A luxury developer hung a $4.8 million chandelier above a former homeless encampment in Vancouver

Posted Tuesday, 03 December 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)There's a $4.8-million piece of public art hanging underneath a Vancouver bridge, and residents say it's distastefully positioned in an area formerly frequented by homeless people. The Spinning Chandelier, designed by artist Rodney Graham, is and does what its title suggests: The 14- by 21-foot faux-crystal chandelier swivels rapidly, rising and falling over the course of 24 hours. It's certainly a spectacle, but some passersby weren't sold on it when asked by CNN affiliate CBC. "The price tag is way too high for what it is," retired artist Janice Rafael told CBC. Head of public art for the City of Vancouver Eric Frederickson said he is bracing for criticism lobbed at the piece, created by artist Rodney Graham, but it should increase tourism to the "rough and functional space." "For the artist, I think he was thinking more abstractly about the sculpture and the light possibilities in the chandelier," he told CBC. "I'm not sure how much the social implications are in there." The city didn't fund the chandelier; that was up to luxury property developer Westbank. City officials required Westbank to create a public art piece as part of its deal to build Vancouver House, a new 59-story mixed-use building, CBC reported. The New York Times reported the project cost $575 million, so the chandelier is fittingly luxe. Homelessness in Vancouver on the riseBefore construction on the project began, the area was industrial, and the Granville bridge was known to shelter homeless people, CBC reported. Vancouver's homeless population reached more than 2,220 people this year, the highest it's been since the city's homeless count started in 2002. That amount is only a fraction of the the 60,000-plus people who are homeless in Los Angeles and even the 8,700 homeless people in Toronto, but it's concerning because the city doesn't know why these numbers have grown. Experts have pointed to shrinking affordable housing. Westbank refuted criticism and said arts funding doesn't need to come at the expense of social causes. "There is a pervasive attitude in our city that we must choose between contributing to social infrastructure or making other contributions, whether artistic or cultural, that are seen as less functional," the developer said in a statement to CBC. "Westbank does not view this as an 'either or' situation."

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