The City of Vancouver is preparing to unveil its latest piece of public art: a massive, $4.88-million, illuminated spinning chandelier.
The installation, which is 4.2 metres (14 feet) wide and 7.6 metres (25 feet) tall, hangs beneath the north end of the Granville Street Bridge, and was designed by internationally-acclaimed Lower Mainland artist Rodney Graham.
It’s also a kinetic sculpture. A mechanism slowly raises the chandelier throughout the day by twisting cables.
Once a day, when it reaches its maximum height, the chandelier will spin and drop as the cables unwind, with its faux-crystal pieces extending outward.
While the installation comes with a hefty price tag, it’s not on the public dime, said Eric Frederickson, Vancouver’s head of public art.
Vancouver’s Private Development Program requires developers to contribute a piece of public art for any rezoning greater than 100,000 square feet.
The contribution was initially attached to the adjacent Vancouver House. As the cost of the art piece grew — it was initially conceived as a $1.2 million project — the city allowed developer Westbank to combine its art contributions for several developments.
“Given the scale of the idea and what it would take to realize it from Rodney Graham’s original conception to what we’ll see tonight, we worked with the developer to allow them to pool the funds from multiple projects,” said Frederickson.
The piece’s massive scale is already catching plenty of eyes, Fredrickson said, with people stopping to look or take photos during the installation.
“I expect that it will become an icon for the city of Vancouver, that it will be very recognizable image that people associate with the city and a place for people to visit,” he said.
Fredrickson also said it was exciting to have such a distinctive piece created by a local artist.
Rodney Graham was born in Abbotsford, and has worked his entire career in the Lower Mainland, attending both SFU and UBC.
“He’s among the first generation of artists who showed that it was possible to build an international art career while living and working in Vancouver and was an inspiration and mentor and an often supporter in various ways of younger generations of artists,” said Fredrickson.
Spinning Chandelier is based on another of Graham’s works, a 35mm film loop installation called Torqued Chandelier Release, which saw a crystal chandelier whirl rapidly as its supporting cable is unwound.
Reception to the piece has not been universally positive, with some criticizing the piece’s gaudy aesthetic and large price tag amid the city’s affordability crisis.
“This is so disgusting,” wrote former Vancouver School Board trustee Carrie Bercic on Twitter.
“There are so many better things to do with [the money]. This isn’t ‘art,’ it’s shameless self-promotion and gentrification from a ‘luxury’ developer that only cares about money.”
“As cool as this may be, the optics of a $4.8 million chandelier hung under the Granville Street bridge while the City of Vancouver is proposing a 8.2% (+/-) increase in property taxes is very short-sighted & tone-deaf to the financial struggles many are facing,” added Twitter user Brad Dirks.
Westbank has previously faced criticism for its public art projects, most notably when it launched its Fight for Beauty campaign, which was derided by critics as “artwashing.”
The official commissioning of the piece begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, with the actual illumination and launch around an hour later.
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