Controversy erupts over plan to place Mobi Bikes station in front of $1.4-million Wheel of Everyday Life art project

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      Swedish artist Gunilla Klingberg has gained worldwide respect for her large-scape public commissions that often juxtapose consumerism with spirituality.

      She often does this with circular patterns resembling mandalas, which represent the cycles of life, death, and rebirth.

      Now, the City of Vancouver and U.S.-based CycleHop want to place a 15-metre Mobi Bikes rack in front Klingberg's Wheel of Everyday Life installation on a large concrete wall on the Burrard Place project in downtown Vancouver.

      That has upset one of the developers, Reliance Properties, as well as some arts advocates.

      “There is already a bike-share right outside Burrard Place—just a few steps from the art wall—plus three private bike rental shops in the immediate vicinity,” Reliance president and CEO Jon Stovell said in a news release.

      A daytime view of the Wheel of Everyday Life.

      In the same release, the artist, Klingberg, said that Wheel of Everyday Life includes a kaleidoscopic pattern shaped like a mandala.

      "My piece’s focus is on imagined energy radiating and pulsating from its centre point," she noted. "It underlines a sense of togetherness in our shared time and space. It aims to link the mundane with universal and cosmic forces."

      The $1.4-million public-art project was installed as a condition of rezoning and enhances a walkable area beside the building.

      Meanwhile, Vancouver Hindu scholar Jeffrey Armstrong characterized the planned Mobi Bikes rack as a "desecration of an urban oasis" because many Eastern cultures view mandalas as sacred circles.

      “First the city encourages art, and then it creates a visual and energetic barrier to its enjoyment," Armstrong declared. "A bright-blue, branded metal bike structure placed in a soothing monochromic public space is a mixed metaphor that depicts a city arguing with itself.”

      This shows approximately where the Mobi Bikes station would be located.

      Others who've spoken out against the plan include public-art consultant Jan Ballard, former Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association president and CEO Charles Gauthier, and private art gallery owner and real-estate marketer Bob Rennie.

      “Just two weeks ago, I phoned Jon at Reliance to thank him for this amazing addition to our city,” Rennie said in the news release. “Public art enriches our physical environments, brings streetscapes and plazas to life, and expands our minds. Public art adds to a true liveable, walkable city, and best of all, it is free for everyone to enjoy, including children.”

      This is what the existing Mobi Bikes station looks like in front of Burrard Place.