Ten Stunning Works of Art at YVR

The incredible works of art spanning the terminal give vistors to the airport a unique sense of place and help make the travel experience more enjoyable. In no particular order, here are 10 stunning works of art at YVR - have you seen them all?

We are extremely proud of our art collection at YVR and the unique sense of place it gives the airport. YVR offers a spectacular visual display of award-winning art that gives visitors a unique journey of Land, Sea and Sky with each terminal building strategically representing the culture heritage, natural beauty and iconic experiences that embody British Columbia. In no particular order, here are 10 stunning works of art at YVR - which is your favourite?

Rivers Monument by Marianne Nicolson


One of the newer pieces at YVR, this awesome artwork was unveiled at the opening of the A-B Connector at YVR in January of 2015.

These two innovative glass-etched poles reference the power and abundance of river systems. In particular it is a monument to the Columbia River and Fraser River which carried a wealth of many ancient names from the Indigenous Nations that fished and managed them. Nicolson seeks to depict the declining fish runs and the flooding in 1957 of thousands of pictographs at the Celilo Falls site in Washington State as a result of the construction of the Dalles Dam on the Columbia River. This work reasserts the submerged histories told by those pictographs, bringing them back to life symbolically.

Each pole is a cut through of the river system, with the top of the column representing the surface and the bottom of the column the riverbed. There are pictograph-like images of humans, fish, wildlife and water; each pole unique in order to portray a different history. Perched atop both poles are carved and painted red cedar eagles acting as witnesses. 

Spirit of Haida Gwaii: Jade Canoe by Bill Reid

The natural nexus point of YVR, you will always find passengers congregated around the Jade Canoe snapping photos. Originally conceived and created for the new Canadian embassy in Washington D.C., the sculpture was first created in 1986 as a 1/6 scale clay maquette. It was enlarged to a full scale clay model in 1988. In 1989 a mould was taken from the full scale model and the sculpture was cast in plaster for further refinement. Later that year, the plaster pattern was completed and sent to Tallix Foundry in New York State. The first bronze casting was completed in 1991 and donated to Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada (the Government of Canada) by Nabisco Brands Ltd., Toronto, Canada. It was put on display November 1991 at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. and is titled The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Black Canoe.

A second and final casting, titled The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, The Jade Canoe, was commissioned by the Vancouver International Airport Authority in 1993. It was completed at the Tallix Foundry under the supervision of Bill Reid and installed here to welcome visitors from around the world on the 18th of April, 1996. It also appeared on the back of the old $20 bill.

Flight (Spindle Whorl) by Susan Point


This stunning piece of great magnitude greets international visitors as they descend from the arrivals level in to Canada Customs at YVR.

Spindle whorls, 15 cm (6 inches) in diameter, were used in the production of yarn for traditional weaving. The artwork is presented in a setting of water and stone, symbolic of this land. "Flight" spindle whorl is the world's largest and relates to the large-scale weavings  included in this contemporary art installation. The artwork is presented in a setting of water and stone, symbolic of this land.

The spindle whorl uses traditional images to depict the theme of flight. The eagle, which is considered a symbol of power, is designed around the image of a man whose arms are raised, welcoming visitors and also gesturing flight. On the chests of the men are salmon motifs to represent the Coast Salish people who still live and fish along these shores.

The Hetux by Connie Watts


This breathtaking bird greets travellers arriving from the United States on Level 4 in the Pacific Passageway. From Connie Watts' website: The conception of Hetux began from the traditional family crests, historic to First Nations as a means of identifying families and lineage. Connie has taken this concept and applied it to the individual personality.  The thunderbird, together with all the other creatures, is her grandmother. The thunderbird’s strength and boundless creative energy is dominant. The wolves (intensity and determination) on either side of the body are her stature. The male and female salmon on the belly reflect her generosity and prosperity. The hummingbird (joy and energy) and moon (intuition and perceptiveness) on the wing are her actions and interpretations. The sun (logic and power) on the tail is her guidance.  The small wren (magic and fortuity) on the neck is ever present. The materials are stained baltic birch and powder coated aluminium.Other elements reflect characteristics of her grandmother: the wood and metal combine soft and hard, and the primary colours are dominant and strong.

