Quebec City's post-modern sculpture 'Dialogue with History' is no more

A post-modern sculpture that has been the butt of jokes since it was erected in Quebec City's historic Place de Paris 22 years ago was bulldozed Wednesday morning – allegedly for safety reasons.

Jean-Pierre Raynaud's stack of white cubes, a gift from France, is demolished in Place de Paris

A bulldozer demolishes Jean-Pierre Raynaud's "Dialogue with History," a gift from then-president of France, Jacques Chirac, in 1987. (Jean-François Nadeau/Radio-Canada)

A post-modern sculpture that has been the butt of jokes from tourists and residents alike since it was erected in Quebec City's historic Place de Paris 22 years ago is no more, after it was bulldozed Wednesday morning – allegedly for safety reasons.

French sculptor Jean-Pierre Raynaud's Dialogue with History was a gift from the one-time president of France and mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac, in 1987. 

"Dialogue with History" was better known as "The Cube" and by other names ever since it was erected in Place de Paris in 1987. (Google)

The sculpture - a stack of white cubes, eight metres high – was meant to commemorate the arrival of French settlers at the historic site.

However, from the start, many people complained it was an eyesore, dubbing it simply "The Cube," "Rubik's Cube," "The Fridge," and even, "The Toilet."  

Many said it simply didn't fit in the square, surrounded by 18th-Century historic buildings.

Heavy equipment hauled in

Recently, Quebec City authorities fenced in the sculpture, saying the concrete cubes were at risk of toppling and injuring passersby.

Earlier this week, they announced Dialogue with History would be dismantled, for safety reasons.

Dismantling is not the word for what happened, however.

Early this morning, a bulldozer demolished the statue. By noon, there was nothing left but rubble waiting to be loaded into an idling dumptruck and hauled away.

On mobile? Click here to watch CBC Catou MacKinnon's video.

Sculptor wants work rebuilt

Raynaud, the 76-year-old French sculptor, told Radio-Canada he was warned his work might need to be dismantled, as  cracks and water seepage had damaged the sculpture's integrity over the years.

He said restoring the work in place might have proved more costly than rebuilding it from scratch.

"From the point of view of artistic rights, it would be impossible for them to destroy it without the artist's authorization," Raynaud said. 

"That it should disappear for now, before it's restored, that doesn't shock me in itself," Raynaud said, after learning of its demolition. However, he said he expects an identical statue to be rebuilt – though perhaps elsewhere in the city.

Raynaud – whose post-modern art is on display in Japan, Korea, France, Spain and in the U.S.– was surprised to learn Dialogue with History had continued to cause such a stir over the years.

This morning, those who gathered to watch the statue be reduced to rubble were celebratory.

"I've always wondered why they put it up," said Angela Von Schoenberg, a longtime Quebec City resident. 

"It's not an embellishment. It looks like an insult."


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