Public Art: Giant Laughing Statues to stay in English Bay

Photo credit: Paul Robert Lloyd | Flickr

Good news for public art fans in Vancouver:  A-maze-ing Laughter is staying in English Bay.

You may not know this sculpture by name, but chances are you’ve seen it.  A-maze-ing Laughter consists of 14 enormous bronze statues – in all different poses – of a shirtless guy laughing hysterically.

First installed in 2009 as part of the Vancouver Biennale, A-maze-ing Laughter has quickly become the city’s most recognizable piece of outdoor art.  Kids climb all over the giant, three-metre-tall statues and swing from the arms.  Tourists stream in to mimic the funny poses and take snapshots.  One couple was even married right in the middle of it all.

But great art, of course, doesn’t come cheap.  The sculpture, by Chinese artist Yue Minjun, was originally priced at a whopping $5 million.  Yue later slashed that to a relatively modest $1.5 million, which the Biennale Foundation is now trying to raise (The Biennale is a non-profit group that brings world-class sculpture to Vancouver every two years).

Photo credit: Uncle Buddha | Flickr

Meanwhile, the Vancouver park board has officially agreed to let the sculpture stay in its current location, in tiny Morton Park, right next to English Bay.  The park board has also said it will work with community groups to raise the funds needed to buy A-maze-ing Laughter.

Hooray for more art.  But what’s the deal with all those laughing faces, anyway?  It turns out the faces are all modeled after the artist himself.  In fact, Beijing-based Yue Minjun has made an entire career out of paintings, sculptures, watercolors and prints depicting his own face in a state of hysterical laughter.

I’m not quite sure what the symbolism or hidden meaning behind Yue’s faces is.  But one thing’s clear:  Lately he’s been laughing all the way to the bank.  His painting Execution (which definitely has some political overtones) recently sold for $5.9 million at Sotheby’s London, the most ever paid for a piece of contemporary Chinese art.

What do you think of A-maze-ing Laughter?  Is it worth the price tag? 

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48 Responses to Public Art: Giant Laughing Statues to stay in English Bay

  1. Kelly

    Absolutely!

    • Anthony

      These statues, and the Ones in north vancouver of crouching Red men , mean the same thing.
      They are Denomic in nature and should be removed from this country .

      • zootman

        Bingo!

  2. Public art enriches our city in so many ways. I believe it’s absolutely worth paying for.

  3. Lorna

    This are is worth the full asking price! You can’t help but be happy being around it. More, more, more!

  4. Legoboy

    Vancouver needs more of this…it’s wonderful to see the people getting so excited around it. Something for Vancouver to be proud of..and really well made. I ‘ve climbed up and stood on one of the heads! LOL

  5. Pingback: Vancouver: Museum of Anthropology and English Bay | jospalsphotos

  6. Irene

    No offense to Yue Minjun , but why was this commission not given to a Canadian artist?

    • Hey

      …to top it off, it is an incredibly ugly display of work

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  9. Zulumon

    It is truly a-maze-ing what passes for art nowadays… sigh…

  10. Pingback: WPC: Unique – Laughter « theseeker

  11. Actionjackson

    It’s amusing to see the various comments, especially the negative ones. This has to be the most positive display of art the city has ever had. Considering what Ottawa (meaning all of us) paid for three stripes of paint on canvas a few years ago, 1.5 million is a steal. More importantly, this will bring a positive memory to the minds of visitors rather than the mocking that comes when they find out the price of the 3 stripes of paint. Thank you Yue Minjun for your smiling face, and the awesome amount of time, work & material it took to make these statues. They will become icons to our city and area.

    • jonny

      I am from Seattle Wa. looking at the pictures makes me & my friend want to visit your city.. thank you

  12. Wendy

    Absolutely love these statues. They just make you feel good!

  13. Lucyna

    I was recently in Vancouver, and, had the pleasure of seeing these for the first time. Loved them! They brought a smile to my face and were pleasing to the eye. I live in Calgary, and, there are many places with outside art that can be found which bring a smile…its worth it!

  14. Zulumon

    Lucyna, it’s fine to view these sculptures upon visiting a city, such as a trip to Disneyland might be to some. But to have to see these monstrosities on a regular basis is hard. Public art is supposed to be about beauty. Isn’t it?