Musqueam Welcome Figures by Susan Point


The two Welcome Figures display a traditional Coast Salish welcome to travellers. Carved in red cedar, the Welcome Figures exhibit the traditional carving style of the Coast Salish people. The Welcome Figures’ back panels have been carved with sand to make them appear ancient, providing a unique contrast to the contemporary glass panels, carved with the image of an eagle, mounted in the centre.

Passengers always pause and stare as soon as they enter the Customs hall.

Celebrating Flight  by Don Yeomans


The intention of the pole's artist, Don Yeomans, is to honour humankind for transcending our earhtbound existence by creating machines that enable us to fly. At the top of the pole is the Creator Raven and below him is the figure of man, given a high rank because of inteligence and ingenuity. Below are Thunderbird, Whale, Eagle, Bear and Frog, all important creatures in of strenth and power in Haida mythology. 

While these Northwest Coast images help establish a sense of place at YVR, the references to European and Asian cultures that also appear on the pole are especially relevant in a big, busy international airport where people from many nations come together on their journeys.

Fog Woman & Raven by Dempsey Bob


 Located in the International Departures area, this captivating sculpture tells the story of how the annual salmon run originated. Carved from a red cedar log, Raven perches on the side of the pool looking satsified while Fog Woman, carved from a block of laminated yellow cedar, kneels at the head of the stream which flows toward the river and the ocean.

In Bob's telling, Fog Woman created and controlled the salmon. Raven, a greedy and cunning trickster married Fog Woman to have access to all her sweet, sweet salmon. When Fog Woman realized she was being used for her salmon she retreated in to the fog, taking all the salmon with her, but allowing them to return once a year to spawn.

Clayquot Welcome Figures by Joe David


Carved by Joe David in the Clayquot tradition of the Nuu-chah-nulth people, these wlecome figures are based on those that would be placed on the beach in front of a village or a big house. to greet guests.

The male figure wears the traditional knobbed hat of a high-ranking person such as a whaling chief, the female figure wears the more common domed hat. The figures are carved from cedar logs David salvaged from West Coast beaches and stand with open arms to greet international visitors as they arrive to Canada.

Raven Stealing the Beaver Lake by Reg Davidson



Raven Stealing the Beaver Lake is a 24-foot carved cedar pole which illustrates an episode of Haida creation myth in which the Beaver people brought Raven to their great house and provided him with meals of salmon. The Blind Halibut Fisherman and Raven with a Broken Beak sculptures were inspired by a Haida myth in which Raven attempted to play a joke on an old, blind man. Near the sculptures is a large bentwood box, traditionally used to store ceremonial regalia and other precious objects.

K'san Totem Poles by Several Artists



Located across the road from International Arrivals at the entrance to Chester Johnson Park, these three red cedar totem poles were carved in 1970 by Gitksan carvers in a style originating at the Gitanmaax School of Art at Hazelton on the Skeena River. Part of the Museum of Vancouver’s permanent collection, these totems have been placed here by Vancouver Airport Authority. On each pole, a variety of spiritual and supernatural beings or crests portray stories associated with the cultural heritage of the carvers. Poles are “read” from the top down: (left) Carver: Walter Harris

Height: 10.7m (35 ft)
Figures: Human, sitting on head of Eagle; person holding Frog; Grizzly Bear of the Sea; Whale abducting man’s wife, with wife clinging to Whale’s dorsal fin, husband at base.

(middle) Carver: Earl Muldon (Muldoe)
Height: 10.7m (36 ft)
Figures: Watchman sitting at top of four chief rings; Raven as bird and human; Bear holding Frog; mountain Hawk; human figure at base is crest known as Halfway Out.

(right) Carver: Earl Muldoe 
Height: 11.0m (36 ft)
Figures: Whale abducting man’s wife, showing wife riding Whale’s tail, husband crouching; Hawk, human, Owl; legendary being who has his head on his chest and is holding Frog; Eagle at base.

And that's not even close to all the amazing artwork located around YVR. Many of the descriptions above were taken from the new book called; A Sense of Place which celebrates art at YVR, which can be purchased on Amazon or at the newly-opened Pater Lattimer Gallery at YVR. To learn more about art and architecture at YVR click here and to learn about the YVR Art Foundation visit their website

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