E.B. COX
(1914 - 2003)
 

GARDEN OF THE GREEK GODS

Update

 

 

 

Public Art Held Hostage

How two former Chairs of Exhibition Place Board are lobbying City Council to get Muzik nightclub a 10-year lease extension.

January 7, 2016
           
KEY POINTS

1. The “Garden of the Greek Gods,” one of Canada’s largest public sculpture gardens, is behind the fences and under the complete control of Muzik, the nightclub that has leased the historic Horticulture Building at Exhibition Place since 2004. All 21 sculptures were included in the lease, and can no longer be seen or enjoyed by the public.

2. The sculpture collection, by renowned Canadian artist E.B. Cox, was donated to the City and installed at Exhibition Place in 1979 as a permanent public display. Now, these iconic works of formerly accessible public art have become mere patio props in a demeaning and inappropriate setting. The art has been damaged by the nightclub and is at risk of further deterioration.

3. In 2015, Zlatko Starkovski (the owner of Muzik) told the Exhibition Place Board that he wanted a 10-year lease extension. His request was passed by the Board, but also requires approval by City Council because a longer lease would mandate a change to the city’s Official Plan. Over the past few months, two former chairs of the Board - Joe Pantalone (also a former City Councillor) and lawyer Ralph Lean (Chair of Muzik) have lobbied City Councillors for this lease extension. It appears that this public art is being used as leverage to help obtain an untendered lease extension and allow the nightclub to occupy this historic property till 2034.

NEXT STEPS: Dianne Young, CEO of Exhibition Place has stated that Muzik’s request for a lease extension will be on the agenda at the next Board of Governors meeting, which is on Feb 12, 2016. Next, the request will go to City Executive, then to City Council. This is supposed to happen in early 2016.

 

SUMMARY

In February 2004, Exhibition Place leased the Horticulture Building and its grounds to a commercial tenant, Muzik Clubs Inc., owned by Zlatko Starkovski. The 20-year lease included Toronto’s largest outdoor sculpture collection, the “Garden of the Greek Gods.” The 21 limestone sculptures comprising the collection were created by renowned Canadian artist E.B. Cox (1914-2003). The art was donated to the City in 1979 and installed on the grounds at the south side of the Horticulture Building for permanent enjoyment by the public, especially children. The collection is on the City’s inventory of public art.

In 2012, Starkovski requested a 10-year lease extension in order to justify spending $5M on a patio expansion (Source: Exhibition Place document). No lease extension was granted. In May 2014, Starkovski went ahead with the patio expansion, despite having no guarantee of a lease extension. Because of the expansion, all 21 works of public art were effectively removed from the public realm and are now hidden behind the fences of Muzik.

A stone conservator hired by the City has provided evidence that many of the works have been damaged while under the control of the tenant. As long as the sculpture remains on the patio, it is at risk of further damage due to poor drainage and other environmental conditions.

The Exhibition Place Board of Governors has admitted that it was a mistake to include the sculpture in the lease. The Board has approved a motion to relocate it, and a Working Group has recommended a suitable new location. However, unless Starkovski agrees to release the art, the Board is powerless to do anything before the lease expires in 2024.

In September 2015, Starkovski once again asked the Board for a 10-year extension. Joe Pantalone, the former Councillor of Ward 19 who chaired the Exhibition Place Board when the lease was written, is now a registered lobbyist for this issue and has lobbied on Starkovski’s behalf for an untendered lease extension. (Source: City of Toronto lobbyist register).

Further, at a meeting at City Hall on Nov. 17, 2015, the Chair of Muzik - Mr. Ralph E. Lean - made it very clear (in a statement to the artist’s daughter) that the nightclub will not consider releasing the art unless it is granted the lease extension. Mr. Lean is a lawyer with strong political connections. He is also a former Chair of the Exhibition Place Board of Governors. Rather than doing the right thing, which is to return this public art back to the public realm, he has chosen to use it as a pawn in the lease negotiations.

Public art is an integral part of Toronto’s heritage and culture, and it greatly enhances the quality of life for residents and visitors alike. This iconic public art was removed from public access without consultation. It is displayed in an inappropriate and disrespectful manner, with some of the sculptures sandwiched between fencing, bathrooms and outdoor bars.

The Copyright Act of Canada upholds the moral rights of the artist to have their works displayed in the way they were intended. Cox’s family and its many supporters feel that the artist’s rights have been violated, in that it is being used as patio decorations. The CEO and Board of Governors of Exhibition Place should be held accountable for this travesty, and it should be grounds for removing the art from the nightclub as soon as possible.

 

ABOUT E.B. COX

Uniquely Canadian, E.B. Cox is widely viewed as one of this country’s most important artists. A colleague of some of the Group of Seven, Cox is acknowledged as Canada’s foremost sculptor in stone. He pioneered the use of power tools for carving stone and explored the use of other media including wood, metal, glass and gemstones. Cox’s work has been described as the great bridge between the native art of Canada and the modern art of the twentieth century. His sculpture is featured in several prominent locations in this city and it is hard to envision a Toronto without his works of art. (Sources: E.B. Cox: A Life in Sculpture; Globe and Mail (obituary, pub. 2003); Ingram Gallery).

 

GARDEN OF THE GREEK GODS - TIMELINE

1960s: Canadian artist E.B. Cox (1914-2003) carves 21 limestone sculptures depicting the Greek Gods. The tallest, Hercules, is almost 4 metres in height.

1976: Several of the sculptures are featured in the “Glorious Greece” display at the Royal Winter Fair.

