February 24, 2023
The purpose of this statement is to clarify our previous statement on this matter and provide an update on the future of this artwork.
On August 24, 2022, the City of Edmonton announced its decision not to install artist Ken Lum’s The Buffalo and the Buffalo Fur Trader, two bronze sculptures commissioned by the City over a decade ago as part of the Walterdale Bridge project. The decision was based on ‘potential misinterpretation’ that the work could be seen to ‘celebrate colonialism’ and may therefore cause harm.
In making the decision, the City looked to its Indigenous Framework adopted in 2021. The Framework was informed by significant engagement with Indigenous communities, to understand if the Walterdale Bridge placement was consistent with our commitments to be a listener, connector, advocate and partner. The artist was not involved in this work, or in the evolution of our work with Indigenous communities.
The City did not intend to impugn Mr. Lum’s reputation. The August 24, 2022 news release referenced the removed Government Station LRT murals, implying by association that Mr. Lum’s piece was ‘pro-colonist’ and this is an unfair and regrettable comparison. Ken Lum is a highly respected and eminent Canadian-born artist, writer and academic of Chinese descent, and has made a career of confronting issues of racism and oppression in his art practice. He founded an organization, Monument Lab, devoted to discussing and understanding the legacy of public monuments. The City apologizes for any unintended harm to Mr. Lum’s stellar reputation.
Art should foster discussion and often must address issues that are uncomfortable. We appreciate that Mr. Lum has worked with the City to transfer ownership of the artwork from the municipal public art collection. The artwork will be installed in an alternate location of Mr. Lum’s choosing.