Conversation Pieces: Dragons
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Conversation Pieces: Dragons

Toronto is home to a cornucopia of public art. Some of the pieces acknowledge an individual’s greatness or are inspired by their surroundings; others are installed when developers want to exceed the height or density for which their building is zoned—the public art is a trade-off for being allowed a site-specific change in the rules. In each installment of Conversation Pieces we’ll look at several artworks devoted to the same theme, and consider what makes public art succeed or fail.
Today: dragons!


NAME: Asia: The East: Spring (1997)
ARTIST: David Hlynsky and Shirley Yanover
This is partnered with a companion piece, The West, Autumn”—and that pair is part of a larger collection of six sculptures in Chinatown and Kensington Market commissioned by the City. This dragon is looking out onto Spadina from his window ledge and through some spring blossoms overhead, meant to be reminders of renewal and hope—a tribute to new Torontonians and their aspirations. The dragon’s wriggly body suggests it might slither down the pole and breathe fire on you if you try to Shanghai someone in Chinatown.


NAME: Untitled
ARTIST: Unknown
This dragon arch at University College looks more rigid, more stiff and measured than the golden Spadina-saur. It’s multi-headed like a hydra or Ghidorah and (of course) it is singed with fire—though in fairness we can’t attribute that to the artist. Perhaps it really can belch a flameball on you if you don’t say the password before entering the magic portal? The fire may have devastated part of the university, but it made this sculpture far more interesting.

Photos by Brian McLachlan/Torontoist.