Bute and West Hastings, at the Cielo condo tower and restaurant.


Delta Land Development president Bruce Langereis gave artist Al McWilliams a rare directive regarding passersby when he commissioned a public sculpture to stand beside his firm’s $100-million Cielo tower at Hastings and Bute Street.

“I asked him to generate the looks folk would give if a couple was having sex there,” Langereis said Monday.

McWilliams responded with two 1.6metre-diameter golden spheres mounted atop a five-metre plinth that some may take to be the world’s biggest licorice allsort or a stack of monster ice-cream sandwiches.

A retort-like tube projecting from each 24K-gold-coated sphere echoes MarsVenus, male-female astronomical symbols.  (Thanks to Malcolm Parry, Vancouver Sun, 2008)

Normally, I can only take so much art-speak, but this artist statement by Al McWilliams, makes good sense to me.  Make of the differences to the developer’s words (above) what you will.

From the artist’s statement (thanks to ipernity.com):

“The ambition was to place an autonomous work into the chaos of downtown, with its traffic lights, signage, newspaper boxes, street lamps and traffic, that could sit independently from all of that – an anomalous and allusive object that would create its own context and exist on its own terms amidst the downtown swirl and still belong, while strongly suggesting otherness. In other words to be both part of yet separate from the surrounding architectural reality.

The references are many yet suggest nothing to anchor the sculpture into a specific interpretation. The black and white bands of stone may recall 12th century Italian church architecture. The gold leafed spheres with the projecting necks are suggestive of the retorts of the medieval alchemists whose putative ambition was to transmute lead into gold. The gold forms also suggest the popular symbols of the male and female.

In addition the tower or column elevates the gold objects and, by making them inaccessible, enhances their mystery. Resting lightly on the column in spite of their considerable mass, the scale and precarious position of the spheres imply the possibility of arrival from some unknown place and time to briefly alight before moving on – a suggestion of a mind or consciousness, of the anthropomorphic? Or the kinetic potential of a bird that briefly alights on a rooftop before flying on.

The placing of real gold – which one usually finds in the sanctity of the church, in museums, or bank vaults – into the public realm is a means of acknowledging that there can be riches for public pleasure, treasure above ground for the eye to see and the spirit to ponder; a recognition that public art is, in every sense, an honouring of and a gifting to the community.”