15 Incredible Public Art Pieces in Vancouver

Outdoor Public Art brings galleries and museums to the city streets, making the natural surroundings a part of the exhibition. Vancouver has some great examples of public art located in picturesque settings in different neighbourhoods throughout the city. From the Inukshuk on English Bay to the Monument to East Van on Clark Drive, the following examples of Public Art are some of our personal favourites.

Vancouver recently unveiled a new piece of public art, a $4.5 million dollar chandelier that has been installed underneath the Granville Street Bridge. While this is bringing some focus towards the city’s public art, the response has been quite divisive. In a city with unaffordable housing and growing homeless population, the chandelier has been a bit of a discussion point for locals.

We have decided to use this as a jumping off point for our own exploration of Public Art. Throught the summer of 2019 we visited many of the best Public Art in the city. We’re looking forward to showcasing some of our favourite pieces that are located around Vancouver. As a result of our research, these are (in our humble opinions) some of the best pieces of public artwork that is located on the streets.

Vancouver definitely enjoys showing off it’s artistic side. There are a number of permanent sculptures that have become an essential part of the city. While exploring the city, we found some really interesting pieces that didn’t make the cut – sorry to the Main Street Poodle – but this post has already grown too big.

After a lot of really hard work, we have been able to narrow our list down to 15. This process was already difficult enough as it was, so the following pieces of artwork that we have chosen are listed in no particular order.

The artwork has become part of the city. Thanks to private donors and publicly funded initiatives, the streets have been filled with interesting art. The Vancouver Biennial and Olympic Legacy Fun have been instrumental in keeping the tradition alive in the city. Vancouver is home to some great pieces of artwork, located in some of the most interesting places throughout the city. Public Art transforms the urban landscape into an outdoor museum.

Public art is incredible because it can be enjoyed throughout the year and change alongside the seasons. There are no lines or entry fees.

Many projects like the Vancouver Mural Festival – an annual event held in the summer – have created some new attractions every year. The landscape is constantly changing. We have decided to not include any of these murals here, as we have already featured the Vancouver Mural Fest twice (Vol.1 and Vol. 2). This list will focus mostly on outdoor sculptures we have found throughout the city.

Vancouver has some really great museums and galleries to visit. Each of these are worth exploring on their own time. In the meantime, we’re looking at some artwork that is located on the streets, which is free for anyone to visit. These lasting monuments will likely be a part of the city for many years to come.

We hope you enjoy our list. If there are any you think we should have added, please let us know in the comments.

15 Incredible Public Art Pieces in Vancouver

1 A Monument to East Van (East Vancouver)

Name: A Monument to East Van

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East Van Cross. 2018.

Location: Corner of Clark Drive & 2nd Ave in East Vancouver

Artist: Ken Lum (Canada)

The East Van cross is a familiar symbol, especially for anyone who grew up in the city or moved to East Vancouver later in life. Shaped like a crossword where the A intersects East and Van, it has come to represent the east side of town and the arrival of this sculpture has helped to solidify this as the official symbol.

The design for the “East Van Cross” has circulated around the Vancouver for many years, dating as far back as the 1940s. This particular piece of art was erected in 2010 by local artist Ken Lum, as a homage to the city he grew up in.

The Monument to East Vancouver is 17 meters (57 feet) tall and is constructed from mixed materials. It was made from a combination of concrete, steel, aluminum, impact modified acrylic and LED Illumination. The “Monument to East Van” faces downtown Vancouver, which is the center of the city and at night, the LED lights up like a beacon, calling people back (or welcoming them to) the East Side.

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East Van Cross. 2018.

The artist, Ken Lum, is a Chinese-Canadian whose work has been shown in Galleries around the world. He spent several years working at the University of British Columbia and he is currently the Presidential Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. The funding for this project was part of the Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program, and the piece is owned by the city.

“My idea was to formalize the symbol through scale and permanence.

Its roots may be linked to the Catholic inscription of East Vancouver culture at that time, home as it was to many Italians, Greeks and Eastern Europeans. Over the years, the symbol has been adopted as an emblem for East Vancouver as a whole but its appearance has generally been tentative rather than overt.