  15. exvan

    hideous.

    and guess this comment will get deleted.

    • zulumon

      With the decline of intelligence in the Western world, appreciation of true culture naturally follows suit; thus cheap imitations garner much praise.

    • vlady

      Probably the creepiest thing I have seen in my life.

      Nothing about them is funny or amazing.

      Creepy, hideous, tasteless, out of place, maybe.
      Definitely not funny, just another eye sore.

      We were way better of with flowers on the otherwise beautiful corner.

  16. Danny James

    Waste of money, waste of space, ugly and tacky. This is not art

  17. Hey

    What can you say? Chinese money buys politicians and owns us courtesy of City Hall.

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  19. Jackie

    While I appreciate good art (and being an artist myself)… I have a strong disliking for this piece. Beyond the steep price, the bottom line is that these are ugly, grotesque pieces that detract from the natural beauty of the area.

    I agree with another poster: why are Canadian artists not being celebrated? Why are we not paying for art that represents the diversely beautiful image of Canada?

  20. Pingback: WPC: Unique – Laughter | The Seeker

  21. I love those statues. There is no way you can walk passed them and not smile.

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  23. RB

    I’m all for art but I don’t think this is art.. more like ugly crap. It is a hindrance to the area, especially the residents living in the most expensive part of town and paying for it. Send them back to China.

  24. Rob

    What is wrong with enjoying the natural beauty of English Bay? I feel these are an eyesore. I suppose in 20-30 years, you will need to buy a ticket to view the sunset at English Bay.

  25. Qurban

    They are awesome! How can people say they are not art? Totally took tremendous creativity to make. So worth the price!

  26. moved

    Her blog UrbanCowgirlVancouver.com covers a wide variety of lifestyle and entertainment topics, all from the perspective of a 30-something Vancouverite. She’s definitely a girl about town, so I’d consider her for one of your upcoming features. straight from the source

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    Hence, there are further bursts in the novel not only because of this additional part in the story, but also because the Creature’s story refutes and reveals Victor’s edition of activities. you can look here

  28. Debra

    I think its digusting that we as a city dont support our own artist. Whats wrong with taking that money and using it to clean up hastings Street which currently looks worse than a third world country.

  29. DOUGMON

    The negative comments which question the artistic quality of the statues are, in my opinion, totally misguided.

    I saw the statues last week and they are truly beautiful, in a wacky kind of way. They have to be seen and touched in the flesh to be fully appreciated.

    Some of your contributors seem to have no soul.

  30. Gerry

    Absolutely loved them, great, great, let us see those critics do better, a must see when in Vancouver!!

  31. dylan

    I think they are fun. I get a much nicer feeling walking by the laughing men statues than the feeling from the industrial sized ‘rusty ribs’ that appear littered on Sunset beach..

    • Bert

      I was intriqued when I first noticed them driving by so I had to go back and walk up to them. They made me laff which cant be bad. I think it is better than those dumb rusty headless torsos on Lonsdale rd in N.Van and better than the rusty ribs along the sea wall. Now thats really JUNK!

  32. WE ALL KNOW THESE STATUTE’S WILL REMAIN! IT WON’T MATTER WHAT IS SAID.`I SEE LESS PEOPLE HANGING AROUND THE PARK TAKING PIC’S , ETC. FLOWER’S AND GREEN GRASS IS THE WAY!

  33. VancouverSUCKS

    This is the ugliest piece of public art (not art) I’ve ever seen and it is a blight on English Bay. Thanks for nothing, Chip Wilson! Go on, delete my remark.

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  40. bill blair

    No doubt, to many, the laughing grotesque men are liked.
    However I just wonder why this spot was not chosen to represent first nations history in the form of large totem poles and other related objects. Such a display would give some historic depth to Vancouver culture. At some point the laughing men should at least be replaced by laughing women or maybe with a large statue of Robert Service, who was revered, across the globe, more so than the great Robert Burns whose statue is seen at the entrance to Stanley Park.

  41. Norman

    Great bronze work, we plan on visiting it today. The 2nd largest bronze statue in North America is on the lawn of St John the Devine in NYC, it does not receive the publicity of the Laughing Men. Congratulations to the people who made this piece of work available to the people of Vancouver and the world.

    The largest bronze is the Iwo Jima monument in Wash, D C

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