Fight over statues at nightclub continues

WATCH: Donated Greek sculptors hidden at Toronto nightclub.

Scrapes, gouges, chips and cracks. Evidence of recent damage to decades old sculptures long considered public works of art at Exhibition Place.

That damage bolsters art supporters’ arguments that the sculptures should not be behind a fence, on the patio of a private nightclub.

Now, they finally have some answers from Exhibition Place about how exactly the newly expanded patio at Muzik Pool Bar managed to encompass the statues.

According to the Chair of the Exhibition Place Board of Governors an “oversight” is to blame.  It turns out the statues are mentioned in the lease agreement with the nightclub, but it appears to have just slipped by everyone at the time.

“We leave staff to negotiate the leases and that is what happened.” said Mark Grimes.

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While head of the staff, CEO Dianne Young points out “The board and city council agreed to the lease and lease terms.”

The daughter of artist E.B. Cox bemoans the situation. “It’s like they have given it away, Exhibition Place has given away the public art which is a shame.” said Kathy Sutton.

Now the collective agreement seems to be that the situation is less than ideal and needs to be rectified.  There is damage, possibly from construction of the patio, to some sculptures.

Jeff Duns, who runs Ingram Gallery which handles Cox’s work has also reiterated concerns that someone has cleaned some of the statues excessively, removing the 30 years of patina which gave them life and character.

“Now they are pristine white and we’re going to be starting the process all over again. There is nothing we can do to get that back and I don’t think anyone had any idea what they were doing when they cleaned these pieces of art.  A patina develops a beautiful natural feel to it, lines are accentuated, grooves are accentuated and the sculpture takes on a magical appearance that it has been part of that space and there for many years,” Jeff said.

Exhibition Place is supposed to inspect the 20 statues of Greek Gods on a regular basis but Sutton points us that only documents damage, it doesn’t prevent it.

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The Board of Governors has agreed to establish a working group to explore how much it would cost to move the statues, start discussions with the tenant about the possibility of removing them and evaluate steps they could take to prevent further damage to the statues over the winter.

Sutton welcomes the news but is standing firm that there has to be more than talk.  If nothing happens, she said the family will consider a legal battle, adding there are lawyers who would take this on pro bono.

The premise of legal action would be something known as an artist’s moral right.  The idea that a piece of art should be displayed and kept as the artist intended.

Sutton says the way the limestone statues are being treated now is clearly not what her father intended, “Cyclops, Seahorse, and Medusa have been abandoned.  They are jammed between these washroom, change room facilities and a fence.  You are seeing them through iron bars and they look sad, very sad.”

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