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A New Addition to Toronto’s Public Art Scene: Brian Jungen’s Couch Monster Sculpture

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

If you are looking for a unique and captivating public art piece in Toronto, you might want to check out the Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill, a monumental new sculpture by Brian Jungen at the corner of Dundas and McCaul Streets. This bronze sculpture, commissioned by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), is the first of its kind in the museum’s history and represents a remarkable achievement for the acclaimed contemporary artist.

Public art sculpture toronto Ago Gallery
Couch Monster sculpure

The Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill is a four-metre tall and five-and-a-half metre long figure of an elephant, constructed from discarded leather sofas and armchairs. The sculpture is inspired by the tragic story of Jumbo, a circus elephant who was killed by a train in St. Thomas, Ontario, in 1885. Jungen, who is of Dane-zaa and European heritage, explores the themes of captivity, exploitation and transformation in his work, as well as the connections between Indigenous materials and traditions, Western art history and popular culture.

Front view statue Bronze couch Monster Ago Gallery
Couch Monster sculpure

The title of the sculpture, which means “My heart is ripping” in Dane-zaa, reflects Jungen’s concern for the suffering of all living beings who are forced to perform for others. He also pays homage to British sculptor Henry Moore, whose work he has long admired and engaged with. The Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill occupies the former site of Moore’s Large Two Forms (1966–1969), which was moved to Grange Park behind the AGO in 2017. Jungen chose to work in bronze, a material that he says “becomes more beautiful over time and comes to resemble leather, a material that I have worked with extensively in the past.”

Bronze Sculpture Couch Monster Toronto AGO Gallery
Couch Monster Bronze

The Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill was created in Jungen’s studio in March 2020 and then transported to the Walla Walla Foundry in Washington state to be cast in bronze. The foundry is renowned for its work with some of the world’s preeminent contemporary artists, such as Yayoi Kusama, Jeff Koons, Kehinde Wiley and Jenny Holzer. The sculpture was unveiled on June 21, 2022, coinciding with National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill is a stunning addition to Toronto’s public art scene and a testament to Jungen’s artistic vision and skill. It invites visitors to interact with it, touch it and reflect on its meaning and message. It is also a powerful reminder of the history and culture of the land on which it stands, which is part of the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit and the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the Wendat.

If you want to learn more about the Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill and Brian Jungen’s work, you can visit the AGO website or read some of these articles . check it

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