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Plaza Galleries goes for gold

Main street gallery unveils collection of Olympic-inspired pieces alongside work of the old masters

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The nooks and crannies of Whistler's many art galleries are filled with artistic treasures; stunning landscape portraits, awe-inspiring photography, sculpture, ceramics and other fine art forms. But thanks in large part to the profile of the Olympic Games, one local gallery has managed to land a significant collection of work by a few of the legendary master artists: Rembrandt, Chagall, Renoir and Picasso.

The collection of 25 pieces includes Chagall's lithographs, "Joshua and the Vanquished Kings" and "La Femme Oiseau" and a series of black ink etchings by Picasso. Of course, there's also the matter of the original "Nu Blanc Au Bouc Orange" by Chagall worth $1,000,000 hanging above the fireplace.

"I'm ecstatic!" said gallery director David Helfrich,

"You'd never see a collection like this without being in a museum, and one of the top museums in the world."

Helfrich explained that he has been working with a company that is based out of San Francisco and New York - "probably the biggest dealers of old masters in the West and in New York" - to make this exhibition a reality.

One of their representatives will be on hand, working with The Plaza Galleries' staff to answer questions about the valuable and iconic pieces for the entire month the exhibition is on display in Whistler.

All of the pieces are for sale and Helfrich is hoping they attract some interested art lovers and collectors.

"Put it this way: never before has a collection like this been put together for a gallery this small," Helfrich said.

Helfrich handpicked the pieces that he felt were most representative of the artists, leaning towards lifetime work rather than posthumous pieces of questionable integrity.

"The Rembrandts are going to be easy to sell because they're all lifetime pieces," Helfrich said. "He had posthumous pieces that were done after his death, but I always found them kind of questionable because some of his students finished them off."

The Picasso and Chagall pieces are a combination of etchings, lifetime etchings and lithographs.

The masters' collection will be hung in a separate room in the gallery; a dedicated space which will ensure the pieces stand apart from their contemporary works and other collections.

On top of this collection of masters' works, The Plaza Galleries has assembled a wide range of very special Olympic-inspired collections. Preparing the gallery has been a labour of love for Helfrich. A quick visit to the gallery shows that they have, in fact, been very busy finding pieces that speak to all members of the visiting public. The walls are covered in canvases and sculpture, with only a few inches of white wall peeking out between.

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