New location sought for "Boy Holding Shark" sculpture after South False Creek outcry

Jul 13 2021, 5:26 pm

The installation of an eccentric shark sculpture that sparked debate across the community has been put on pause by the City of Vancouver.

The piece of artwork is titled “Boy Holding a Shark” and was created by Chen Wenling. The highlight of the sculpture is a blue-coloured boy holding a silver shark that appears to be melting.

The sculpture stands at nearly eight metres tall and weighs approximately 1,200 kg, with the boy and the shark standing on top of a red beacon that resembles a lighthouse.

boy holding a shark biennale

A mockup image of Chen Wenling’s Boy Holding A Shark (Vancouver Biennale).

It was slated for installation on the south side of False Creek, along the Seawall near Stamps Landing.

The City of Vancouver says that after a technical review, they’ve denied Vancouver Biennale’s request to install Boy Holding a Shark at the proposed location.

In a statement to Daily Hive Urbanized, the City cites concerns around congestion and overcrowding, as well as resident feedback that was also taken into consideration.

“The application was denied as part of a technical review conducted by the City which considered resident comments, as well as an assessment of the site, underground infrastructure and utilities, and the surrounding public realm,” a spokesperson says in an email.

The City stresses, however, that they will work with the Biennale to find a “new, more suitable location along the Seawall.”


Boy Holding A Shark by Chen Wenling is slated for installation in False Creek (Vancouver Biennale).

Since the sculpture was revealed in the late spring, its installation has been hotly contested by hundreds of local residents. In fact, an online petition fighting against it received over 1,500 signatures.

Residents who signed the petition voiced their reasoning for why they didn’t want it installed. Many people argued the structure was too large and intrusive. The lack of public consultation was also cited.

“This would be an unsightly imposition on the garden-like setting of this False Creek neighbourhood,” reads the petition. “There has been little neighbourhood consultation on this project.”

Barrie Mowatt, founder and president of the Vancouver Biennale, however, argued that the sculpture taps into Vancouver’s identity as a port city, as well as relevant environmental concerns.

“Without seeing it in its entirety, one can create all kinds of imaginings of a 24-foot-high boy holding a shark,” he explains. “If one sees the full strength of the artwork, then one might have a better idea that there’s a message here, as well as the beauty in terms of the architectural structure of it all. It shouldn’t be foreign to Vancouver; we’re a port city.”

According to Vancouver Biennale, “Boy Holding a Shark” is akin to a lighthouse, acting as a warning that “human activity is jeopardizing our oceans to the point where even the most powerful and seemingly indomitable of marine life are in distress.”

Daily Hive has reached out to the Vancouver Biennale for additional comment. 

Vincent PlanaVincent Plana

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