Lonely Planet Writer

Vancouver’s Trans Am Totem art installation may soon need a new parking spot

If you’ve been to Vancouver, it’s likely that you will have spotted a dramatic installation comprised of five cars stacked on top of an old-growth cedar tree. If you’d like to see it in the future, you’d better plan a trip soon, as the public artwork, known as the Trans Am Totem, may shortly need a new parking spot. The Instagram-friendly artwork was created by Marcus Bowcott and his wife Helene Aspinall, and it was designed specifically for its current location near the Georgia Viaduct. It formed part of a Vancouver Biennale public art exhibition and was only scheduled for a two-year run.

Vancouver’s Trans Am Totem art installation by Marcus Bowcott and Helene Aspinall. Image: Robert G. Earnest

While Bowcott always knew it would be a temporary installation, he had hoped it would ultimately be bought and donated to the city to become a permanent fixture, but unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. “The City of Vancouver Cultural Services Dept informed me that it’ll be coming down next September,” he tells Lonely Planet. “We’ve had enquiries from different people and organisations, but it’s too early to say where it’ll end up. Maybe in the Greater Vancouver area, maybe in another city like Calgary or Seattle. While I was being interviewed by the CBC, I cracked a joke about it ending up in our driveway, but seriously, that won’t be happening.”

Vancouver’s Trans Am Totem art installation by Marcus Bowcott and Helene Aspinall. Image: Marcus Bowcott

According to Marcus, the Vancouver Biennale has put a USD $250,000 (€202,967) price tag on the piece, but a buyer hasn’t been found yet. He remains optimistic about the situation and says there has been a tremendous public engagement with the piece, far beyond anything he and Helene could have imagined. “If we haven’t found a new site for it by September, if or when that time comes. Helene and I will consider different creative possibilities,” he says.

‘An Apparatus for Divining Capital’ in Munich, Germany, by Marcus Bowcott and Helene Aspinall. Image: Marcus Bowcott

As a result of the exposure, the Vancouver Trans Am Totem received, Marcus and Helene were invited by the Tollwood Festival to build a related sculpture called “An Apparatus for Divining Capital” in Munich, Germany. In addition, The Haifa Museum in Israel has just invited Marcus to exhibit work relating to consumerism, art and shopping. Most recently, there has been a request by the Seattle Public Arts Master Plan to include Trans Am Totem there as an example of a sculpture that brings the natural world into the centre of a city and connects people to natural worlds beyond urban boundaries.

A proposal to Los Angeles County Museum of Art: 25 Stoppages imagined in the LACMA courtyard beside Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass. Image: Marcus Bowcott

“Trans Am Totem seems to have struck a note about the humour and sadness of our human predicament in relation to our natural world and our technology,” says Marcus, whose work can be viewed on his website here.