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Here's why there are small ships on top of the Vancouver Art Gallery

The four vessels are coloured red, white, black, and yellow - and each colour has a specific meaning

The Vancouver Art Gallery is a busy epicentre in the city's downtown core, with many locals using its public spaces for protests, filming, and leisurely lounging.

Despite the heavy foot traffic, some passersby may not notice a small, peculiar detail on the building's rooftop. 

Watching over the city from above, four small multicoloured ships are anchored atop the Vancouver Art Gallery. 

Although they are a positively unusual sight, why are they there in the first place? 

The story behind the four vessels 'sailing' atop the gallery's roof

The fibreglass sculptures have been sailing the city skyline for just over two decades.

They were created by Vancouver sculptor Ken Lum and installed in 2001 as part of the "Public Art for the New Millennium" project, according to the City of Vancouver Public Art Registry. 

The four vessels, coloured red, white, black, and yellow, serve as a directional, geographical, and historical marker. The work is called "Four Boats Stranded."

However, each sculpture is a scaled-down model of historically-significant boats in Vancouver's past. Each of the ships' colours depicts the colonial stereotyping of cultural, racial, and historical identification.

The red boat is a First Nations Longboat; Captain Vancouver's ship is white; the black ship is the infamous 1914 Indian immigrant ship, Komagata Maru, and the yellow boat is a cargo ship that carried migrants from China's Fujian Province, explains the Vancouver Art Gallery. 

Lum is a well-known artist, whose most iconic work in the city is the East Van cross. In 2011, the Vancouver Art Gallery hosted a retrospective of Lum's work

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