Poodle on a Pole Calls the Nature of Public Art Into Question
“Poodle” is a new seven-foot porcelain poodle perched atop a 25-foot steel pole at Main Street and 18th Avenue. The public artwork by Montreal artist Gisele Amantea—which came with a $62,000 price tag footed by the federal Ministry of Transportation, TransLink, and the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Program—is meant to represent the area’s kitschy vintage shops, thrift stores, cafés, and galleries. It’s eliciting strong reactions, both positive and negative, from community residents.
Public art is by nature controversial. It encompasses the artist’s desire to provoke, questions surrounding the appropriate use of public goods, and the public’s diverse tastes. But more important than whether Untitled (Poodle) will win the hearts of residents, is the fact that it has sparked a much-needed public debate about the identity of Main Street and the area’s transition from a working-class neighbourhood to an up-and-coming community of hipsters, young professionals, families, and first-time homebuyers. As for the poodle itself, love it or hate it, its sheer monumentality will pave its way to becoming a neighbourhood icon, an easily recognizable rendezvous point.
Given the role of public art in reflecting community identity, should people have more say in selecting works for their neighbourhoods?