Monday, November 16, 2009

Art & Culture: Public Art in Vancouver: Angels Among Lions by John Steil and Aileen Stalker

Every city needs a book like Public Art in Vancouver (TouchWood Editions) a kind of walking tour through the public art -- all the public art -- in the city of Vancouver, Canada.

“The character of a city is revealed by its public art,” the authors point out in their introduction, “what it collectively places on its streets and walls and in its public spaces.”

Most of the book, however, is given over to that art in well-organized sections that begin with a map that indicates each artwork under discussion in that section. Each piece of art is given one third to one quarter of a page that includes a small but clear photograph, the name of the piece, the year it was installed and a little about how it came to be where it is. And so you have, for instance, the iconic Girl in A Wetsuit from Stanley Park. We’re told it was installed in 1972 and that there was initially talk “of recreating the Little Mermaid from Copenhagen’s Harbour, but luckily, a West Coast image was used instead. Many people refer to her as a mermaid, but she is a scuba diver with flippers.”

This is a fantastic, well conceived and executed book. I hope TouchWood is planning on adding other cities and making it a series.

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