ArtVenturist: Coupland's Red Canoe
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ArtVenturist: Coupland’s Red Canoe

Tom Thomson would approve, if he was comfortable around canoes again.

ArtVenturist is a new column where we explore public art throughout the city.

Canoe Landing Park1

Photo: Beatrice Paez

BY: Douglas Coupland
LOCATION: Canoe Landing Park, 95 Fort York Blvd.
INSTALLATION: 2010

Views from the 6⃣ix ☀️?? #canoelanding #thesix #toronto #cityplace #cntower

A photo posted by Taj Nayeem (@xo_taj) on

No Torontonian would have seriously considered the Gardiner Expressway sightworthy. But that changed when Vancouver-based artist Douglas Coupland strategically placed an oversized red canoe overlooking the busy highway by the edge of the bluff at Canoe Landing Park.

The canoe is large enough for people to stand in, and the perspective offers an unusual vista of cars streaming past the city, with the CN Tower closeby and Lake Ontario a bit farther away.

One of four Coupland public art pieces at Canoe Landing, the canoe pays homage to Tom Thomson, Canada’s foremost landscape artist.

“Thomson’s canoe” is smack in the centre of what used to be railway yards, now an eight-acre park fenced in by condos. It’s a stark contrast to the bucolic landscape of Algonquin Park where Thomson canoed and painted in solitude to capture the quiet beauty of nature with dramatic effect.

Urban explorers at Canoe Landing Park1

Photo: Marites Sison

Coupland is so synonymous with public art that his now iconic red canoe is also joined by several other pieces, all representative of his playful take on Canadiana: a beaver’s dam, an iceberg, and colourful, oversized fishing bobbers.

Coupland’s public art is undeniably suited for the Instagram age. The red canoe is never without visitors who fancy themselves urban explorers and take selfies to prove that they, too, have been in Thomson’s canoe. The interactive art invites attention and wants to be touched; it stretches the imagination and allows one to stop, linger for a bit, and discover that it is possible to get away from it all, even in the big city.


ArtVenturist appears twice monthly.

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