As the arrival of new buildings continues to transform Toronto, so does new public art, thanks to the City's Percent for Public Art Program. With this successful initiative, the city is becoming an outdoor art gallery, one development at a time, as the resulting installations alternately humanize the sidewalks, the warm lobbies, or our glowing skyline. The best of the pieces, even while they are dwarfed by the buildings they grace, become landmarks and natural meeting places for people amidst the glass, steel, and concrete.   

A major new addition to Toronto as outdoor gallery is Guardians by internationally acclaimed Swiss artist Olaf Breuning, now based in New York City, his first permanent outdoor installation. Breuning's sculptural assemblage, inspired by the Moai of Rapa Nui (or the stone figures of Easter Island if you prefer) and further informed by the Inukshuks of Canada's Arctic region, groups five abstracted figures together, ringing a small piazza at the entrance to 85 East Liberty Street, the most westerly of the Plaza's King West Life condominiums.

Olaf Breuning's Guardians, at King West Life condos, Liberty Village, TorontoOlaf Breuning's Guardians, now by the doors to King West Life, image by Craig White

The five figures, each handcrafted—we will feature another story in the coming weeks on how they were created—rise between three and six metres high. Each is made up of three parts; the lower and upper portions being lustrously coated, multi-faceted, menhir-like aluminum torsos and crania, both affixed, almost magnetically around a central stainless steel-plated bronze sphere, acting as the figure's face. 

Olaf Breuning's Guardians, at King West Life condos, Liberty Village, TorontoOlaf Breuning's Guardians, now by the doors to King West Life, image by Craig White

Each face features two dimples, which you can read as the eyes, the figure's input-output, an element of the assemblage that along with their seemingly precarious stances and their staggered grouping creates the personality of the pieces and piece. There's no hiding that I think Bruening's Guardians are wonderful, engaging, imaginative pieces of materialized whimsy. Set in amongst the mostly hard edges of Liberty Village, an area where the new buildings have been designed to recall the former warehouses and factories of the area and to celebrate the machinery of a bygone time, the Guardians celebrates something even more bygone, some elemental and ancient life forces standing resolute amidst our structured chaos. 

Olaf Breuning's Guardians, at King West Life condos, Liberty Village, Toronto'Eye' dimple in one of Olaf Breuning's Guardians, now by the doors to King West Life, image by Craig White

To welcome the Guardians to town, Scott McLellan, Senior Vice President at Plaza, hosted an event to celebrate the art and the artist. He remarked "We're proud to unveil this significant work of art. We have a strong belief in the value of public art and in what it can bring to a community. We're pleased the Guardians is here, not just for the residents of King West Life, but for all of Liberty Village."

Olaf Breuning's Guardians, at King West Life condos, Liberty Village, TorontoScott McLellan of Plaza unveils Olaf Breuning's Guardians, now by the doors to King West Life, image by Craig White

Rina Greer, lead public art consultant on the the project preceded Mr. Breuning on to the stage. "We chose Olaf [for this commission] for his capacity to make complex work incorporating several elements and working in series, but mostly, we chose him for his humanity." Also on hand to welcome the artist were Swiss Consul Conny Camenzind, a representative of local City Councillor Mike Layton's office, art co-consultant Catherine Williams, Jane Perdue of Toronto's Public Art program, residents of King West Life, other Plaza and City of Toronto staff, and several curators and directors of Toronto's leading cultural institutions.

Olaf Breuning, at King West Life condos, Liberty Village, TorontoOlaf Breuning speaks at the unveiling of Guardians, now by the doors to King West Life, image by Craig White

Mr. Breuning, for his part, expressed his delight and pride in seeing his work permanently installed in this space. "This is my largest major commission in the world, and I am very happy that it is here in Canada." Born in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, in 1970, Mr. Breuning has mounted over 70 solo exhibitions across the world now since the first in 1997. He is best known in Europe, Brazil, Dubai, and Japan… and we can hope soon to be better known in Toronto. Current exhibitions of his work are now taking place in St. Moritz, Basel, and Bern Switzerland, and in New York City. Upcoming exhibitions of temporary work include Art Basel Miami this December, and at 5th Avenue and 59th Street in New York for the Public Art Fund during 2014.

Olaf Breuning's Guardians, at King West Life condos, Liberty Village, TorontoOlaf Breuning's Guardians, now by the doors to King West Life, image by Craig White

We will leave you for now with a couple more views of the Guardians…

Olaf Breuning's Guardians, at King West Life condos, Liberty Village, TorontoOne of Olaf Breuning's Guardians, now by the doors to King West Life, image by Craig White

Olaf Breuning's Guardians, at King West Life condos, Liberty Village, TorontoLooking up: one of Olaf Breuning's Guardians, now by the doors to King West Life, image by Craig White

…and will return, as mentioned, in the coming weeks to learn about how the Guardians were created. In the meantime, if you would like to know more about their home at King West Life condominiums, click on our dataBase file, linked below. If you would like to talk about the Guardians, choose one of the associated Forum thread links, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.