1979: The entire collection is purchased by restaurateur Arthur Carmen and donated to the City of Toronto. A ground-breaking ceremony is held, and the art is installed on the lawn at the south side of the Horticulture Building. The intention of the artist - and the City - was that the sculpture would be enjoyed there in perpetuity by the public, especially children. One of the donor’s intentions was to honour and commemorate Canada’s Greek community.

1979 - 2003: The sculpture garden becomes a favourite destination for the local community, as well as Toronto residents and tourists. It is featured in articles in the media as well as books on outdoor art, including one on Cox’s sculpture.

Oct. 2003: Cox’s memorial service is held at the feet of Hercules. Over 200 Torontonians take part in this celebration of his life.

Feb. 2004: Exhibition Place leases the Horticulture Building and its grounds to Muzik Clubs Inc. The art is included in the 20-year lease. Neither the public nor the artist’s family were consulted or informed.

2010 - 2013: Muzik starts to build a few open patio areas, eventually enclosing three of the works, but the sculpture garden is still accessible to the public.
2012: Muzik owner Zlatko Starkovski approaches the Board to seek an extension of his lease term, in order to justify a $5M patio expansion. The Board approves his request but it does not go forward to City Council because of an issue with the City’s Official Plan.

Spring 2014: Despite having no guarantee of a lease extension, Starkovski goes ahead with the construction of a huge patio/pool complex and erects a fence around the leased grounds. Very little care was taken during the construction to ensure the safety of the art and proper measures were not put in place to protect it once the construction was completed. The sculpture can no longer be seen or touched by the public. Children can no longer play on the sculpture, due to the club’s age restriction (19-plus).

May 2014: Kathy Sutton, the artist’s daughter, is horrified to see what is going on. She asks Exhibition Place to provide protection for the art. She also forms the “Free the Greek Gods” Team, whose goal is to have the art moved to a new, permanent location where it can once again be enjoyed by the public.

May 2014 - Dec. 2015: Team members work hard to gain support for their cause: they write to City Councillors, attend and speak at Exhibition Place Board meetings, obtain access to the patio and conduct a quick assessment of damage to the art, review archival materials, speak to reporters, give interviews on radio and TV, conduct petitions on paper and online, and create a Facebook page. They obtain letters of support from arts organizations, including the Sculptor’s Society of Canada (SSC) and the Ontario Society of Artists (OSA). Everyone fully supports the Team’s desire to have the sculpture relocated.

Sept. 2014: The Exhibition Place Board of Governors unanimously supports Councillor Mike Layton’s motion to relocate the art. They also (finally) admit that the art was included in the lease.

Jan. 2015: Exhibition Place forms a Working Group for the Relocation of the Garden of the Greek Gods. Two members of the artist’s family are on the group, as well as City and Exhibition Place representatives.

Jan. - Oct. 2015: The Working Group meets monthly and evaluates several potential locations for the art. The Group’s recommendation that the art be moved to the Rose Garden (just south of the Bandshell at Exhibition Place) is presented to the Board.

May 2015: Zlatko Starkovski once again goes to the Board for a 10-year untendered extension of his lease (to 2034).

Oct. 2015: Kathy Sutton briefly meets with Mr Starkovski; they agree that Exhibition Place should call a meeting so their issues could be discussed. Dianne Young, CEO of Exhibition Place, calls a meeting for November 17, 2015.

Nov. 2015: A meeting is held at City Hall. Muzik is represented by its Chair, Ralph E. Lean and Starkovski’s lawyer, Michael Binetti. Others at the meeting are Councillor Grimes, Councillor Layton, Dianne Young, and Alison Fowles from City Legal. Ms Sutton and her lawyer, as well as 3 others from Muzik, also attend. On a question from Ms Sutton regarding her wishes to have the art moved off the patio, Mr. Lean makes it quite clear that he will not allow the art to be moved unless Muzik gets its lease extension.

Jan. 2016: Starkovski’s request for a lease extension will be discussed at a meeting of the Exhibition Place Board of Governors on Jan. 22. Just in: meeting now delayed until Feb. 12. Dianne Young has advised that the request will next go to City Executive, then to City Council.


REFERENCES:

LINKS TO EXHIBITION PLACE DOCUMENTS

Exhibition Place document regarding Muzik lease extension (May 15, 2015) http://www.explace.on.ca/database/rte/files/11-Muzik%20Clubs%20Inc%20Renewal.pdf

Exhibition Place document that includes the report on damage to the sculpture (April 7, 2015): http://www.explace.on.ca/database/rte/files/Item%2015-GGG.pdf

OTHER REFERENCES

TV clips and articles published in print are available on the Ingram Gallery website: http://www.ingramgallery.com/artists/e-b-cox/Cox_garden_of_the_greek_gods.html

Book: E.B. Cox: A Life in Sculpture; Boston Mills Press, Oct 1999 “A celebration of the work of Canadian sculptor E.B. Cox, whose sculptures appear in galleries and museums from
coast to coast. This is the definitive look at the career of one of Canada's finest sculptors.”

E.B. Cox obituary (published in The Globe and Mail, November 15, 2003) http://www.ingramgallery.com/artists/e-b-cox/cox_globe_and_mail_2003.htm

“Free the Greek Gods” FaceBook Photos of Pan additional photographs of the art (historic and current) are available from Kathy Sutton.

 


Cox Perfecting Pan (1960s)


Pan on Muzik's Patio (2014)

 

 
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