Shift: No Alt, No Delete


Add Shift, a seminal, early site-specific sculpture from 1970-72, to the list of Richard Serra works you can see on Google Maps.

The series of wedge-shaped, concrete walls is tucked away on remote farmland in King City, Ontario. The Township Council decided this week to place Shift [or "the Shift," as the local paper calls it] under the protection of the Ontario Heritage Act.

Hickory Hills, an investment company which owns the land, had resisted the designation for nearly two years, proposing instead an agreement not to destroy the work, but also not to maintain it, to protect it, or to be responsible for any damage, vandalism, or destruction caused by third parties. Third parties whose curiosity had already been piqued by the debate over Heritage protection. "There are some crazy people out there," said Hickory Hills' attorney Chris Barnett. The proposal also called for preserving just a 1.2-meter buffer zone around the walls.

The obvious outcome of Hickory Hills' proposal would have been destruction-by-neglect, then when the sculpture was too damaged to argue over, they could just level it, then carve up the 5-hectare [12-acre] field into a residential subdivision like the one abutting it.

But designation of Shift as a Heritage Site will now require Hickory Hills to preserve the sculpture and not alter or destroy it. It also precludes "urban use" or development of the surrounding land.

Still, it is high earthwork comedy to imagine Shift's now-averted, alternate future: it manages to evade King City's roving gangs of art vandals until Toronto's demand for exurb bedroom communities increases, and then, surrounded by scrawny trees and a zig-zagging bike path 1.3 meters away, it ends up on the cover of the sales brochure for Hickory Hills Estates, [homes starting in the $190's.]

Township ready to designate the Shift under Heritage Act [ via man]
Tyler's extensive background post on Shift from Sept. 09 [modernartnotes]
Previously: Richard Serra sculptures on Google Maps, Feb 09
Related: The Shops at Rozel Point

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: December 2, 2009.

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