Monday, June 1, 2009

About Art - Embarcadero Fountain

Between the Ferry Building and the end of Market Street in San Francisco sits an unusual fountain. It is locally known as the “Vaillancourt Fountain” but the sculptor, Armand Vaillancourt, named it “Québec libre!” on the night before the inauguration day of the fountain in 1971. Armand Vaillancourt is a French sculptor, painter and performance artist born on September 3, 1929 in the city of Black Lake, Quebec, Canada. “Québec libre!” which is in French and when translated to English mean “Free Quebec!”. Armand gave the sculpture such a name to show his support for the Quebec sovereignty movement and more largely, the support for the freedom of all people in Quebec.

This huge cubic fountain is 200 feet long, 140 feet wide and 36 feet high. It was closed for years for repair but was fully restored few years ago. Over the years the Vaillancourt Fountain received a number of names that was given by the public. They called it everything from “a giant monument to sanitary plumbing” to “a complete waste of money” to “a misrepresentation of art” to “a public fraud”.

The fountain had its most notorious moment in 1987: During a free outdoor concert by the band U2, lead singer Bono spray-painted “Rock and roll stops the traffic” on the fountain. His act was condemned by then mayor Dianne Feinstein and resulted in a citation for malicious mischief. Bono responded, “We’re the Batman and Robin of rock ‘n’ roll… I am an artist, and that was not an act of vandalism.” At a later concert, Bono invited Mr. Vaillancourt to spray-paint “Stop the madness!” onstage. Freedom of artistic expression aside, the act discouraged live concerts at the Embaradero for years afterward. Find out more about the sculptor at:

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