The great Toronto multimedia artist Michael Snow passed this week at the age of 94.
Snow was an absolute pillar of the modern-day avant-garde, whose work transcended the art world. Two much-loved pieces of visual art here – The Audience and Flight Stop – are local fixtures.
The former is a sculpture in two parts that welcomes visitors to Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. The latter was hung from the ceiling of the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall in 1979, portraying a flock of 60 Canadian geese.
Two years after its installation, the mall’s operators hung red ribbons from the necks of the geese. Snow sued, successfully, to have them removed. The judgement found that the ribbons “distorted, mutilated or otherwise modified” the work, which was “to the prejudice of the honour or reputation of the author.”
The case was as consequential as the work itself. The Copyright Act of Canada was strengthened after the finding to protect artists from having their work altered.
In a statement mourning Snow’s passing, the National Gallery of Canada said it was “deeply saddened” by the news. “His innovative, versatile artworks radiate beyond our borders, and made him a formidable ambassador.”
OCAD University, where Snow studied, said the artist “knew no boundaries. … His work explored a wide range of media including iconic and groundbreaking film, installation, sculpture, photography and music.”