The lack of overtness is, I feel, symptomatic of the underlying meanings that the symbol expresses. These meanings have to do with problems of injustice, inequality, subjugation and the trauma of poverty and acculturation, particularly as it relates to immigrant life.”

– Ken Lum (covapp.vancouver.ca/PublicArtRegistry)

It seems fitting that the current location of this sculpture is in the process of being developed. While there is a possibility for the sculpture to remain in place, it could soon be partially blocked by a new building. The sculpture will likely be moved from its current location, much like many of the city’s residents who are forced to relocate as the city grows.

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East Van Cross. 2018.

2 Totem Poles (Stanley Park)

Name: Stanley Park Totem Poles

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Stanley Park Totem Poles. 2019.

Location: Brockton Point in Stanley Park

Artists: Various (Canada)

There are currently nine totem poles located at Brockton point. They stand triumphantly overlooking the Vancouver harbour and the skyline of downtown. With their favourable location inside Stanley Park, they are the most visited attraction in the city.

Totem poles are designed to tell a story. They were traditionally carved into Giant Red Cedar by the indigenous populations of the North West Coast. These beautiful monuments had many meanings. The carved symbols and figures could represent a mythological story, or tell a notable recent family event. Quite often they were simply made only as art.

The collection of totem poles in Stanley Park began in the 1920s, when the park board purchased four totems from Alert Bay on Vancouver Island and placed them at Lumberman’s Arch. During the celebration of the Golden Jubilee in 1936, more totems were added from Haida Gwaii and Rivers Inlet in Central BC. During the 1960s, the Totems were moved to their current location at Brockton Point.

The city has changed a lot in a short time. While Vancouver was “founded” by Europeans in 1886, the region had been inhabited by the indigenous First Nations population of the Pacific Northwest for thousands of years before.

The early history of Vancouver is underrepresented in the now metropolitan city. Totems are a beautiful form of storytelling and an artwork style unique to the west coast. Having a place to see some of these totems and learn about history of the Indigenous people in one place, makes this a must see attraction.

“The Totem was the British Columbia Indians’s coat of arms.  Totem poles are unique to the north west coast of B.C. and lower Alaska.  They were carved from western red cedar and each carving tells of a real or mythical event.  

They were not idols nor were the worshipped.  Each carving on each pole has a meaning.  The eagle represents the kingdom of the air.  The whale the lordship of the sea.  The wolf, the genius of the land, and the frog, the transitional link between land and sea.”

– Inscription on plaque located at the Brockton Oval Site
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Stanley Park Totem Poles. 2019.

3 The Crab (Kits Point)

Name: The Crab

The Crab. 2019.

Location: Museum of Vancouver at Vanier Park in Kitsilano (1100 Chestnut St)

Artist: George Norris (Canada)

The Crab sculpture has been welcoming guests to the Museum of Vancouver for over 50 years. It is one of our personal favourites on this list.

The sculpture is 6 meters (20 feet) tall and has been welded together from separate pieces of stainless steel. It has been formed into the shape of a crab facing outwards with its claws held high in the air. The Crab sculpture is in a large pool, where a fountain has been erected to go alongside the piece of art.

It was created by artist George Norris, and has been in the same location outside the entrance of the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) since the late 1960s. The artwork is owned by the city. It is one of the most recognizable pieces of artwork in Vancouver. Many people pass the sculpture while entering the MOV and HR Macmillan Space Center.

It was part of the Canadian Centennial, celebrating 100 years since the creation of Canada in 1867. The Crab sculpture was meant to represent the zodiac sign at the time of the Canadian Centential. It also references a local legend belonging to the First Nations, that said that the crab was the guardian of the harbour.

The Crab. 2019.

Norris first studied at the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr) before attending Syracuse University and the Slade School of Fine Art in London.

He returned to British Columbia and gained prominence for several different art pieces before winning a competition to create The Crab as part of the Canadian Centennial.

