British Columbia

City says controversial sculpture will not be installed in Vancouver neighbourhood

The City of Vancouver says it is looking for an alternative location for a nearly eight-metre tall art piece of a boy holding a shark. Over 1,500 people petitioned to not have the sculpture installed in the proposed False Creek location.

Over 1,500 people petitioned to keep the 7.8-metre-tall public art piece out of False Creek

The 7.8-metre sculpture, Boy Holding A Shark, is part of the Vancouver Biennale, a public art exhibition held every two years. (Vancouver Biennale)

A towering sculpture of a distressed young boy cradling a melting shark in his arms will not become a fixture in Vancouver's False Creek neighbourhood, according to the city's head of public art.

The art piece, titled Boy Holding A Shark, is the work of Chinese artist Chen Wenling and is part of the Vancouver Biennale, a public art exhibition held every two years. According to a description on the biennale website, the 7.8-metre installation is a "reflection on the growing tension between humans and the ocean."

And the prospect of its arrival definitely caused tension.

More than 1,500 people signed a petition to stop the city from installing it on the southern edge of Vancouver's False Creek at a small elevated park space bordering the bike path near Stamps Landing.

At issue was the sculpture's height, its proximity to neighbours and the foot traffic it could draw in the middle of a busy bike route.

"It will obscure views, which will affect property values and sell-ability," MC Marciniak, one of the petition's signatories, wrote in the comments. 

The sculpture is the work of Chinese artist Chen Wenling and was designed to evoke concern about environmental issues. (Vancouver Biennale)

Now, according to Eric Fredericksen, Vancouver's head of public art, the city has completed an internal review and will not approve installation of the piece at the proposed site.

"The proposed site for Boy Holding a Sharcarries high volumes of people walking and cycling, and the detailed site review, along with relevant comments from the public, identified conflicts with seawall traffic and integration with the surroundings," Fredericksen said in a July 7 statement.


Cameron Cartiere, a professor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, said Friday on CBC's The Early Edition she respects that this is democracy in progress and that while the people have spoken, art is about generating conversation and she hopes all parties involved seize the opportunity for dialogue. 

"Fifteen hundred people signed this petition, so that's 1,500 people who are in some ways engaged in the conversation," said Cartiere.

"I think that this is a moment where the biennale and the city could keep those engaged citizens in conversation. And if that doesn't happen, then in my opinion, then the process failed rather than the work failing."

She said this could be a starting point for the city to take stock of its process when deciding to install public art and find out if they need to speak with residents further in advance so future decisions go more smoothly.

The city said it will work with the Vancouver Biennale to find a more suitable location for the sad boy and his shark.

With files from The Early Edition and Alex Migdal

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