Imagine Picasso: the Perfect Alternative Christmas Activity

An original story sponsored by Imagine Picasso

At the Vancouver Christmas Guide, we love scoffing countless mince pies and wearing glow-in-the-dark Rudolph sweaters at this time of year. But even the most ardent festive fans need to take a break or two from the relentless holiday happenings that dominate the Lower Mainland in November and December.


Luckily, there’s an excellent alternative activity in the city this season that’s perfect for singletons, date-nighting couples and extended family groups––and there’s not a grinning elf or dancing snowman in sight.


Running at downtown’s sail-topped Canada Place until January 8, Imagine Picasso is an immersive walk-through exhibition that showcases the work of one of the world’s most celebrated modern artists. We checked it out recently––and discovered there’s much more to the famously prolific Spanish genius than we thought.


The exhibition starts in a black-curtained intro room where large typewritten panels hang from the ceiling. These wordy plaques might seem intimidating at first, but they’re a great way to get up to speed on Picasso’s 78-year career––and they contextualize the eye-popping cavalcade of creativity you’re about to dive into.


Under the piercing gaze of an oversized photo of Picasso––sitting cross-legged on a cushion in his studio––you’ll learn that the 1881-born artist moved passionately through major artistic phases during his long life, from the Blue and Rose periods through Cubism, Surrealism and more. In fact, it’s hard to think of any other artist who produced such a strikingly diverse body of work.


The second room explores his methods more deeply, profiling pioneering techniques in everything from painting and ceramics to collage and printmaking. There’s also a wall depicting dozens of his works here, a catalogue of unrelenting inventiveness that looks like it could easily have been produced by a large team of different artists. Take your time finding a personal favourite or two on this wall: we especially loved the Cubist landscapes painted in the early 1900s.


But these small reproductions are simply the hors d'oeuvres for the feast that’s just ahead. Walking along a short curtained corridor, you suddenly find yourself in a cavernous space swirling with colour and music. Like a vast walk-in kaleidoscope, Imagine Picasso’s main exhibition area is a joyous, jaw-dropping, ever-moving celebration of the artist’s incredible output.



Playing on a loop—give yourself an hour or so to catch it all––more than 200 striking Picasso creations are projected onto towering perimeter screens and an archipelago of angular, origami-style islands that dot the room’s interior. The paintings and details are rarely static, and instead slide mesmerizingly in and out of view, inviting you to step around the space for new angles and perspectives.


What grabs you most as you experience this unfolding fever dream of artistic creation is that the Picasso most of us know––modernist monochrome masterworks or block-faced women in profile––is just part of the picture. He was also a virtuoso of realist portraiture as well as the kind of patternist who could have easily created a range of bestselling wallpapers.


We loved this part of the exhibition. It seemed that every new projection revealed a surprising facet of the ceaselessly energetic artist, and every time we walked a few more steps we discovered a new edge to his work. The best part? We lost all track of time as the immersive diorama light show washed over us.


Upon departure, we weaved through the gift shop––a great spot to find artsy Christmas pressies for friends and family. We were tempted by the large-format book Les Animaux de Picasso, but other enticing options included silk scarves, T-shirts and matted prints. And if you’re looking for cool stocking stuffers, we recommend the dove-shaped erasers, pens shaped like paint tubes and keychain snowglobes containing mini artworks.


Imagine Picasso runs at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre (East Building) until January 8. Timed-entry tickets are from $34.99 and can be booked via the linked advert above. This event is fully Covid-safe compliant, which means entry numbers are limited and you’ll need to present a vaccine passport and government-issued ID as well as wear a mask at all times.

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