It was welded by Gus Lidberg, and was constructed over a three month period. It later traveled by barge through false creek to its current location.

The artist wasn’t a fan of the spotlight, and many of his pieces remained unnamed and unsigned. George Norris’ work can still be viewed throughout western Canada. This includes “Mother and Child” (located at the University of BC) and abstract stainless-steel sculpture on a man-made grassy knoll at the University of Calgary.

The Crab. 2019.

4 Trans Am Totem (East Vancouver)

Name: Trans Am Totem

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Trans Am Totem. 2018.

Location: Middle of the road across from Science World (corner of Milross Ave & Quebec Street)

Artist: Marcus Bowcott (Canada)

Trans Am Totem stands 10 meters (33 feet) in the middle of the boulevard and is meant to be a commentary of the consumerist car culture of North America.

The Trans Am Totem was constructed with five wrecked cars, a cedar tree, metal column, solar panel and lights. It is a massive structure, weighing in at 11,340 kilograms (25,000 lbs) and includes a 150 year old cedar tree base. The vehicles in the Trans Am Totem – donated by a local scrapyard – include a Pontiac Trans Am, BMW 7 Series, Honda Civic, VW Golf Cabriolet and a Mercedes Benz. It has become one of the most photographed pieces of public artwork in the city.

Marcus Bowcott was born in Vancouver, and has always been fascinated by old cars. The sculpture is located along a busy stretch of Quebec Street on Vancouver’s east side, and see’s thousands of cars pass by it every day.

Much of his artwork focuses on the throw away consumer culture that he grew up in. This sculpture was constructed in 2015 as part of the Vancouver Biennial, and was recently “saved” in 2019 by a generous gift from Vancouver entrepreneur Chip (and his wife Shannon) Wilson.

“The automobile holds a unique position in our culture. It’s a manufactured want and symbol of extremes; practicality and luxury, necessity and waste. We can see this in the muscular Trans Am, the comfortable BMW, and the workhorse Civic. Trans Am Totem also questions the cycle of production and consumption.”

– Marcus Bowcott (www.vancouverbiennale.com)

It’s location along false creek was chosen wisely. Especially since it is a commentary on our consumer “out with the old, in with the new” mentality. Vancouver’s evolving identity is always changing. It is built along the False Creek Flats, a part of the city that was once under water. It was converted from an industrial area in 1986 to create space for Expo; the theme of this world’s fair focused on transportation.

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Trans Am Totem. 2018.

5 Engagement (English Bay)

Name: Engagement

Engagement. 2019.

Location: Sunset beach along English Bay (corner of Nicola Street & Beach Avenue)

Artist: Dennis Oppenheim (USA)

The Engagement sculpture was installed in 2005 and is located along English Bay in Vancouver. This sculpture depicts two diamond engagement rings standing nearly 9 meters (30 feett) tall. These two diamonds are able to light up at night. They sit on top of the two rings and are made of translucent plexiglass boxes, steel and aluminum, are able to light up at night.

The artist never explains the motivation behind his work, so the meaning is left up to interpretation. We have a feeling that it has something to do with marriage. Engagement is actually part of a series of sculptures, with other related sculptures located in Reno (Nevada), San Diego (California), Ruoholahti (Finland) and Leoben (Austria).

Engagement is one of three versions that artist Dennis Oppenheim produced referencing the traditional engagement rings. In a “Pop Art” form where everyday domestic objects are taken out of their domestic environment and re-conceptualized as monumental sculptures. 

As a commentary on the precarious balances in marriage, that of the romantic, traditional, economic and the illusions inherent in the institution, the meaning of Engagement is intentionally open-ended.

The initial installation of this piece in 2005 coincided with same-sex marriage debates taking place in Canada.”

– Vancouver Biennial Website (www.vancouverbiennale.com)

Dennis Oppenheim was born in Electric City, Washington and is an artist whose work is known around the world. He was known for a wide range of styles, including sculpture, photography, performance art, earth art and conceptual art. Especially in his later years, he was known for his large scale sculptures.

Engagement. 2019.

