Former Coal Harbour upside-down art installation finally settles in Calgary

Jul 19 2019, 6:27 am

A controversial art installation in Coal Harbour has found a new home in Calgary.

Device to Root Out Evil can now be found in the city’s East Village on 5th Street Square.

The latest addition to East Village is a contraption by the late American artist and sculptor Dennis Oppenheim, known for his eclectic and sometimes outrageous artistic creations.


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The public art installation called Vancouver’s Coal Harbour Park home for almost two-and-a-half years between 2006 and 2008, and came to Vancouver as part of the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale.

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However, the large, controversial sculpture was in everyone’s faces, quite literally, as it sat in a park too small for its size, in addition to being directly in front of condominium towers effectively blocking the scenic view of Coal Harbour Park.

After complaints and negative comments from several people, including park goers and neighbours, the Vancouver Park Board commissioners voted to have the sculpture removed, a decision that was equally denounced by art critics that called the move a step backwards for the quality of Vancouver’s public art displays.

Device To Root Out Evil

Device To Root Out Evil, at Coal Harbour in Vancouver (Shutterstock)

“Device to Root out Evil” is an upside-down, New England-style church built so that its steeple is pointed into the ground.

The 7.5m tall sculpture is made from galvanized steel, perforated metal and Venetian glass.

Initially just called “Church,” the installation was created by Oppenheim who proposed funding from the New York City’s Public Art Fund so that it could be located on Church Street, where he lived at the time.

Ultimately, the art was considered so controversial that it was renamed before being installed as part of the 1997 Venice Biennale, instead.

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In fact, Oppenheim’s alma mater, Stanford University, despite approving the purchase of the piece in 2003, subsequently vetoed its purchase after the university’s president called it, “inappropriate for campus.”

Since then it has made its way to Vancouver, Calgary, and even Mallorca, Spain, before finally settling down in East Village on Thursday.

“It’s a very simple gesture that’s made here, simply turning something upside-down. Turning something upside-down elicits a reversal of content and pointing a steeple into the ground directs it to hell as opposed to heaven,” said Oppenheim of his work, according to

“Turning the church upside down makes it more aggressive, but not blasphemous,” he said in a 2006 article, as a response to those who found his work anti-Christian or controversial.

Lakshmi SadhuLakshmi Sadhu

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