Chip Wilson's donation will turn Trans Am Totem into a permanent Vancouver fixture

May 2 2019, 4:12 am

Seven years ago, the Chip and Shannon Wilson family saved the Amazing Laughter statues at English Bay with a $1.5-million donation.

Today, the 14 bronze sculptures of laughing men have become a fixture that is strongly associated with the West End and the English Bay area.

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And now, the lululemon founder has also saved the Trans Am Totem — a 10-metre tall public art piece featuring five real scrap cars stacked upon an old growth cedar tree.

Daily Hive has learned the Wilson family’s recently announced donation was the full US$250,000 that was sought, allowing the prominent piece to be retained as a permanent fixture in Vancouver’s urban landscape.

It was first unveiled in 2015 for the 2014-2016 Vancouver Biennale, which curates public art pieces for temporary exhibitions across the city. But only a small fraction of the number of public art pieces have been made permanent, made possible only by funding.

Trans Am Totem

Trans Am Totem. (Shutterstock)

Trans Am Totem is currently located on the median of Quebec Street at the intersection with Pacific Boulevard. Due to the forthcoming reconstruction of the area, as outlined by the Northeast False Creek Plan, which includes a new road network, the public art piece will need to be relocated.

In an interview with Daily Hive in March 2018, Marcus Bowcott, the artist behind the piece, said having Trans Am Totem sponsored by the Vancouver Biennale was “out of the blue – unexpected.”

“The Vancouver Biennale’s sponsorship has been great and there’s been tremendous public engagement, beyond anything we could have imagined,” he said.

On the Vancouver Biennale’s website, Bowcott described his piece in the following way: “The automobile holds a unique position in our culture. It’s a manufactured want and symbol of extremes; practicality and luxury, necessity and waste. We can see this in the muscular Trans Am, the comfortable BMW, and the workhorse Civic. Trans Am Totem also questions the cycle of production and consumption.”

With files from Eric Zimmer.

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