6 Digital Orca (Downtown)

Name: Digital Orca

Digital Orca. 2019.

Location: Jack Poole Plaza / Vancouver Convention Center (1055 Canada Place)

Artist: Douglas Coupland (Canada)

Digital Orca portrays a pixel art killer whale (Orca) leaping out of the water. This sculpture is located at the Vancouver Convention Center at Jack Poole Plaza. This is where the Olympic Cauldron is located, and featured prominently during the winter games.

Douglas Coupland is one of Vancouver’s most famous artists. He was born and raised in the city and still lives here today. Coupland is a graduate of Emily Carr and is well known for his writing (9 novels, including Generation X and City of Glass), as well as his many sculptures and paintings. His work has been featured at the Vancouver Art Gallery and around the world.

This sculpture made from a powder coated aluminum sculpture, and overlooks the Burrard Inlet. The Digital Orca was completed in time for the 2009 during the opening of the new convention center. The sculpture was commissioned and owned by Pavco, which operates the convention center and BC Place Stadium.

Digital Orca. 2019.

Douglas Coupland created this sculpture to “commemorate the workers in and around Burrard Inlet and Coal Harbour.It’s permanent location along the waterfront will ensure that it becomes part of the shared history of this part of Vancouver. It is very west coast. The sculpture shows off one of the provinces most famous residents; the Orca Whale.

It allows us to see something very familiar in a very different way.

“The Digital Orca sculpture acts as a sculptural conduit that allows the viewer to travel in time between the past and the future, also allowing the viewer to marvel along the way at the people and activities that created Vancouver’s thriving harbour culture. The sculpture also addresses the massive changes currently reshaping the economy of the Province.”

– Douglas Coupland (vancouverconventioncentre.com)
Digital Orca. 2019.

7 Giants (Granville Island)

Name: Giants

Giants. 2019.

Location: Ocean Concrete / Granville Island (1415 Johnston St)

Artists: OSGEMEOS, twin brothers Gustavo & Otávio Pandolfo (Brazil)

Located on Granville Island, this large scale mural was created by Brazilian artists OSGEMEOS. This pair of twin brothers transformed the 6 massive concrete silos at the Ocean Concrete site on the island into one of the city’s most memorable public art pieces.

The artists has been quoted as saying “every city needs art and art has to be in the middle of the people” and that couldn’t be more true with this massive mural.

Each of the silos are 21 meters (70 feet) tall and the total size of the mural is 2,183 sq meters (23,500 sq feet). This massive art undertaking was created in 2014 and was sponsored by the Vancouver Biennial. It was the first time the two brothers had created anything in Canada and was the largest mural of their careers.

“We did not want a conventional two-dimensional wall that we had done before: we wanted something different, special and unique. We have an ongoing project called Giants that has been realized in several places in the world such as Greece, USA, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Brazil and England, and we will continue now in Canada, but with a difference.

As the proposed Biennale has a strong connection with sculpture, we decided to find a place where the painting can be transformed, creating a dialogue between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional worlds.”

OSGEMEOS (www.vancouverbiennale.com)
Giants. 2019.

The title “giants” couldn’t be more accurate. All 6 painted structures are massive. It was created using spray paint and this massive mural has covered the 6 massive concrete silos located on Granville Island, completely transforming the way this industrial site fits into the city. It is a 360 degree piece of art that can be viewed by many different places in the city for a completely different experience.

This incredible mural can be found at the Ocean Cement manufacturing and distribution plant on Granville Island, which attracts 10.5 million visitors per year.

Giants. 2019.

8 Arc (Sunset Beach)

Name: 217.5 Arc x 13

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217.5 Arc x 13. 2016.

Location: Sunset Beach (across from the corner of Jervis Street & Beach Ave)

Artist: Bernar Venet (France)

The title of this work is 217.5 Arc x 13, was created by French artist Bernar Venet. This large scale sculpture is reminiscent of a rusting metal whale’s rib cage, and is made up of 13 individual pieces. According to the artist, “increasing levels of abstraction and complexity frighten those for whom art is a means to attain a comfortable expression of calm, luxury, and delight.” Math and lines feature prominently in his works. It is located downtown at Sunset Beach, where False Creek meets English Bay.

