Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Centre City's new public art piece, a head above the rest

Calgary soon joins the ranks of London, Chicago, Dubai and Tokyo as the installation of commissioned sculptures by one of the world's foremost sculptors, Jaume Plensa, begins at the foot of THE BOW.

Wonderland, a work by the Spanish sculptor, will rise on the plaza of THE BOW, 500 Centre Street S.E., over the summer, with completion expected by late fall. The sculpture, a 12-metre tall bent-wire portrait of a young girl, will be the key feature of the main plaza area. A second piece by the artist is a bronze sculpture, titled Alberta's Dream, that will be located on the northwest podium of the plaza.

The artwork was commissioned after a public art selection jury made up of local and international representatives from the art community chose Mr. Plensa to design a significant visual legacy for the plaza.

"Calgary rightfully boasts of a number of important examples of public art produced by local creators.  To these, we are now adding two fascinating pieces done by the renowned Spaniard, Jaume Plensa," says Dr. Ann Davis, member of the artist selection jury and former Director of The Nickle Arts Museum at the University of Calgary.  "The jury selected Plensa because of his past record of artistic excellence, his ability to produce novel monumental works and his sensitivity to Calgary and THE BOW site.  I am sure Wonderland will be a stunning, iconic piece, a must-see for Calgarians and visitors alike."

The sculpture came about, in part, due to Encana’s desire to obtain bonus density from The City in exchange for enhancements made to the public realm. Encana opted to commission public art, and followed a public art process sanctioned by The City’s Public Art Program and reviewed by the Council appointed Public Art Board.

The seven-member jury embarked on a search for an established artist whose work met the highest conceptual, aesthetic and technical standards. Forty artists were invited to submit applications; 27 responded. These were screened further for a demonstrated understanding of architecture and public spaces and ability to add vibrancy to those spaces.  The jury was also seeking an artist who understood the impact of northern winters, widely varying temperatures, rain and snow, and high winds. And - most important - they wanted an artist whose work engages a wide audience.

"I am honoured to create this beautiful artwork for THE BOW and for Calgary," Jaume Plensa says.  "My vision for Wonderland is to inspire everyone who experiences the sculpture: I believe the architecture of our bodies is the palace for our dreams."

Plensa's approach to public art has brought him significant recognition throughout the world. One of his most successful works of public art in recent years is the Crown Fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park. He unveiled his recent public sculpture Echo presented in New York City's Madison Square Park in May 2011.  Plensa has had solo exhibitions at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas; Musée Picasso, Antibes; Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; among many others. His work was recently the subject of a major solo exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Breton, United Kingdom.

These installations are being stewarded by Encana Leasehold Limited Partnership (ELLP) as part of the overall BOW project.  ELLP holds the long-term lease for THE BOW on behalf of Cenovus Energy Inc. and Encana Corporation, the companies that will occupy THE BOW on completion.

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