In 2009, after his Montréal apartment was burglarized, Vaughn Robert Squire (who’d worked as an MC, DJ, and Producer under the monikers Sixtoo, and Megasoid) suffered the loss of a massive sample archive, beat, and music collection that had taken him 15 years to build. Determined to rebuild a new project from the ground up, he moved to Vancouver, and met up with and old friend, Mark Brand, a man who’d been busy building restaurants and bars in Vancouver’s up-and-coming Gastown neighborhood. Mark had been working with graffiti writer and designer Alex Rhek on a scrappy clothing and street-goods store called Sharks + Hammers. Rob Squire’s arrival, and the energy he brought to Mark and Rhek’s project convinced them to move Sharks + Hammers to a new location a block over (connected, incidentally, to then soon-to-open Sea Monstr Sushi, one of Brand’s projects in development), and to turn the original Sharks space into a new gallery & creative studio called Catalog.
Rhek’s deep connections in the street-art and hip-hop scene, Brand’s business guidance, combined with Squire’s curatorial sense and drive to build a cross-disciplinary studio, Catalog Gallery & Catalog Creative took shape quickly. The entire operation is structured so that the creative studio (located behind the gallery, in it’s Powell St space) could fill in to support financial strain faced by the gallery, by producing contract design, music, video and event production to local and international clients. This model has allowed a degree of creative freedom within the confines of the gallery that is not directly linked to art-sales, or to the sluggish and bureaucratic decision-making process found in most artist-run-centres. Given this structure, the programming for the gallery is varied and vibrant. With a loose mandate, the gallery shows a diverse range of work, from gritty street-art, to high-concept installations.
Were it not for the energy, curiosity, dedication, and generous spirit of the space’s directors, Catalog could have easily ended up as a sloppy, self-indulgent mess. As it is, however, Catalog is looking to fill a void in gastown’s cultural landscape, where criticality meets the street, and and not every creative decision caters to the bottom line.
Catalog and El Kartel have plenty of mutual friends, and a similar approach to creative endeavour and community involvement. Past artists in the gallery have included Ben Tour, Chris Von Szombathy, Andrew Young, Andy Dixon, Meghan Paterson, Caleb Beyers, Robert Mearns, Johnny Taylor, Dan Climan, and many more. Past clients of the creative studio have included W2, Red Bull Music Academy, Cinelli Bicycles, Cargoh, and Mark Brand Inc.