Originally part of the Vancouver Biennial, it is one of several arcs the artist has created around the world. In 2007 it became a legacy artwork in Vancouver when it was purchased by the Vancouver Biennale Legacy Foundation. It rests in the sand alongside the wooden logs and beach goers.

Bernar Venet was born in France, and his work has been shown around the world. In 2005, he received the title of “Chevalier de La Legion d’Honneur”, France’s highest honour. His work has traveled around the world; the arc series has sculptures in Berlin, New Zealand and includes the world’s largest steel sculpture in Belgium.

“The name of this artwork is a precise description of its mathematical composition. All of the beams in the sculpture are nested and curved to the same angle providing a sense of balance and grace. Venet employs mathematical manipulations of this industrial material to explore the interconnected relationships amongst nature, humanity, and the universe.

The repetitive thirteen curves give a resting yet rhythmic sense of movement and fluidity. The raw red-brown rust colour of the unpainted surfaces of the corten steel, an authentic surface upon which Venet insists, facilitates an interaction with the natural elements.”

– Bernar Venet (www.vancouverbiennale.com)
217.5 Arc x 13. 2019.

9 The Inukshuk (English Bay)

Name: The Inukshuk

Vancouver Inukshuk. 2019.

Location: English Bay along the Seawall (across from the corner of Bidwell Street & Beach Ave)

Artist: Alvin Kanak (Canada)

The Inukshuk is a traditional “welcome to the north” structure that originates in Canada’s North West Territories. It was meant to be a way-finder, visible above the horizon for travelers. In 1986, Vancouver hosted Expo and this sculpture was originally constructed for the NW Territories Pavilion, which was shaped like a five story igloo. The sculpture is meant to be a welcoming, opening up Canada’s north to the rest of the world.

The Artist – Alvin Kanak – is originally from Rankin Inlet, now located in Nunavut. Before the formation of Nunavut, Rankin Inlet was located in the Northwest Territories. Kanak was commissioned to create this structure by the government of the because of his skill as a carver. He was recommended by people of his community. There is a plaque next to the statue that reads “this ancient symbol of the Inuit culture is traditionally used as a landmark and navigational aid and also represents northern hospitality and friendship.”

Vancouver Inukshuk. 2019.

After the world’s fair it was gifted to the city of Vancouver and was moved to its current location on English Bay. It is made from large granite boulders, stacked on top of each other. The stones that make up this sculpture were quarried in the Fraser Valley and were pinned together with rebar after being stacked and shaped by crane.

The shape and image was used during Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic Winter Games, welcoming visitors and athletes to the city. It was most likely as a tribute to this sculpture, which has become a symbol of Vancouver. They act as sign posts or distance markers that can be seen on the flat horizon. 

“By a lake an Inukshuk means lots of fish.”

The figure is a “reminder of the ingenuity of my people in addressing transportation and communications challenges prior to the introduction of modern technology.”

– Alvin Kanak
Vancouver Inukshuk. 2019.

10 A-maze-ing Laughter (West End)

Name: A-maze-ing Laughter

A-maze-ing Laughter. 2019.

Location: Morton Park at English Bay (Corner of Davie and Denman)

Artist: Yue Minjun (China)

In this incredible piece of public art, the artist Yue Minjun has placed himself inside of the work. The face that has been reproduced several times is that of the artist. As the subject in this sculpture, he is depicting himself in a “state of hysterical laughter”. Each of the 14 patinated cast-bronze figures weigh over 250 kilograms. A plaque nearby reads “may this sculpture inspire laughter playfulness and joy in all who experience it.”

Yue Minjun is an artist based out of Beijing, China and is known for recreating this same set of images in different mediums. Hysterical laughter has been reproduced in sculpture, watercolour and prints. He is associated with the Cynical Realist movement in China. While he rejects the label, he also “doesn’t concern himself about what people call him.”

A-maze-ing Laughter. 2019.

