March 8, 2017

Public Art from Vancouver Goes East to Montreal

I will admit it. I get very attached to some of the great public art in the City and always shocked when it is suddenly “gone”. Like the wonderful bronze cattle “Kanata Bella Futura” by sculptor Joe Fafard  that used to be to the south of the Cambie Canada Line station. I called Liz Watts, a landscape architect that was at that time doing some work with TransLink. She told me that the cattle had been “sold” but that something new was coming. The cattle  were here as part of the marvellous Vancouver Biennale which every second year brings in a temporary exhibition of great public art and performances.
The Walking Figures took over from the cattle at Cambie Station. As reported in the Vancouver Sun , while the Walking Figures by Magdalena Abakanowicz will remain at Cambie Station, the nine Walking Figures on Lonsdale in North Vancouver are going to Montreal for La Balade Pour La Paix: An Open-Air Museum, a public art project along Sherbrooke Street in Montréal from June 5 to Oct. 27.  As well the eight red monks in “The Meeting” by Wang Shugang in North Vancouver are going and Jonathan Borofsky’s Human Structures Vancouver’  near Olympic Village West.

There is another piece of art that could go-that is Marcus Bowcott’s Trans Am Totem. Barrie Mowatt, founder and president of the  public art Biennale responsible for this piece thinks it should stay here. The Trans Am Totem is “a stack of five cars on top of an old growth cedar. Weighing an estimated 11,000 kgs and standing about 10 metres in height, the sculpture is located at on Pacific Boulevard where it turns into Quebec Street at Milross Avenue.”


The Trans Am Totem evokes very strong emotions. Some people love its reference to post motordom. Others in the adjacent buildings feel that it is a bit too direct in its messaging. This piece is looking for a philanthropist willing to pay $225,000 to keep it here.

As noted in the Vancouver Sun “Given the size and complexity of the work, that’s amazingly inexpensive. By way of contrast, the incredibly popular 14 bronze sculptures known popularly as the Laughing Men — and officially as A-maze-ing Laughter — were purchased for $1.5 million and donated to the city by the Wilson5 Foundation, the family foundation of Chip Wilson and his wife Shannon. The work is located at Davie and Denman in the West End.”


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  1. Count me in as a big fan of TransAm Totem. It helped establish a sense of place in an otherwise nondescript grassy median. I’d hate for our fair city to lose it, as we did with another stunning and controversial piece – A Device for Driving out Evil (aka the upside down church) a few years ago. Cargaríans now get to either enjoy or diss that memorable piece instead, probably both!

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  3. I never liked the TransAm Totem. As a sculpture I guess it’s okay but the message is one we all know. (It should be a stack of SUVs actually since they’re the worst.) I also was worried that it would reinforce people’s myths about there being a war on the car or something. They could point to it and go “See, it’s real”.
    On the other hand it could be interpreted as glorifying cars. Putting them on a pedestal.
    Art. Whadya gonna do?

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