CEO says Eastern Edge Gallery agreed installation would only stay up for the weekend
St. John’s Port Authority staff removed Sean Martindale’s art installation, which displayed the phrase “What Lies Between Us,” from the harbour fence Sunday night. Martindale was a presenting artist at Eastern Edge Gallery’s Art Marathon Festival, held last week in St. John’s. — File photo by Andrew Robinson/The Telegram
The artist who created a banner that was installed along a portion of the St. John’s Port Authority’s controversial harbour fence over the weekend says he was disappointed, but not entirely surprised, to learn port authority staff removed his piece from the fence Sunday night.
“I would’ve thought they would wait for me to take it down,” said Sean Martindale, a Toronto-based artist originally from Vancouver Island.
However, port authority president and CEO Sean Hanrahan said the gallery that brought Martindale to St. John’s to take part in its annual Art Marathon Festival had previously agreed to remove his art from the fence by the end of the weekend.
“We were approached by the Eastern Edge Gallery to (see) if we would allow a piece to go up there during the weekend of their art marathon, and we said sure,” said Hanrahan, speaking to The Telegram by phone from British Columbia on Monday.
“Our primary concern was whether or not it would interfere with ongoing construction and general marine operations, and when we were assured that
it was only a two-day festival and that it would be down by (Sunday) night, we said, ‘Sure, go ahead.’”
Crews were set to continue work in the area on Monday, prompting the port authority to remove Martindale’s art from the fence Sunday night.
“So when we didn’t see it come down (by) 9 p.m., knowing that our construction started the next morning, we took it upon ourselves to remove it,” said the port authority CEO.
Martindale’s work, which covered a length equivalent to six parking spaces along Harbour Drive, featured the phrase “What Lies Between Us” on pieces of snow fence. He used black spray-paint to create the letters.
The harbour fence has proven controversial, with concerns raised that it unnecessarily limits public access to the harbourfront. The port authority has said the fence is necessary to accommodate industrial activity at the harbour involving foreign-flagged vessels and cruise ships.
Martindale was on Harbour Drive shortly before his art was removed from the fence. He learned of its removal from other artists involved with the festival who happened to be walking by the fence at 9 p.m.
Hanrahan did see Martindale’s piece in person over the weekend, but declined to offer his thoughts on the phrase used for it.
“The artist is free to say what he wishes, and people are free to interpret it as they see fit,” he said.
Speaking with The Telegram on Monday, Martindale said he was ultimately pleased with the reception his work received while it was publicly displayed on the fence.
“It’s been overwhelmingly positive to have helped in having the debates continue around the fence going up,” said Martindale, who wanted to leave the message displayed on the fence open to interpretation.
Martindale hopes he can get back the materials he used to create his piece.
Hanrahan said staff from the port authority did attempt to return those materials to the gallery on Monday, but it was closed.