“Every painting has a story.”
Those were the opening words of our private tour of the Langmann Gallery located at 2177 Granville Street. Uno Langmann, an antique art dealer and storyteller extraordinaire, first came to Vancouver in 1955. With barely $50.00 in his wallet, Langmann started buying and selling art almost as soon as he arrived in Vancouver, with one of his first modern pieces being Jack Shadbolt’s Greek Farm. From that point on, Langmann spent the next sixty years dealing art and building his reputation as an internationally known art dealer, consultant, and influential leader in his field. He is recognized for his knowledge, preservation and promotion of arts and culture.
Uno Langmann with his first modern art purchase, Jack Shaboldt’s Greek Farm.
His renowned gallery contains eclectic pieces from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries such as dishware, sculptures, candlesticks, and paintings. Most pieces are European; however, he does carry pieces from Asia and North America, and even has a room dedicated specifically to Canadian and Indigenous art. As we toured the gallery, Langmann stopped at each major painting to passionately tell us about the era in which the piece was created, how and where he acquired the artwork, and of course, information about the artist him or herself. His eyes lit up as he told us about some of his favourite paintings or painters. What struck me about Langmann was his ability to remember the fine details of each of the artists such as his or her artistic influences, ancestral background, and even where he or she vacationed. In addition to a plethora of historical knowledge, Langmann also shared his personal anecdotes and interactions that he has had with some of the artists. My favourite story being the time he first met Jack Shadbolt and learned that the only piece of artwork that Shadbolt was missing from his exhibit was Greek Farm, the first Shadbolt piece that Langmann had purchased and had hanging at his home.
As I walked through the gallery, I couldn’t help but notice the substantial price tags of some of the pieces … $1500, $18,000, $48,000… and wonder, is there a market for antique artwork in Vancouver? Someone must have been reading my mind because soon after the question was raised by someone from our group. “It’s hopeless. Only 2.5% of Vancouverites are interested in antique art, and out of the 2.5%, only 5% can actually afford it” he replies. With such an ominous response from a long-time art dealer based in Vancouver, I ask how art dealers are able to succeed in this increasingly expensive city. “Build it and they will come” he says which is exactly what he had to do to be successful in this industry. It must have been a gamble to invest in antique artwork in a city lacking art aficionados but with his knowledge and reputation, Langmann has built an extremely unique gallery, attracting individual collectors, investors, and museums buyers from all around the world.
As we ended the tour, Langmann closed the evening with, “Every good painting has the soul of the artist in it.” These are fitting words coming from someone whose soul is unmistakeably embedded in his love and passion for the arts.
If you are interested in browsing at century old artwork, purchasing a piece of art, or perhaps having an art history lesson, I recommend stopping in at the gallery and meeting Uno Langmann himself. Located on South Granville’s Gallery Row, the Langmann Gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm.
 UBC Library. Uno Langmann. Accessed June 1, 2017. http://collections.library.ubc.ca/featured-collections/langmann/about-langmann/