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Public Art and Sculpture Walking Tour in Downtown Toronto (Join Tdot Shots)

Public Art and Sculpture Tour in Downtown Toronto

By Mike Simpson, curator and founder of Tdot Shots

Upcoming photo walks and walking tours – please visit tdot.cc/events to register for an public event or contact me for a private tour of Toronto. We explore art, architecture, culture, history and photography.

Whenever I walk the downtown core and financial district in Toronto I get this overwhelming sense of the epic scale and hive of activity going on, as a mix of business people and tourists mingle and stroll around the concrete canyons of Bay and King streets.

I remarked in my recent Instagram posts about the downtown:

“It’s one of my favourite neighbourhoods for its walkability and gorgeous architecture.
Walking from Union through the Financial District on the way to the St Lawrence Market area is a great way to discover the mix of new and old that makes Toronto so rich and varied. Sometimes the glass and metal is equal parts inspirational and oppressive so winding up our meetup in the gentle low storey eastern parts of Old Town Toronto is the perfect antidote.”

The ability to walk along the grand streets of the financial district and take in the spectacle of beautiful public art is one of the benefits to being in the “heart of the city.” Every block or two there is a special piece of art out front or tucked away behind the office buildings. You can explore the “back streets” of Bay St and discover all kinds of visual joys, from these public art installations to the architecture of the buildings themselves.

In this post I’ll share some images with you and tell you about the art and sculpture found between Union Station on Front St. and City Hall on Queen St.

Typical spots of interest for the tour:

  • Monument to Multiculturalism at Union Station
  • Brookfield Place (various exhibits)
  • Commerce Court
  • TD Centre
  • First Canadian Place
  • Scotia Plaza
  • Bay Adelaide Centre
  • Richmond Adelaide Centre
  • Old City Hall
  • City Hall

Monument to Multiculturalism at Union Station

“Monument to Multiculturalism” by Francesco Perilli was unveiled to the Toronto public on July 1st, 1985 by Toronto mayor Arthur Eggleton.

A part of the inscription on the side of the statue reads “This monument, a tribute to multiculturalism, was presented to the city of Toronto on the occasion of its sesquicentennial by the national congress of Italian Canadians on behalf of the Italian Canadian Community.”

According to Spacing Magazine:

“Although the “main square” of a city can traditionally be seen as its heart, the central train station probably deserves similar respect. The title of this statue reinforces what Toronto has become and is the first piece of public art seen by those arriving to the city by rail.”

The Pasture by Joe Fafard at TD Centre

In the plaza, in the grassy centre, among the collection of famous buildings co-designed by world famous architect Mies van de Rohe, lay the cows by artist Joe Fafard, acclaimed Saskatchewan sculptor (1942-2019),

These magnificent bronzes lay scattered around the grass in repose, staring at you as you try to from them with your camera. Fun and an interesting nod to the history of Canada and how important agriculture was to our founders and history.

Shaun Merritt – Joe Fafard “The Pasture”

Excerpt from Oeno Gallery:

The artist “captures the immediate and intimate particularity of rural life.The landscape is a predominant theme in Canadian art history, and this is in large part due to its significant impact on our day to day lives. Born to French-Canadian parents in a small agricultural community in Saskatchewan, Fafard’s sculpture marks a turn toward the particularity of place in Canadian art in the 1960s – a study of the everyday as opposed to the universal. Fafard’s bronze sculptures of cows and horses elevate the prominent characters that live alongside us and are characterized by humour, affection and insight.”

Dreaming by Jaume Plensa

This sculpture is very unique and fun one to shoot. When you view it from different angles the head appears to narrow – it’s a clever design and twist on 3D art.

Toronto sculpture - Dreaming by Jaume Plensa

The artist has created a beautiful and intriguing conceptual piece conveniently situated at the entrance of Richmond-Adelaide Centre in the city downtown. This head figure is created with stone and stands three storeys tall.

If you see the other work of the artist, around the world in a multitude of settings you will appreciate the amazing perspective bending that has many attributes. Of the artist and meaning, as Forbes describes: “Jaume Plensa is best known for his oversized human figure sculptures – heads or entire bodies sprouting from the ground – made of cast iron, bronze, stainless steel, marble, alabaster, glass, wood, cement, dolomite, fiberglass or polyester resin and weighing many tonnes each. Powerful and silent, they display serene facial expressions with their eyes closed, as if dreaming or meditating. It is a call to look inward to understand the beauty hidden inside oneself for a more honest relationship with oneself.”

Tembo Mother of Elephants at Commerce Court

this is a crowd-pleasing, photogenic sculpture of mother and two babies located behind the Commerce Court building at Bay and King in downtown Toronto.

Tembo, Mother of Elephants in the Commerce Court complex in Toronto

Situated in the Commerce Court complex of buildings is a plaza featuring a fountain in its centre, and a three-piece bronze sculpture by Derrick Stephan Hudson entitled, Tembo, Mother of Elephants completed in 2002.

The Toronto Sign (3D sign at City Hall)

The Archer by Henry Moore at City Hall

A really great sculpture by the famous English artist, Henry Moore.

Statue of Winston Churchill at City Hall

A statue of Winston Churchill by Oscar Nemon is installed on the west side of City Hall in Toronto.

Note: this statue used to be situated at the front of the plaza near Queen St. (as seen in this photo at left/above).

Oscar Nemon (born Oscar Neumann; 13 March 1906 – 13 April 1985) was a Croatian sculptor who was born in Osijek, Croatia, but eventually settled in England. He is best known for his series of more than a dozen public statues of Sir Winston Churchill.

Facts – Nemon was an accomplished artist from an early age and began modelling with clay at a local brickworks. He exhibited early works locally in 1923 and 1924, while still at school. He obtained his baccalaureate in Osijek. He was encouraged by Ivan Meštrović to study in Paris, but he moved to Vienna instead. He applied to join the Akademie der bildenden Künste but failed to secure a place, and spent some time working at his uncle’s bronze foundry in Vienna. There he met Sigmund Freud and made a sculpture of Freud’s dog Topsy. He also made a sculpture of Princess Marie Bonaparte. Later in his life, Nemon changed his surname from Neumann.


South African War Memorial / University Ave

Near the Canada Life Building on University at Queen St. West. Such a lovely grand sculpture that is reminiscent of the Luxor obelisk in Paris.

An obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape or pyramidion at the top. Originally constructed by Ancient Egyptians and called tekhenu, the Greeks used the Greek term obeliskos to describe them, and this word passed into Latin and ultimately English.

OCAD University and Grange Park

Upcoming photo walks and walking tours – please visit tdot.cc/events to register for an public event or contact me for a private tour of Toronto. We explore art, architecture, culture, history and photography.

Thank you for reading.

Mike Simpson

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