each First Nation approached mask creation differently depending on the raw materials that were available at the time. Some of those materials, including sea lion whiskers, cedar, copper, and animal hide, can be seen on display in the works here.

2. There are 10 galleries, almost 200 works, and 57 different artists in the permanent collection


The Audain Art Museum’s Permanent Collection of nearly 200 works is a visual journey of art history through coastal British Columbia.

Spanning from the 18th century to present day it includes the Crystal Family Gallery collection of First Nations artwork; a large collection of works by Emily Carr; as well as pieces by important post-war modernists such as E.J. Hughes, Gordon Smith and Jack Shadbolt.

In addition to these historical works, the Permanent Collection showcases art by internationally renowned contemporary British Columbian artists including Jeff Wall, Dana Claxton, Marianne Nicolson, Rodney Graham and Stan Douglas, among others.

3. The Audain is home to one of history’s most important female artists


Emily Carr has recently been recognized as one of history’s most important female artists. A painter and writer born in Victoria, BC in December 1871, Carr was one of the preeminent, and perhaps most original, Canadian painters of the first half of the twentieth century. She was also one of the few major female artists in either North America or Europe of that period.

In the Whistler Blackcomb Gallery, you’ll find artworks encompassing all periods of her artistic career.

4. Artwork here is dated as far back as the early 1800’s


The Audain Art Museum is anchored by the important collection First Nations artwork donated by Michael Audain and his wife Yoshiko Karasawa. The collection includes centuries-old Northwest Coast First Nations artwork, some of which were created over 4oo years ago (in the early 1800’s) before the first European settlers arrived on the Northwest Coast.

5. It’s up there with the best in the world


The Audain meets international “Category A” standards, putting it in the same league as some of the most visited and celebrated museums in the world such as the Louvre Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, and The British Museum.

6. It’s huge


The permanent collection is housed in gallery spaces totalling approximately 10,100 sq. ft. In addition to this, there are temporary exhibition galleries of approximately 8,100 sq. ft. with changing exhibitions by artists from Canada and around the world.

7. Way bigger than expected


In October 2012, Vancouver home builder Michael Audain announced that he entered into an agreement with the Resort Municipality of Whistler to build a 25,000 sq. ft. museum, designed by Patkau Architects, to house a portion of his extensive art collection. On April 30, 2013 Audain announced that he had decided to expand the building to a huge 56,000 sq. ft.

8. The building was designed by award-winning, Patkau Architects of Vancouver


In over 35 years of practice, Patkau Architects have been responsible for a wide variety of project types ranging in scale from art installations to major urban buildings. Current work includes the Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver; the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, the Yasodhara Ashram in Kootenay Lake; the Capilano Library in Edmonton; the Faculty of Music in Winnipeg, and several private residences.

The Audain open hours

Wednesday – Monday: 10am – 5pm

Tuesday: Closed

Admission: $18, adults, free for youth (16 and under)