Walking Figures – Cambie at Broadway
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Poland
Title: Walking Figures
Artist: Magdalena Abakanowicz (b. 1930, Falenty, Poland – d. 2017, Warsaw, Poland)
Medium: 5 cast-iron figures
Dimensions: 284 X 91.5 x 133 cm (112 x 36 x 52 inches) each
Weight: 650 kg (1433 lbs) each
Location: Cambie Street at Broadway, Vancouver
Walking Figures is a group of headless, cast-iron figures by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. They appear to be walking aimlessly without sight, and the sombre tone makes reference to both time and loss. A larger group of figures, cast simultaneously in the artist’s studio, is titled Agora and is on permanent display in Chicago’s Grant Park. An agora was a meeting place in ancient Greece where the concept of democracy began. With no citizen above the law, everyone had the power to vote in this unbiased way of life.
The Vancouver Biennale commissioned Abakanowicz specifically for its 2005-2007 exhibition. Twenty figures were individually cast at an industrial foundry in Śrem, near Poznań, Poland under the artist’s direction. She took great care to differentiate each of the figures, individually applying and manipulating the figurative frame. These unique traces marked on each individual sculpture make no two figures alike, each wholly unique in their own right.
The Walking Figures sculptures were initially installed in Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park for the Vancouver Biennale’s 2005-2007 exhibition. For the 2009-2011 Vancouver Biennale exhibition, 9 sculptures were relocated outside the Broadway – City Hall Canada Line Station. For the 2014-2016 exhibition 9 figures were installed along Lonsdale Avenue in the city of North Vancouver.
In 2017, six Walking Figures sculptures were loaned to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for La Balade pour la Paix: An Open-Air Museum exhibit where the sculpture was seen along with many other celebrated public works of art on Sherbooke Street. The exhibition took as its theme the possibility of openness, peace, and diversity among nations and was part of the official program of Montreal’s 375th anniversary and the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 and the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.
In 2020, three Walking Figures were loaned to Arts on the Avenue, a registered non-profit charitable organization in Edmonton, Alberta, that is dedicated to the community it so passionately serves through the cultivation of positive urban renewal. The Walking Figures and the other public artworks that the Vancouver Biennale has loaned to Arts on the Ave are part of an effort to cultivate artistic fellowship through arts celebrations and signature art festivals, to create opportunities for all individuals to experience the joy of artistic expression, and to nurture creative environments.
Currently, in the Vancouver Biennale’s 2018-2021 exhibition, five sculptures remain from the original installation of 20 figures.
The Walking Figures sculptures continue to be sold to international collectors and institutions to help fund Vancouver Biennale initiatives and the International Artist Residency Program. The Biennale hopes that, through a philanthropic donation, the five remaining Walking Figures will become a Legacy Artwork in the City of Vancouver’s permanent public art collection.
Watch the Walking Figures Guided Tour Video
Listen to the audio tour by Jessica Wallin: