Thursday, June 5, 2008

Device to Root Out Evil - Goodbye Vancouver

It sometimes takes great courage and vision to choose public art. When the Toronto City Hall was designed by Viljo Revell, he asked British sculptor, Henry Moore to design and create a statue that would complement the flowing lines of the building. Although $100,000 had been set aside for a piece of artwork for the Square in front of the City Hall, Moore's abstract design created a huge public controversy - and it was not initially accepted by City Council. However, following the death of Viljo Revell, Mayor Phillip Givens undertook a campaign to raise the $100,000 needed to purchase the Archer through private donations and the Archer was was installed in 1966.

Toronto grew to love and respect this sculpture - and in 1974, Henry Moore donated 200 pieces of his artwork to the Art Gallery of Toronto. The Henry Moore Sculpture Centre at the AGO originally opened in 1974, to house Moore's original gift to the AGO, now has over 900 sculptures and works on paper. If you are ever in Toronto, you must visit the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre - it is very impressive - and Toronto is now known internationally for its extensive collection of Henry Moore works. Someone had the vision to see that Toronto would love the Archer and Henry Moore.

I am not an art student or critic - but I do believe that public art enriches our lives and makes our surroundings rich and interesting. And I do like courage.

I have arrived back in Vancouver as a controversial sculpture Device to Root Out Evil is being dismantled and shipped to Calgary (where it will find a new home at the Glenbow Museum). This sculpture by American artist, Dennis Oppenheim has been stated to be disrespectful of the church, sacreligious, blasphemous. It was never meant to be a permanent installation in Vancouver as it was part of an 18 month celebration of urban public art, but there is some criticism that urbane Vancouver couldn't handle the criticism of such a controversial piece of public art. Take a look.......

I personally enjoyed having the sculpture in Vancouver - and although you can't see how gorgeous it is at night, trust me, if you happened upon it while walking along the harbour, you would have taken time to look at it, to think about it and to consider its meaning. You would have thought that it added to the surroundings and that Vancouver was a cool place. You can read more about the sculpture, its interesting history and public and academic reactions in this article in American Sculptor.

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