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Where’s the Trans Am Totem? Here’s why this controversial public art piece isn’t on display

The birds must have done a number on it.

For a short time, the "Trans Am Totem" was one of Vancouver's most recognizable pieces of public art.

Installed in 2015 as part of the Vancouver Biennale at Quebec Street and Milross Avenue (near the SkyTrain route), it stood on a median at the intersection for a few years. It was supposed to come down at the end of the biennial event, but Lululemon's Chip Wilson shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy it and donate it to the city, as part of Vancouver's permanent public art collection.

However, "Trans Am Totem" had to be taken down in August 2021 for restoration.

The city blamed the birds.

"This weekend we're taking down Marcus Bowcott and Helene Aspinall’s 'Trans Am Totem' to properly restore this public art piece, which has incurred significant damage from birds," tweeted the city on Aug. 11, 2021. "We're currently identifying a long-term location to install the artwork once restoration is complete."

The goal was to set it up in a new home in the summer of 2022, according to a letter from city manager Paul Mochrie to council from 2021. Calendars show it is currently spring of 2023.

While it has been spotted at least once out in the wild, a new home has not been determined, says the city, and it's still being fixed up, more than 18 months from its deconstruction.

"City staff continue to work to restore and confirm a site for Marcus Bowcott and Helene Aspinall’s public artwork, in conversation with the artists and other stakeholders, and seeking advice from the Host Nations to ensure good protocol," states the city.

Among the work that needed to be done on the cars, according to the 2021 letter, was bird-proofing the artwork, repainting the cars, and replacing missing headlights that have allowed pests and birds in.