Controversial Public Art Piece Given the Boot

<p>Vancouverites send a sculpture packing, stirring up a debate over the role of public art.</p>
June 13, 2008, 5am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"For all the talk about what, if anything, Dennis Oppenheim's towering sculpture says about religion and Christianity, it turns out complaints about water views and esthetics were ultimately what forced the controversial artwork out of a downtown park.

"Asking for a work to be removed because it blocks a view or damages a view is probably more insulting than having it removed for its content," says Oppenheim, a prominent New York-based artist."You have to understand the level of esoterica that a lot of art has to the public at large. It's a strange thing for lots of people, and the first thing they do is ask for it to be removed."

The sculpture - titled Device to Root Out Evil - was taken apart last week and is now destined for Calgary's Glenbow Museum, a move that's raised questions about how willing Canadians are to embrace public art. It was erected in a small park along Vancouver's waterfront in 2006, one of nearly two dozen works set up around the city for 18-month installations for the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale.

The six-metre-high statue of steel and red stained glass depicts an inverted church, its steeple penetrating the ground and its base reaching out into the sky.

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Published on Sunday, June 8, 2008 in The Canadian Press
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