Greek Gods still trapped at Muzik Nightclub
Canadian sculptor E.B. Cox's magnificent Greek Gods statues have been caught in an ugly tug of war between the City of Toronto and Muzik Nightclub, the current tenants of the Horticulture building on the grounds of the CNE.
The group of 20 colossal limestone sculptures, known collectively as "the Garden of the Greek Gods" was donated to the City of Toronto in 1979 by Toronto restaurateur Arthur Carmen who purchased them from Cox.
At the time Cox was thrilled as their placement just outside the Horticulture building guaranteed that children could interact with them - his primary audience for this particular set of sculptures as he wished to both entertain and educate them with the glorious and awe inspiring imagery of Greek mythology.
In 2004, barely a year after Cox's passing, Muzik nightclub leased the Horticulture building from the city for a period of 20 years for a sweetheart deal of $10,000 per month. Over the next decade, Muzik erected a patio which enveloped the statues, rendering them inaccessible to anyone other than patrons of their nightclub. The final free standing statue, Hercules, was swallowed up by the expanding patio in 2013.
Incensed that this priceless collection of unique Canadian art is now effectively off limits to the public, the family and friends of Cox formed a "Free the Greek Gods" team which has helped push the story to a wider audience, though the statues are still marooned for the time being.
Despite the best efforts of Ward 19 Councillor Mike Layton, renewed media interest, and a vast letter writing campaign and online petition, the movement has mostly fallen on deaf ears. This despite negative press for the nightclub from horrific shootings, questionable conflicts of interest and other stories endured by the venue.
The Exhibition Place board recommended in 2014 that the art be relocated, and even formed a re-location committee that has met monthly to determine a suitable site for the statues to flourish.
Upon insistence from Councillor Layton, the city even hired a stone conservator who has provided clear evidence that the statues have been significantly damaged while under the control of Muzik.
The damage is due to the statues being haphazardly moved, smashed into by construction equipment, and excessively power-washed which has eroded the decades old patina on many of the pieces. This will result in a cost of thousands of dollars in tax-payers' money to repair them.
Despite all of this, the nightclub refuses to let the art be moved. Muzik appears to be using them as a bargaining chip in getting their lease extended until 2034.
Currently there is no public access or viewing of this immaculate city-owned public art. Even if Muzik does get its lease extended, there's no guarantee the art will be released while they are tenants. Muzik's owner dubiously claims they are part of the marketing of his club.
The uncertainty that surrounds the statues is only increased by the mystery surrounding Muzik's lease. After two separate FOI (Freedom of Information) inquiries - one from the Toronto Star, and one from lawyers representing the Cox family - the terms of the lease remain obfuscated as the paragraphs relating to the sculpture have been redacted.
What kind of message does this send to local artists who might be considering donating their work to the city of Toronto? The Garden of the Greek Gods was once a public place to be enjoyed by children, families and educators.
Sadly now it serves as a portent of what might happen to all public art if our politicians continue to prioritize unfettered greed over our priceless local history and culture.
You can find out more about Free the Greek Gods, and how to help them at their Facebook page located here.
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