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Reason to Love Toronto: because our most priceless art is free

Reasons to Love Toronto July 2012: because our most priceless art is free

The $5-million Rising, by Chinese sculptor Zhang Huan, at the base of the Shangri-La hotel and condo tower on University Avenue (Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

Toronto’s new luxury hotels have elicited a lot of praise—they’ve given the city new restaurants, bars and ballrooms, and at least two celebrity chefs. But even the most magnanimous Torontonian would have a hard time applauding their aesthetic merits—ultimately the towers blend in with the skyline: more glass, more steel, remarkable yet forgettable. It was refreshing, then, when the Shangri-La Hotel unveiled its new $5-million sculpture, Rising, by the Chinese artist Zhang Huan—a polymath sculptor, painter, performance artist and opera director. Uniformed doormen, it turns out, needn’t be the only spiffy-looking things outside the lobby. Anchored in a pool of water at the base of the shiny glass tower at University Avenue and Richmond Street, Rising is a steel tree branch adorned with a flock of pigeons, sprawling toward the sky. The 22-metre-long piece is impressive for its scale alone, but it’s also a fluttering mass of civic pride and a symbol of Toronto’s increasingly bold presence in the global art world. The sculpture kicked off an inspiring display of inter-institutional cooperation to capitalize on one of contemporary art’s most inventive figures. An exhibition of Huan’s paintings—created using incense ash from Buddhist temples—opened at the AGO, and a few days later, the Canadian Opera Company staged his production of Handel’s Semele at the Four Seasons Centre. But the piece that left the most indelible impression is, happily, the one that’s here to stay.

  • peachy

    we do have some really amazing artworks dotted around town. a number are in need of maintenance but still it is one of the few admirable features left in our once fair city.

  • peachy

    ps. i should add that we need them more than most international centres because we are so utterly devoid of inner city parks and substantial landscaping

  • R2D2

    I love it, but I can already see vandals defacing this, or protesters trying to climb it. Because there are idiots like that.

  • chacha

    Devoid of inner city parks? The Islands, the lakeshore? Queens Park? Riverdale?, Trinity Bellwoods, Allan Gadens etc…

  • John

    Chacha, YES we are ssssssooooo devoid of inner city parks. Have you visited Montreal and see the beauty in terms of all these nice little parks in the city unlike Toronto where its CONDO CONDO and more BRICKS & MORTAR?!

  • designergirl

    John, You forgot all the mirrored and glass facades on every new building being constructed….ZZZZ. We need the green spaces to reflect into those mirrors and rid us of the sterile visual environment which is in overabundance.
    The green roof idea is fabulous…However, we do require more trees and grassy areas for the public domain.
    Isn’t a grass laid space more inviting than a concrete or asphalt? Time to take “a walk in on the wild side” and
    “giveback” some green- for the green that has been removed.