A look at Vancouver's most thought-provoking public art (PHOTOS)

Apr 1 2022, 9:23 pm

Over the years, several eye-catching and eyebrow-raising pieces have been installed around Vancouver.

Whether they spark controversy or conversation, we’re looking at the most talked-about pieces in the city that you should know about.

Voxel Bridge

Voxel Bridge

At the south end of the Cambie Bridge, you’ll find this art installation that features augmented reality and blockchain technology.

This piece exists in multiple dimensions. It’s here in our physical 3-D world, but you can also explore it in the digital world via the Vancouver Biennale app.

It’s also the biggest blockchain-based AR artwork of its kind globally.

The Proud Youth

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Vancouver Biennale

This bronze and stainless-steel statue by Chinese artist Chen Wenling is hard to miss on the Yaletown Seawall.

On the Vancouver Biennale page, organizers describe the work by saying, “Not only does the bright red colour signify auspiciousness in Chinese tradition, but this colour is also a testament to the artist’s fiery attitude toward life.”

Another sculpture by the same artist called Boy Holding a Shark has yet to be installed, partly because of the backlash from the False Creek Community regarding the work.

The Birds

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The Birds arrived just in time for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Created by artist Myfanwy MacLeod, they might seem like giant, 18-foot-tall sparrows at first.

A deeper meaning is that they demonstrate that non-native species introduced into an environment can massively threaten the area’s biodiversity.

Brush With Illumination

vancouver art

City of Vancouver

If you’ve seen this piece in the water just off the seawall, you might have wondered, what is it? Installed in 1998, it features a brush resting on a steel piling.

According to the city, the piece was used to transmit the weather and tide changes to a website that you could check, but we got a 404 error when we tried in 2022.

The Drop

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Oleg Mayorov/Shutterstock

This unmissable piece of art along the seawall by the Vancouver Convention Centre is larger than life.

Created by German artist group inges idee, it’s been a staple of the waterfront since it was installed in 2009.

The Drop playfully invites the viewer to reflect on our relationship with this precious commodity of water, and by extension, on the history, complexity, and future of our waterfront,” according to the artist statement from the City.

The Stop

The Stop/Vancouver Biennale

In 2009, artist Michael Zheng installed a series of stop signs with their backs painted pink in Charleson Park and Vanier Park.

The installation “subverts the power of the original sign and gives it possibilities of fresh experiences with new meaning,” Zheng writes of the piece.

Also part of Vancouver’s Sculpture Biennale, The Stop is still displayed at 3rd Avenue and Alberta Street.

Untitled (Poodle)

Memento (Poodle)/ City of Vancouver Public Art Registry

Artist Gisele Amantea’s sculpture of a porcelain poodle has been looking over Main Street and 18th Avenue for nearly a decade.

The little white dog was placed as part of a 2012 installation called Memento that featured several temporary pieces in and on trolleybuses.

Spinning Chandelier

Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive

Spinning Chandelier under the Granville Street Bridge has been twirling above Beach Avenue since 2019.

Designed by artist Rodney Graham, the sculpture weighs over 7,500 pounds. The chandelier’s 600 polyurethane faux crystals are illuminated by LED lamps at night.

Device to Root Out Evil (Now in Calgary)


Dennis Oppenheim’s sculpture of an upside-down, New England-style church sat in Coal Harbour Park from 2006 to 2008.

Part of the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale, the piece was built with the church’s steeple pointed into the ground.

Like Shearer’s billboards, the Device to Root Out Evil was met with criticism and eventually removed from the park. It has since found a new home in Calgary.

Gumhead (No longer showing)

Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive

In 2014, artist and novelist Douglas Coupland unveiled his interactive “Gumhead” exhibit outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Passersby were invited to stick their chewing gum onto the seven-foot-tall sculpture, also a Coupland self-portrait. In only a matter of days, his head was covered in a colourful layer of bubblegum.

It was at the gallery in the summer of 2014 but is no longer showing. It’s hard to imagine this piece coming to life in the same way in a post-COVID-19 world!

2021 Capture Photography Festival (No longer showing)

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Untitled by Steven Shearer (Dennis Ha)

Seven billboards along Arbutus Greenway had to be covered up after people complained that they were “frightening” and “evoked the ongoing opioid crisis.”

The billboards, part of the 2021 Capture Photography Festival, featured artwork by Vancouver-based artist Steven Shearer that showed people sleeping.

The pieces were supposed to be on display until May 21 but were taken down just two days after being installed.

With files from Daily Hive staff

Sarah AndersonSarah Anderson

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