Chewed Gum Public Art: stick gum onto Douglas Coupland's head outside the Vancouver Art Gallery

Dec 19 2017, 6:37 pm

Chewing gum has long been deemed a nuisance in public spaces. It is everywhere – pressed, crushed and hardened on sidewalks, and don’t get me started on accidentally touching someone’s old gum under a table or chair.

For the most part in Vancouver, the improper disposal of chewed gum coupled with the lack of adequate regular street cleaning amounts to a scar on our environment.

But can this act of defacing public space and property be turned into an act of public art?

That is what Douglas Coupland’s latest public art piece hopes to do. The Vancouver Art Gallery is in the process of installing a commissioned public sculpture on the grassy mound just outside the museum building on Howe Street. It is half a block away from ‘Urban Reef’, the selected design for this year’s summertime street plaza at Robson Square.

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Image: poppyflow via Instagram

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Image: Vancouver Art Gallery

If you are an art admirer and think the face of the 7-foot tall Gumhead sculpture looks a little familiar, you are right as it is a self-portrait of Coupland himself. The Gallery describes the piece as “a gum-based, crowd-sourced, publically interactive, social-sculpture self-portrait.”

Art enthusiasts and pedestrians passing by will be encouraged to stick their chewed gum to the sculpture. Over the next few months, the head and its face will eventually be concealed as more gum is sticked onto the sculpture.

Coupland is known for involving others in creating his art pieces, and he also relies on everyday objects for materials.

The Gumhead will be the fifteenth installment of NEXT: A Series of Artist Projects from the Pacific Rim. It is currently under wraps and will be officially unveiled later this month; the interactive sculpture will remain at the location for chewed gum sticking from May 31 to September 1, 2014.


Chewed gum public art exists in other cities, although unlike Vancouver’s Gumhead their versions are permanent locations:

Market Theatre Gum Wall (near Pike Place Market) at Seattle

Seattle gum wall / shutterstock
Image: Seattle gum wall via Shutterstock

Seattle gum wall / shutterstock
Image: Seattle gum wall via Shutterstock

Bubblegum Alley at San Luis Obispo, California

Gum Wall
Image: Adam Fagen via Flickr

Berlin Wall on Potsdamer Platz

Berlin Wall gum / shutterstock
Image: Berlin Wall gum via Shutterstock


Featured Image: Douglas Coupland/Vancouver Art Gallery

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