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October 24, 2002 Sculpture transcends campus makeover



The sculptor’s son, Philippe Fuhrer, poses in front of Transcendence during a recent visit to the Loyola Campus.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Melanie Takefman

When construction of the Science Complex began in 2001, the sculpture that watched over the Loyola campus from the corner of Sherbrooke and West Broadway, had to be moved.

Transcendence, by Walter Führer, was commissioned by the House of Seagram for the Expo 67 world fair and was donated to Loyola College in 1968. The 24-foot stainless steel structure represents man and space travel; the brass ball in the centre is a motorized globe.

Over the years, Transcendence became decrepit; it was full of graffiti and assumed a blue and rusty hue. Enter Claude Lamarche of Concordia’s Science Technical Centre. “We had to scrap it or restore it,” Lamarche said. “I felt ashamed to leave a nice piece of art unattended.”

Vice-Rector Services Michael Di Grappa agreed to pay for materials, and Lamarche spent 14 days of his 2002 summer vacation refilling holes with metal, sandblasting the sculpture and replacing the motorized globe. He was assisted by studio arts graduate Gary Cherkas.

Transcendence now sits in front of Hingston Hall. “It’s as beautiful as it was at Expo 67,” Lamarche said.
He hopes that Concordia’s Physical Resources Department and students will help preserve the restored sculpture, and added that people have been placing pieces of wood in the motorized globe, causing it to stop working.

Walter Führer was born in Zurich, and started out as a painter. In 1955, he moved to Montreal and taught himself how to sculpt, often finding inspiration in garbage left on the street. Führer’s work has been exhibited in the National Gallery of Canada and the Musée Rodin in Paris, and is part of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ permanent collection.

He was considered a reserved man by the media and those who knew him and spent much of his time at the family country home outside of Montreal. He died in 1996, but his wife Edith visited the statue in its new location with their son Philippe in January. She passed away shortly thereafter.

On a recent visit to Transcendence, Philippe Fuhrer admitted that he knows little about the sculpture’s themes and how it was received, given that he was born several months after Expo 67. He works in the public sales division of Cirque du Soleil and laughed as he explained that though he is not an artist, he is more artistic than his job requires.

Gazing at the restored sculpture, he said, “I find it a little rigid, too stern. I prefer curves, but with the trees, it’s nice. If it was alone without anything rising above it, it would be too imposing, but, this way, it’s more discreet.”