Toronto’s growing collection of public art is rising alongside the condos transforming the skyline. We’ve taken a look at a handful of some of the more recent works – the playful, the dramatic and the thought-provoking installations created by both local and international artists. All photos by James Bombales, unless otherwise noted.
Artist: Zhang Huan
Location: Shangri La., 180 University Ave., Toronto
Look closely at the intricate sculpture and you’ll see countless doves, the symbol of peace, twisted together like a tree branch into the shape of a dragon. Zhang Huan, a contemporary artist from China, explained the artwork as a “philosophical reflection of the world around us” on his website. It was unveiled in May 2012 during an Asian Heritage Month celebration.
Artist: Francisco Gazitua
Location: Absolute World, 80 Absolute Way, Mississauga
The sculpture of three horses, which made its debut in December 2011, represents a new way of thinking for the city of Mississauga. Not only does the art go hand-in-hand with the curving, skyline-defining “Marilyn Monroe” towers, the work was also the first privately commissioned piece of public art in Mississauga’s history. Artist Francisco Gazitua has created other public pieces in the GTA, such as the Rosa Nautica at Cityplace.
Artist: Carl Taçon
Location: One St. Thomas Residences, 1 St Thomas St., Toronto
Made up of Vermont Mountain White Marble, the artwork stretches 136-feet and weighs an astonishing 50 tons. Yet it somehow manages to look far more delicate. The Toronto-based artist Carl Taçon carved each of the 20 marble sections that make up the piece by hand. As a result, the artworks looks more like a loose piece of drapery than an unyielding stone.
Tom Thomson’s Canoe
Artist: Douglas Coupland
Location: Near Cityplace, Spadina Avenue and Fort York Blvd., Toronto
A celebration of Canadian heritage, Coupland’s whimsical red canoe is the main focal point of the 3.1-hectare Canoe Landing Park. The larger-than-life piece is modelled after a standard Canadian Tire canoe and is big enough for people to stand on and see Lake Ontario over the Gardiner Expressway. The park includes other sculptural pieces such as a beaver’s dam, colourful fishing bobbers and iceberg-shaped benches as well as one-mile run called the Terry Fox Miracle Mile.
Photo by Brittany Devenyi
Artist: Douglas Coupland
Location: Emerald City, Sheppard Ave. E. and Don Mills Rd., Toronto
If the colours in the tall cones seem familiar, you’re not alone. Another piece of public art that trumpets Canadiana, the multi-hued shapes are a playful nod to Laurentian pencil crayons, a part of so many Canadians’ childhood. Coupland says the art was meant to be the creation of a landscape from scratch, a feeling he associates with the joy and creative urge that came along with a getting a box of new pencil crayons as a kid. The cones range in size from 48 to 60-feet in height.
Artist: Mark di Suvero
Location: Cityplace, 175 Dan Leckie Way, Toronto
Flower Power originally called High Park home after its debut at the International Sculpture Symposium in Toronto in 1967 (which explains the hippie name). The steel sculpture began to show its age and in 2008, the City of Toronto sent it to the New York-based artist’s studio where it was restored to its former glory. The piece of Abstract Expressionism was the first time di Suvero incorporated steel I-beams on such a grand scale into his art and they’ve occurred frequently in his work since then.
Rose Wall at Mist Gardens
Artist: Linda Covit
Location: Four Seasons Condos, 60 Yorkville Ave., Toronto
Though the sculpture is located deep in the city’s core, it’s guided by the natural world. Covit is known for her responsive installations. Her rose-covered wall is just above a grate that envelops the garden in mist every few minutes. The carved wall goes hand-in-hand with its surroundings, an intricately designed garden imagined by Claude Cormier + Associés, known for popular Toronto public spaces such as Sugar Beach, and NAK Design Group of Toronto.
Artist: Jed Lind
Location: Charlie Condos, 430 King St., W., Toronto
Lind’s sculpture was the winning entry of a public art contest organized by the developer of the condo. Made of cast bronze and standing five-metres tall, the piece is shaped after the front end of a lake boat, and connects King Street’s working-class history to its more recent emergence as creative class corridor. It was unveiled in 2013 and stands in the condo’s public courtyard.
Artist: Shayne Dark
Location: X The Condominium, 588 Jarvis St., Toronto
Made up of 25 steel poles painted an eye-catching shade of red, the artwork debuted in 2010. The artist recently told The Grid the sculpture was inspired by sticks that washed up on the shore near his home on Fourteen Island Lake. No stranger to public art, Dark is also behind a similar piece called “Double Take” at the condo’s companion project, X2 as well as “Nova” at Tableau Condominiums in the city’s Entertainment District.
Artist: Maha Mustafa
Location: Parade Condos, Spadina Ave. and Front St. W., Toronto
The two shining components curl around each other and reflect lots of light (the red scooter is not actually part of the installation, just a happy coincidence). Mustafa, who works out of both Toronto and Sweden, is no stranger to the bright arts. She also designed “Light Canoes” for Cityplace in 2009, which help illuminate an underpass near Spadina. Her work has appeared across the globe, including the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Al Sharjah Biennial in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates and the Malmo Museum in Sweden.
Artist: Olaf Breuning
Location: King West Life, 85 East Liberty St., Toronto
Located in a piazza in Liberty Village, this installation is the first time Breuning, who hails from Switzerland by way of New York City, has created an outdoor sculpture. Unveiled in October 2013, the separate steel components look like they’re on the verge of toppling over. The sculpture is based on an earlier work called “The Bunnies,” a reference to the famous, ancient sculptures of Easter Island that, despite their solid make up, look somewhat unbalanced.
Puente de Luz
Artist: Francisco Gazitua
Location: CityPlace, 524 Front St. W., Toronto
Form meets function at “the bridge of light,” which made its debut in October 2012. This daring yellow steel sculpture actually encases a pedestrian bridge that connects Cityplace to Front Street. You may recognize Gazitua’s name – his sculpture at Absolute World also make our list, though he’s known for a number of other public pieces in the city including Perpetual Motion in Liberty Village and Barca Volante, also located at CityPlace.
Artist: James Carl
Location: Festival Tower, King St W. & John St., Toronto
Sometimes the most simple objects can be the most inspiring. Carl modelled his 1,400-pound sculpture after a rubber band. During the artwork’s unveiling in May 2012, then city councillor Adam Vaughan described the piece as an important component of the City of Toronto’s vision for John Street as a “cultural corridor.”
Have a favourite piece that we missed? Add it in the comment section below and we’ll try to snap a photo.