The statues are each 259 cm (102 inches tall). They have quickly become some of the most popular in the city. Especially in the summer, their high volume location gets a lot of foot traffic with people coming and going from English Bay. It is a popular place for locals and tourists to post for pictures in front of the laughing statues.

This art exhibit originally premiered during the Vancouver Biennial and was donated to the City of Vancouver by Chip and Shannon Wilson in 2012. A-maze-ing Laughter was nominated in the Great Places in Canada Contest 2013 and was the only work of public art to receive a nomination.

“My intention when making this series of sculptures was to use art to touch the heart of each visitor and to have them enjoy what art brings to them. I feel honored and happy to have my work displayed in Vancouver. I seem to have seen your smiling faces in my heart.”

Yue Minjun (www.vancouverbiennale.com)
A-maze-ing Laughter. 2019.

11 Eyes on the Street (Olympic Village)

Name: Eyes on the Street

Eyes on the Street. 2019.

Location: Voda Complex, between Olympic Village & Main Street (1661 Quebec Street)

Artist: Marie Khouri and Charlotte Wall (Canada)

Eyes on the Street is an art project by two local artists, Marie Khouri and Charlotte Wall, and are meant to represent two eyes. This was the first time the two artists had worked together on a project.

Two sculptures are made of mirrored stainless steel. The largest component of the sculpture is 5.5 meters (18 feet) tall and the smaller one is 3.5 meters (12 feet) tall. The sit in a reflecting pool, further adding depth to the two sculptures.

The two sculptures are meant to visually interact with each other. This is a really cool off the beaten path discovery that many locals don’t know about. It’s a great place to stumble upon while wandering around the city.

They are privately owned, and were installed by the developer (Concert Properties) at the newly constructed building in 2018. It wasn’t the easiest place to find, as the sculptures are surrounded by buildings in a housing complex. The courtyard is a public place, so its possible for anyone to enjoy them.

Eyes on the Street. 2019.

“We were inspired by global neighbourhoods that have achieved a cohesive community through the efforts of individuals caring for and watching their communal space.” The sculptures are located in mirror pools, adding a nice reflection to the sculptures. They are located in the courtyard of a newly constructed development between the Olympic Village and Main Street on Vancouver’s East side.

“The sculptures are positioned close to each other, informing each other, influencing each other and mirroring each other. Each have a voiding the shape and the context of an eye.

The artists were influenced by Jane Jacob (renown City Planner) who said, speaking of cities, that ‘there must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those who might call the natural proprietors of the street”.

Jacob refers to the eyes of the many residents in areas of high density. They are always there providing a recording of the life on the street and in the environment.”

– Artists Marie Khouri & Charlotte Wall (covapp.vancouver.ca/PublicArtRegistry)
Eyes on the Street. 2019.

12 THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE (Downtown)

Name: THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE

THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE. 2019.

Location: Vancouver Public Library at the corner of Robson and Homer. (350 W Georgia)

Artist: Ron Terada (Canada)

This piece of public art jumps out at anyone who walks by. It is hard to miss if you have spent any time downtown.

Located at the corner of a busy intersection outside of the downtown Public Library, its hard not to see the massive words jumping out at you. The letters are made with LED lights and the Marquee announces THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE. At night they light up.

This is a freestanding structure made primarily with aluminum and LED lights. THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE is a three dimensional piece of art, and includes 1280 LED lights that can be changed with a computer programed sequence. The bold words used in THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE grabs the attention.

The artwork speaks to its surroundings; as it “made in response to the context, building and public surrounds of the Vancouver Public Library.” Vancouver has a history with neon; in 1953 there were as many as 19,000 Neon signs throughout the city. This sculpture is a reminder of Vancouver’s Neon past.

THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE. 2019.

THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE has taken the attention of anyone who has seen it. Installed outside of the Vancouver Public Library in 2010 as part of the Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program, it is a memorable addition to Vancouver. Ron Terada is a Vancouver born and raised artist. His art infuses humour with intelligence, with connections to pop culture and art history. Terada uses text often in his work, which has included painting, photography, signage, video and various other printed media.

