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c/o Vancouver Biennale


The Boy Holding A Shark sculpture is to be installed by the Vancouver Biennale, a non-profit charitable organization that exhibits art in public spaces around the city. The sculpture was created by Chinese artist Chen Wenling and, if approved would be erected on a raised garden area by the Vancouver Seawall to the east of Moberly Road in July, and remain there for two years.  

Standing at 7.8 metres high — or about 2.5 storeys, Boy Holding a Shark shows a teal-coloured boy holding a grey, dripping shark. It’s estimated to weigh 1,200 kilograms, the equivalent of a small car. [1]

Chen Wenling’s art often deals with three themes: personal experience, human desire, and community imagination. His vocabulary usually includes exaggerated forms, bright colours, whimsical and metaphorical tones. Frequently using industrial materials, his works are modest and earthy, and always have a timeless quality. Following his ambitious solo exhibition in Beijing Mingsheng Art Museum, Duration of Allegories, Chen Wenling has brought his ‘Allegories’ to Vancouver, with two monumental sculptures featured in the Vancouver Biennale‘s Open Air Museum, The Proud Youth and Boy Holding A Shark,  and an indoor exhibition at Sunzen Art Gallery, all curated by Michael Suh. 

Boy Holding A Shark looks into the subject of human-nature. Sharks are often considered to be ferocious animals. However, due to humans’ endless thirst for interest and expansion of destructive activities, the oceans and marine life, including sharks, have severely suffered from environmental damages, such as global warming and sea pollution, that are fatal to marine life.  This work is the artist’s reflection on the growing tension between humans and the ocean. It is an alert that the destruction of nature will eventually counteract humanity itself. The artist hopes to evoke concerns about environmental issues through the power of art and inspire changes in the global community. [2]

As the proposed installation drew criticism from the neighbourhood surrounding it, citizens launched a petition to stop its production. In response, the Vancouver Biennale issued the following statement: 

”An early photograph of the sculpture did not provide the full perspective. Boy Holding A Shark is akin to a lighthouse and acts as a warning that human activity is jeopardizing our oceans to the point where even the most powerful and seemingly indomitable of marine life are in distress. The young distraught boy, holding the shark as evidence for all to see, reminds us that the future is in our hands.

”We are inspired by the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and UNESCO’s call for an ‘ocean knowledge revolution’. The inextricable relationship between ocean health and the health of humans is fast becoming a prevailing global issue for scientists, environmentalists, economists, and ultimately for us all. 

”We thank those who have shown support for this public art installation. To others who are opposed because of the aesthetics of the artwork, the location and its proximity to privately owned residences, and/or the ethnicity of the artist, we ask that you consider Boy Holding A Shark as an opportunity to create a really imaginative, meaningful space for the entire community to enjoy and be inspired by. We invite you to join us.” 


[1]       “Petition Aims to Stop Installation of Proposed ‘Boy Holding a Shark’ Sculpture near False Creek.” VIA. Accessed June 17, 2021. https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/vancouver-news/petition-aims-to-stop-installation-of-proposed-boy-holding-a-shark-sculpture-near-false-creek-3839507.

[2]       “Boy Holding A Shark.” Vancouver Biennale. Accessed June 17, 2021. https://www.vancouverbiennale.com/artworks/boy-holding-a-shark/.

Additional information:

“Chen Wenling.” Vancouver Biennale. Accessed June 17, 2021. https://www.vancouverbiennale.com/artists/chen-wenling/.

Smith, Janet. “Vancouver Biennale Releases Statement on Boy Holding a Shark Public-Art Installation.” Stir. Stir, June 11, 2021. https://www.createastir.ca/articles/vancouver-biennale-boy-holding-a-shark.

“Stop the False Creek South Sculpture.” Change.org. Accessed June 17, 2021. https://www.change.org/p/vancouver-parks-board-stop-false-creek-south-statue?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=custom_url&recruited_by_id=5256b0d2-2809-4a41-8487-5226524970ea.

Project Title: Boy Holding A Shark
Artists:  Chen Wenling
Year: 2021

Place: Vancouver, BC

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