Toronto is both diverse and vibrant, with a plethora of public art providing something for everyone’s taste. Some pieces are universally loved, some scorned, and some which court controversy. This vast collection includes 200 city-owned pieces, including historical monuments, as well as works contributed by construction companies, some as a result of the City’s Percent for Public Art initiative. The initiative recommends that one per cent of gross construction costs of significant developments in the city be contributed by developers to public art. Here are ten must-see public art installations in Toronto.
Commissioned by the Hockey Hall of Fame and created by Canadian sculptor, illustrator, and designer Edie Parker in 1993, Our Game is a 17-foot bronze statue which graces the entry of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Positioned near the corner of Yonge and Front Streets, the sculpture epitomizes Canadian culture to the millions of visitors to the Hockey Hall of Fame each year.
Hockey Hall of Fame, 30 Yonge St, Toronto, ON +1 416 360 7765
Stephen Cruise’s Uniform Measure/STACK is the thimble and colorful buttons assemblage at Richmond and Spadina. Unveiled in 1997, the work has seen some variations and controversy over the years. Local artist Victor Fraser added color and numbering to the tape measure element of the installation in 2006. Fraser’s addition remained intact for 8 years until removal by the City in November 2014. Reports at the time indicated that Cruise had complained to the City and forced the removal. Undeterred, Fraser repainted the area in May 2015, with the alphabet in place of the numbers. The City removed the piece the following November, again reportedly at the request of Cruise.
Flight Stop, a collection of 60 life-size Canadian geese in flightm was completed in 1979 and has been on display since in the atrium of the Toronto Eaton Centre, located at the Queen Street entrance. The work, hand-tinted black and white photographs on cast fiberglass forms, was created by Michael Snow and makes the list as one of the more controversial sculptures in the city. In 1981, the shopping center placed red ribbons around the necks of the geese during the holiday season and Snow brought an injunction to have them removed, successfully arguing that the ribbons distorted his work and offended its integrity. The ruling is a leading Canadian decision on moral rights ensuring an artist’s vision is respected. The precedent continues to have implications to amendments to public art.
Toronto Eaton Centre, 220 Yonge St, Toronto, ON +1 416 598 8560
Toronto is a city known around the world for its multiculturalism, and the Monument to Multiculturalism at Union Station is a fitting tribute. Created by Francesco Perilli and unveiled in 1985, the sculpture depicts a man joining two of the world’s meridians, with doves holding the other meridians. Identical sculptures by the artist are located in South Africa, China, Bosnia, and Australia.
Union Station, 65 Front St, Toronto, ON +1 416 392 2489
Introduced for the 2015 Pan Am Games, the 3D Toronto sign, currently situated at Nathan Phillips Square, has become a fast favorite of locals and tourists alike. Measuring more than three meters tall by 23 meters long, with each letter weighing around 3000 pounds, the LED sign can create millions of lighting combinations. So far the lighting display has been changed six times for causes and to commemorate city and national events.
Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St W, Toronto, ON +1 416 203 2600
Moving onto the unofficial in our collection of public art, Graffiti Alley offers up an alternate option for unconventional public art lovers. Beginning at Spadina south of Queen West, Graffiti Alley runs all the way to Portland Street and provides visitors with plenty of variety in the murals on display. So infamous is the space that tour operators the Tour Guys now offer a Graffiti Tour of the area.