Internationally renowned artist and author Douglas Coupland was approached in the spring of 2010 to produce a sculpture for the exterior of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery. His personal relationship with Arthur Erickson, the architect of the 1987 gallery expansion, and his ongoing interest in mid-century modernism, made the proposal particularly appealing to Coupland.
The RMG supplied Coupland with images and history of the RMG, particularly related to its mandate to collect and exhibit the work of Ontario’s first abstract painting collective, Painters Eleven (1953-1960).
Coupland explains the ideas behind his sculpture, Group Portrait, 1957, and its contemporary recontexualization of P11:
For The Robert McLaughlin Gallery I propose a work that reflects the Gallery’s curatorial mandate to transmit forward to future generations the work and ideas of its collection, specifically the work of Painters Eleven. To do this I’ve taken the seminal portrait of the group, Peter Croydon’s 1957 group portrait, and have used it as a framework on which to place abstract forms that represent each member. These forms and their colours are derived from a key piece of each of the eleven members’ works in the Gallery’s collection. The forms are circular containing concentric rings which are then placed above a painted white metal framework so that in symphony, all eleven forms become “transmitters.”
The approximately 27′ x 11′ (8.1 x 3.3m) relief sculpture entitled Group Portrait 1957 was permanently installed on the north/west facade of the RMG in September 2011.