Boy Holding a Shark sculpture faces opposition before installment at Vancouver's False Creek

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      While public art is intended to provoke thought and create discussion, a proposed temporary sculpture that serves as a warning about how human beings are destroying the oceans is already facing opposition prior to its installation in Vancouver.

      Boy Holding a Shark by artist Chen Wenling of China is proposed to be erected on the seawall in False Creek South this month as part of the Vancouver Biennale, which is a public art exhibition held every two years.

      The sculpture features a blue boy holding a silver shark, as he stands on top of a red lighthouse-like structure.

      The biennale explains that Boy Holding a Shark addresses the “growing tension between humans and the ocean”, and how “oceans and marine life, including sharks, have severely suffered from environmental damages, such as global warming and sea pollution, that are fatal to marine life”. 

      The bronze and corten steel sculpture is almost eight metres (26 feet) tall and weighs 1,200 kilograms (1.3 U.S. tons).

      A petition to block the installation of the sculpture was launched online, and has collected approximately 1,400 signatures as of today.

      “This would be an unsightly imposition on the garden-like setting of this False Creek South neighbourhood,” the petition states.

      On June 11, the Vancouver Biennale issued a statement “in response to the misinformation being circulated about our proposed public art installation”.

      The nonprofit organization explains that an “early photograph of the sculpture did not provide the full perspective” and provided further details about it.

      Boy Holding a Shark is akin to a lighthouse and acts 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,” the biennale stated.” The young, distraught boy, holding the shark as evidence for all to see, reminds us that the future is in our hands.”

      The art organization describes the sculpture as “creative placemaking that taps into our identity as a port city and long history of environmental activism, revitalizes the dialogue, and re-engages our collective consciousness at a critical point in the health of our oceans”.

      The biennale asks those “who are opposed because of the aesthetics of the artwork, the location and its proximity to privately owned residences, and/or the ethnicity of the artist” to “consider Boy Holding A Shark as an opportunity to create a really imaginative, meaningful space for the entire community to enjoy and be inspired by”.

      Wenling is the sculptor who also created The Proud Youth, a red statue of a grinning, slender figure bent over with his hands on his knees, that is located near the Yaletown seawall. This statue, which has attracted divisive opinions, was unveiled in March as part of the Vancouver Biennale.  

      The Proud Youth by artist Chen Wenling
      Vancouver Biennale