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A tipi made from sofas

July 8th, 2019

Brian Jungen, Furniture Sculpture, 2006, installation view at the Art Gallery of Ontario, 2019. 11 leather sofas, 619.8 x 589.3 x 721.4 cm, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Purchased with significant financial support from the Audain Foundation, and additional contribution from Rick Erickson and the Vancouver Art Gallery Acquisition Fund, VAG 2006.2.1 a-ee, © Brian Jungen Photo: Dean Tomlinson / Art Gallery of Ontario

After opening his spectacular exhibition Brian Jungen Friendship Centre, Brian Jungen returned to the AGO last week to oversee the installation of Furniture Sculpture in Walker Court. This towering work is on view now, but only until July 28.

Opening to rave reviews, Friendship Centre in the Sam & Ayala Zacks Pavilion features several large-scale works, including the 40-foot whale skeleton Cetology and The Prince, a life-sized figure made of baseball gloves. But even they can’t compare with the striking scale of Furniture Sculpture.

A sculpture so monumental it hasn’t been shown in over a decade, Furniture Sculpture stands 27 feet tall. A life-size tipi constructed of wood and leather, it was created for a 2006 exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Jungen used sofas as his source material, eleven Natuzzi leather sofas, to be exact.

“In communities there’s something about a black leather sofa that, at least in my own background, is a status symbol,” said Jungen. “I thought it was a crazy icon of wealth…but there’s a lot of hide in them.”

Repurposing this emblem from his own life and blending artistic ingenuity and Indigenous knowledge, Jungen began the labour-intensive process of building Furniture Sculpture by “skinning” each sofa for its leather hide. He then cut up each sofa, using its wooden frame as the bones for the tipi. Once stitched together, the leather covering was draped across the poles. The title of the work is an homage to Vancouver artist Ken Lum, whose influential series Furniture Sculptures was first seen by a young Jungen at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the summer of 1990.

Intrigued? Watch this incredible video of Jungen constructing Furniture Sculpture at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2006, and don’t miss your chance to see it in person at the AGO, but only until July 28.

Courtesy of the artist and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Brian Jungen Friendship Centre is on view now until August 25. Admission to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions is always free for AGO MembersAGO Annual Pass holders and visitors 25 and under. For more information, please visit the website.

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