Brian Jungen’s bronze sculpture ‘Couch Monster’ installed outside AGO in Toronto

Dubbed “Couch Monster,” the sculpture is the first large-scale work in bronze by contemporary British Columbia artist Brian Jungen.The Canadian Press

Toronto’s newest piece of public art is a massive bronze sculpture of a circus elephant, fashioned from used leather furniture.

The Art Gallery of Ontario has unveiled its first-ever public art commission, dubbed “Couch Monster” and described as “a poetic tribute to the plight of creatures in captivity.”

It is the first large-scale work in bronze by contemporary British Columbia artist Brian Jungen, known for turning everyday objects into works of art, such as plastic chairs he assembled into a skeleton of whale.

The new sculpture is five and a half meters long and four meters high and is located near the entrance to the museum, at the former location of Henry Moore’s Large Two Forms (1966-1969).

The AGO indicates that it will be accompanied by a descriptive panel written in Anishinaabemowin and English.

Jungen, of European and Danish descent, says he was inspired by the story of Jumbo, a captive circus elephant killed in 1885 by a train in St. Thomas, Ontario.

The work bears a Dane-zaa subtitle, “Sadz yaaghhch’ill”, which translates to “my heart is tearing”.

“As with leather sofas, the more people engage in the work, the more the patina of the bronze will change over time,” Jungen said in a statement Monday.

“I want people to really bask, explore and embrace this Couch Monster – it’s yours and I’m so excited to see it living here for years to come.”

Gallery CEO Stephan Jost said Jungen’s sculpture “will continue to shape this environment for years to come”.

“Monumental public art has made Dundas and McCaul a Canadian landmark, and Brian Jungen’s ambitious new work reaffirms that intersection in the global art world,” Jost said in a statement Monday.

Funding came from private donors and government partners, including the federal government, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and the Canada Council for the Arts.

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