He has done several public works, including THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE. The artwork connects the complex relationship between oursevles and the city spaces we live in. Ron Terada has made a name for himself. As a result, his work has been shown around the world, including Toronto, London and Birmingham.

“The sign takes its cues from an era of signage when signs were once seen as celebratory, grand and iconic – in effect, as landmarks in their own right as a kind of symbolic architecture. In tracing this lineage, the work also acknowledges a local history when Vancouver was once seen as one of the neon-light capitals of North America.

In adopting the form of a sign, THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE elides the classifications of traditional sculpture, by evoking a typology that is at once familiar and accessible. Taken within the context of a public library, the work touches upon – in a very poetic way – the use of words and language as boundless and imaginative, as a catalyst for a multiplicity of meanings.

Ron Terada (covapp.vancouver.ca/PublicArtRegistry)
THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE. 2019.

13 The Birds (Olympic Village)

Name: The Birds

The Birds. 2019.

Location: Milton Wong Plaza / Olympic Village (1 Athletes Way)

Artist: Myfanwy MacLeod (Canada)

The sparrow, much like the Europeans that brought them to Canada, is an species that was introduced to the local ecosystem. The two sculptures depict a male and female sparrow, which stand on opposite sides of the plaza. They are quite tall, and their large size is meant to transform a bird we take for granted into something larger. The two birds are difficult to miss.

These two large scale sculptures each stand at 5.5 meters (18 feet) tall and are located in the former athletes village, which was used during the 2010 Winter Olympics. The village housed the thousands of athletes during the 2010 Olympic games and was later transformed into residential housing. The Birds was the first to be approved (and sponsored) by the Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program.

The birds are made with mixed materials, primarily built of stainless steel, hardcoated EPS foam and then airbrush painted. The legs are made out of a cast bronze and sealed with wax and the structure is “glued together with pressure-sensitive adhesive, specifically formulated for bonding EPS to itself and other materials”

The Birds. 2019.

Myfanwy MacLeod grew up in Ontario and currently lives and works in Vancouver. She has had many pieces of her artwork displayed in museums across North America and Europe, including being featured in the Vancouver Art Gallery and National Art Gallery of Canada.

Most importantly, these two sculptures “attempt to highlight both the lighter and graver sides of what can happen when a non-native species is introduced to an environment, how the beauty of birds can sometimes mask their threat to biodiversity.”

The Birds was her first large scale commissioned piece.

“My work for the Olympic Village tries to infuse the ordinary and commonplace sparrow with a touch of the ridiculous and the sublime.

The Birds is a pair of sparrows (male and a female) that, through their large scale inverts the normal relationship existing between these typically small birds and the human population.

Locating this artwork in an urban plaza not only highlights what has become the ‘natural’ environment of the sparrow, it also reinforces the ‘small’ problem of introducing a foreign species and the subsequent havoc wreaked upon our ecosystem. The Birds reminds us of our past, but it aspires to challenge the future. It is my hope that the work stimulates understanding that will lead to a greater sense of shared responsibility and caring.”

Myfanwy MacLeod (covapp.vancouver.ca/PublicArtRegistry)
The Birds. 2019.

14 The Drop (Downtown)

Name: The Drop

The Drop. 2019.

Location: Bon Voyage Plaza / Vancouver Convention Center (1055 Canada Place)

Artists: Inges Idee, Artist Collective (Germany)

The drop is located along the waterfront of downtown along the seawall that passes the Vancouver Convention Center. It is a large steel structure painted blue and meant to resemble a large raindrop.

“Thrust into the waters of Burrard Inlet, The Drop playfully invites the viewer to reflect on our relationship with this precious commodity of water, and by extension, on the history, complexity, and future of our waterfront.”

Inges Idee is a collective of German Artists that was formed in 1992 and comprised of Hans Hemmert, Axel Lieber, Thomas Schmidt and George Zey. They have created many sculptures which are on display around the world, from Berlin and Paris to Singapore and Tokyo and everything in between.

