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Alexander Calder Sculpture Relocation Sparks Dispute as Montreal Boosts Public Art Funding

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Public art ­­— and the lack thereof — has become a hot-button topic in Montreal, as the city debates whether or not to relocate Alexander Calder’s “Man, Three Disks” (1967), reports the Montreal Gazette. The debate ignited over an editorial in local paper Le Devoir late last year, and has been raging ever since, with Montrealers complaining about the lack of contemporary public art in the city. Meanwhile, $2.5 million has been earmarked by the provincial government for public art.

Alexandre Taillefer, president of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal, wants to see the massive steel sculpture moved from its current location at Parc Jean Drapeau, the former site of Expo 67, to somewhere closer to downtown. “It should be seen by more Montrealers,” he asserted. Although his view enjoys some support, others decry it as expensive, or harmful to the community. Francis W. Croteau, mayor of Rosemont ­– La Petite-Patrie and a member of municipal political party Projet Montréal, claims the move would cost more than $2 million,money better spent acquiring or commissioning new works. He also points out that the sculpture is not languishing in obscurity – some 600,000 people visit Parc Jean Drapeau every year. “Man, Three Disks” is a favorite meeting spot for the more than 150,000 attendees of Piknik Electronik and Osheaga events that occur annually in the park.

The sculpture would not be the first public artwork to be moved in the city. “La Joute,” (1969), a fountain designed by the Automatiste painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, was relocated from outside the Olympic Stadium to Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle in 2003, to the protests of locals who claimed that the new location lacked the sporting context necessary for the work’s success. That move has been successful, allowing the fountain to be realized the way Riopelle intended.

— Benjamin Bruneau

(Image: Alexander Calder’s “Man, Three Disks” statue on Île-Ste-Hélène. Photograph by: Marie-France Coallier, The Gazette.)

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