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In 2006, a large sculpture of an upside down church, entitled Device to Root Out Evil, was erected on Vancouver’s Coal Harbour seawall as part of the city’s Public Art Biennale.

The piece by Dennis Oppenheimer was challenging, though-provoking and stirred debate (Vancouver Sun religion columnist Douglas Todd wrote a good article about it here). Some Vancouverite’s objected to its message, which was interpreted to be about the futility of religion’s attempts to root out evil. Some thought it blocked the view. Others loved it. Eventually in 2008, the Vancouver’s Public Parks Committee voted to take it down and it moved to Calgary, Alberta.

Device to Root Out Evil ultimately demonstrated that public art can be used to provoke dialogue and challenge our beliefs (another powerful and controversial piece of public art was recently unveiled by Issac Cordal in Berlin called Politicians Discussing Global Warming). Or, public art can just be fun and whimsical and invite people to come together, sit down and enjoy a public space.

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Issac Cordal’s Politicians Discussing Global Warming

Vancouver is launching its third Biennale next month, Every other year, the celebration brings massive works of public art to locations throughout Vancouver and surrounding communities. In April, about 20 public art sculptures will be installed throughout parks and open spaces in Vancouver and another 10 in New Westminster, North Vancouver and Squamish. 92 international artists and 12 Canadian artists will be participating in the event. According to the Vancouver Biennale website:

The curatorial theme of the exhibition is Open Borders / Crossroads Vancouver. Unique in the world for its natural beauty, Vancouver becomes the international hub where artists from all nations, cultural backgrounds, political histories and artistic disciplines gather to celebrate art in public space. Together we inspire creativity, transform thinking and find our interconnectedness as global citizens through art.

Some biennale artists have already arrived. In North Vancouver by Lonsdale Quay, a group of seven Brazilians are transforming the interior of the old pipefitters building into a pavilion to host a series of rotating exhibitions of about six months duration. The 840-square-metre space is expected to open in May with the first exhibition of works from Brazil curated by Marcello Dantas.

According to Barrie Mowatt, Founder and President of the Vancouver Biennale,  they will be working with host cities to see which temporary works can become permanent installations. That’s what happened to A-Maze-Ing Laughter in the city’s English Bay. It was installed temporarily in 2009 for a previous biennale and became permanent after it was purchased by Lululemon founder Chip Wilson’s Wilson5 Foundation for $1.5 million in 2012 and donated to the city. The city also inherited Engagement (the huge engagement rings above Sunset Beach) and 217.5 Arc X 13 (those rusting metal ribs at Sunset Beach).

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A-Maze-Ing Laughter

Here is a sneak preview of some of the public art projects coming to the city as part of this year’s Vancouver Biennale:

Public Furniture | Urban trees: Over the past 20 years, Hugo França has  developed techniques to transform salvaged fallen trees into objects, sculptures and furniture. He uses this experience to convert trunks and roots of condemned trees and trees that have washed ashore into sculptural artwork and furniture for the citizens to use. This will be the first time he is creating public sculpture outside Brazil and using a variety of local wood species.

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Shipping Containers: this piece by Brazilian artist Jose Rensende consists of pairs of full-size shipping containers welded together into gravity-defying V-shapes.  The sculpture will stand at Pier Park in New Westminster.

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The Blue Trees: this installation made its public art debut with the 2009-2011 Vancouver Biennale. It is coming back in 2015 to communities in all five regions of BC, locations to be announced. The Blue Trees is an art project by Konstantin Dimopoulos that brings environmental consciousness and social action together in a uniquely beautiful and captivating installation. Ideally done in the spring before the leaves blossom, an iconic tree or series of trees are painted with a vibrant blue pigment, transforming the tree into sculpture. 

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Breathing FlowerA delicate lotus flower the size of a two-storey house.  The exact location for this piece by Korea’s Choi Jeong Hwa, which is made from sheets of red fabric and opens and closes throughout the day, has yet to be determined.

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Photo credit: Nikita Kashner | Flickr

Human StructuresThis human pyramid from American artist Jonathan Borofsky consists of 64 brightly coloured, life-size steel figurines stacked on top of each other.  The location has not yet been determined.

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Photo credit: jonathanpercy | Flickr

Love Your Bean: Car-size, neon-coloured Jelly Beans from Montreal’s Cosimo Cavallaro. Location not determined.

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Photo credit: myhistro.com