/ The Vancouver Guide
Vancouver — By thevancouverguide on January 12, 2010 at 7:24 pm

The Vancouver Biennale: Art in Public Spaces

The Vancouver Biennale, which began last September, is a display of art outdoors in public spaces.  There will be 32 major scultptural works shown in various parks and locations around the city.

On the east side of the Westin Bayshore Hotel, a group of eight red figures squat in a circle on the grass of Cardero Park.  From a distance they look so lifelike, a friend of mine said she thought they were real people posing for some kind of unusual yoga gathering.  The figures are made out of painted bronze and they look like they’re about to speak.  The display is titled “Meeting” and they are the work of Chinese artist Wang Shugang.

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These sculptures, although some may be unusual and even oddly weird, cause people to pause, stop and look closer, looking at the art rather than the landscape.

In front of the Pacific Central bus and train depot in Thornton Park, there’s a cubist-style work called “Barbora” by Vladas Vildziunas.  and in Charleston Park on the south side of False Creek and in Vanier Park north of the museum are identical versions of Michael Zheng’s “The Stop”, with ten stop signs, blank on one side.

In Morton Park on Denman St. facing English Bay, a gathering of chubby Buddha-like figures appear to laugh togther.  title “The Path of God”, they are the work of sculptor Yue Minjun,  his first public art installation.  Yue is one of the leading artists from China, represented in the Biennale among with others from Japan, India, Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, the Philippines, US and Canada.

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Dennis Oppenheim, creator of the 2005-2007 Biennale’s controversial aluminum sculpture of an upside-down church, “Device to Root Out Evil”, returns with “Engagement Rings” installed above the AIDs memorial at Sunset Beach.

Some of the sculptures are definitely puzzling.  You stop and say “What the heck is that?” But part of the fun is guessing.  For instance, see if you can guess what these are (answers below). Both are located on the lawns of Harbour Green Park, Coal Harbour.

For this I guessed  “Cats”

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Look again!  The “cat” sculpture is titled  “The King & Queen” by Canadian artist Sorel Etrog, painted steel “:manifesting the complex relationship between man and machine and the conflict between individual agencies in craft and industrial mass manufacturing in the modern world.”

And for this I guess they were piles of snow (but where did the snow come from?)

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The piles of snow are really twenty white  “Pillows” by Jianhua Liu.

Other Biennale public art projects from international artists:  A light-based work by Paris based Tania Ruiz Gutierrez that respnds to wind speed and people’s body temperature as they walk by, located under the Cambie St. Bridge by the Canada Line Station.  A “skin” of light called “Ice Light” for the City Hall will be created by Berlin-based artist Gunda Forster.  Rodney Graham, one of Vancouver’s leading artists will have his work placed on the west side of W. Georgia in Coal Harbor’s Devonian Park. Vancouver artist Christian Klugel will have an open air theatre  display of moving images and performances in the Vancouver Public Library north plaza by local artists arranged by Cate Rimmer, curator for the Charles H. Scott Gallery.

Spanish artist Jaume Plensa’s “We” is installed at Sunset Beach and this week another piece of public art was erected on a promontory in East Vancouver near the VCC Sky Train Terminal (Clark at 6th). A massive 17 meter cross with the words “Van” and East”.  Lit from dusk to dark with LED lights, it will be visible throughout the Downtown and from as far away as North Vancouver.  The monument to East Vancouver is by local artist Ken Lum.

Whether negative responses or not, the public art is meant to evoke response.  One of the largest pieces of public art is a stainless steel sculpture located in the heart of Richmond’s business district.  This controversial statue is titled “Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin’s Head’.  A tiny figure balanced with a high-wire walker’s pole on top of the giant head of Lenin, this scultpure was created by Beijing-based brothers Zhen and Qiang Gao.  “Miss Mao” is creating as much of a debate as “Device to Root Out Evil” did (“Device” now resides in Calgary.)

The installations will continue into 2010 with new media works going in along 13 Canada Line Stations.  Two subway cars will be covered with an artist’s wrap rather than advertising and in June – August 2010 a summer art festival will include freehand sand drawings at Spanish Banks.

Selection of the Biennale art works are evaluated by Vancouver’s Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Programme director, Richard Newirth who was once director of cultural affairs in San Francisco.

PHOTOS by W. Ruth Kozak



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