This piece was constructed in 2009, and was installed upon the completion of the new extension of the Vancouver Convention Center. The piece of artwork is owned by Pavco, who operates the building.

“The Drop pays homage to the element of water and the un-tameable forces of nature which are omnipresent in Vancouver. The slender, elongated sculpture balances as if a huge raindrop were on the verge of landing on the sea walk.

Although the sculpture takes a natural phenomenon as its starting point, it displays a technical perfection, artificially coloured to correspond to the sky and contrasting with the pale yellow mass of the mountain of sulphur visible on the horizon, waiting to be loaded into cargo ships.

The sculpture’s angle and orientation create a visual dialogue with the architecture of the Convention Centre West, as well as with the bows of the gigantic cruise ships frequently docked nearby. Like an abstract, radiant-blue ship’s figurehead, it marks the interface between land and water, between nature and technology.”

Inges Idee (covapp.vancouver.ca/PublicArtRegistry)
The Drop. 2019.

15 Gate to the Northwest Passage (Kitsilano)

Name: Gate to the Northwest Passage

Gateway to the Northwest Passage. 2018.

Location: Maritime Museum in Vanier Park (Kitsilano)

Artist: Alan Chung Hung (Canada)

This is a large steel sculpture that was built in the shape of a large 3D square, and then bent like a paper clip to create this unique shape.

The bottom part of the square has been cut in the middle, and the two parts have been pulled from each other to form a gate or archway. It is made from corten steel which was designed so the surface would rust, and create a protective coating.

This sculpture was chosen after a competition put forth by Parks Canada. The goal was to create a monument in Vanier Park to commemorate Captain George Vancouver.In 1792, Captain Vancouver – from where the city gets its name – was the first European to arrive, when he sailed into the Burard Inlet. The guidelines for the sculpture was to be made from permanent materials and not be in the likeness of a man.

It is an absract piece made to resemble two instruments from 18th century used for navigational purposes, “the plane table and David’s quadrant.” The Gateway to the Northwest Passage is 4.6 meters (15 feet) tall, and was created in 1980, when it was placed in its current home. Each side of the square is 15′ long by 3′ high by 3′ wide.

Located in Vanier Park in Kitsilano, Gate to the Northwest Passage is sculpture by Chinese-Canadian Alan Chung Hung. The sculpture can be found between the Maritime Museum and Museum of Vancouver.

Chung Hung said that, “The objective of the sculpture is to create a symbolic image with definite visual expression, awakening an awareness in Captain George Vancouver’s contribution to the world, his remarkable and meticulous surveys which included the north Pacific coast.”

The piece frames English Bay from the north view and the Centennial Museum from the south view. The opportunity for a sculpture was offered to the city by Hugh Faulkner, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs at the time.

The project was recommended by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. A five-member jury headed by former parks superintendent Stuart Lefeaux selected Chung Hung’s proposal from a local competition and the Parks Board approved the choice.

Gordon Smith, a member of the selection panel, said that “If people think Hung’s sculpture is a poor catch, they should have seen the ones that got away.” It was originally to be sited at Ferguson Point in Stanley Park.

Alan Chung Hung, artist Statement (covapp.vancouver.ca/PublicArtRegistry)
DSC_9324
Gateway to the Northwest Passage. 201.

What did we miss?

There were some tough choices to be made while compiling this list, and we’re sure that we’ve missed something amazing along the way. If there is any Public Art in Vancouver that you think we should have included, feel free to leave a comment below.

We researched many ideas for this post that didn’t make the list, including a few that we didn’t have time to visit. We certainly wish we could have included Reclining Figure at Dude Chilling Park, Walking Figures or the Main Street Poodle. We just ran out of space. Maybe some day in the future we will be able to re-visit this list and add some more incredible pieces.

It seems like we’ve already inadvertently started part two.

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2 comments

  1. Great post and fantastic photos. My favourite are the Totem Poles in the Stanley Park and the beautiful Orcas! Thanks for sharing and wishing you a very Happy New Year. Aiva

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