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Outdoor art in Calgary features Vincent van Gogh portrait that’s ‘always watching you’

New outdoor art in Calgary features Vincent Van Gogh with ‘really cool effect’
WATCH: Calgarians can keep an eye out for a famous face that’s set to make its debut in the city this week. Gil Tucker’s has a sneak peek at the mystery under wraps.

There’s a new outdoor addition to an art gallery in Calgary’s bustling Mission neighbourhood, but for now it’s a bit of a mystery.

The large shape that’s just gone up alongside Masters Gallery is completely wrapped in a blue plastic tarp.

Getting the artwork in place was quite an elaborate process.

“We had to hire a flatbed truck with a crane,” gallery owner Ryan Green said. “Then we needed to make an extra base for it.”

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The bronze sculpture won’t be unveiled until Thursday, but Green was able to give a group of curious onlookers an idea of what to expect by showing them a very similar work on a smaller scale.

“It’s a portrait of Vincent van Gogh, (with) a real cool effect,” Green said. “It’s called the hollow face illusion effect and it gives the illusion that the eyes are always following you.”

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READ MORE: Visually impaired children given the chance to touch Van Gogh’s artwork

“It’s always watching you,” Minerva Argenal-Roman said. “That’s what people are going to say.”

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Both the smaller and the larger soon-to-be-unveiled pieces were done by veteran Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard.

A special van Gogh portrait in Calgary has a neat feature.
A special van Gogh portrait in Calgary has a neat feature. Global News

“Joe was so inspired by Vincent van Gogh,” Green said. “His first piece (depicting) Vincent is from 30 years ago, when he explores the creative process that Vincent went through.”

READ MORE: Acclaimed Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard honoured in celebration of life

Fafard’s work is already familiar to many Calgarians, with one prominent outdoor piece in place downtown for almost a decade.

“(It’s) in front of the Calgary Court Centre,” Green said. “There’s eight horses, so it’s nice to connect with this (Vincent) piece.”

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Fafard’s new work is mounted on a concrete base outside Masters Gallery on Fourth St. SW at 22nd Ave.

“It’s such a great corner, so much activity and traffic,” Roberto Argenal said.

“Everybody walking by is just going to be captured by it because the eyes will seem to follow you everywhere you go.”

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READ MORE: Grasshopper found embedded in van Gogh’s ‘Olive Trees’ painting

Green is expecting a sizable crowd for the unveiling.

“Some of the family will be present. Joe passed away in March 2019, so part of this piece too is a commemoration of Joe,” Green said. “And all the great work his legacy leaves us.”

Another artist whose work is at Masters Gallery says Fafard’s new outdoor piece will probably become quite a neighbourhood attraction.

“At eight feet tall and eight feet wide, even the people driving by are going to feel that it’s watching you go by,” James Wyper said.

“It’s an impressive piece of art.”

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READ MORE: New theory emerges about why Van Gogh cut off his ear

Green plans to have it in place outside the gallery for about a year, but that could change if someone buys the piece and wants to move it. Its sale price is $165,000.

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Green feels that Van Gogh, who created his masterpieces in the south of France, would enjoy his new presence in Calgary.

“I think he would’ve liked the fact that he’s thousands of miles away, staring out at people and inspiring people. And through a great Canadian artist, too, who inspired people in very much the same way.”