Life’s Little Worries of Sir Adam Beck

Photo of The Adam Beck Memorial for Tatzu Nishi’s upcoming public art project, “Life’s Little Worries,” presented by Prefix ICA. Toronto, ON, 2018

Experience a special public art installation “Life’s Little Worries of Sir Adam Beck” by Japanese artist Tazu Nishi.

Duration: September 5 to September 30, 2018

More details here >

Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art is thrilled to present a major new public art project by acclaimed Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi. Titled Life’s Little Worries of Sir Adam Beck, this project consists of an intervention into the historic monument to Sir Adam Beck in downtown Toronto. The culmination of more than two years of intensive planning and preparation, this original commission represents the organization’s first venture into public art and the artist’s first project in Canada.

An opening reception will be held on Wednesday, September 5, 2018 from 7 to 8:30 PM in the Isadore and Rosalie Sharp City Room of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen Street West, Toronto. The artist and his interpreter will be present. The exhibition continues until Saturday, September 29, when it will be featured as an independent project of Nuit Blanche Toronto, an all-night contemporary art event presented by the City of Toronto. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, the project will be accessible to the public 24-hours per day, seven days per week, until closing on Sunday, September 30, at 7 AM. Admission is free.

For nearly twenty years, Prefix has contributed to the civic life of Toronto through the presentation of exhibitions, publications and public programmes in its gallery, including the Urban Field Speakers Series–an international lecture series that explores the intersections between art, architecture and urbanism. “Now, we’re turning theory into practice,” states founding director Scott McLeod. “Instead of simply talking about the role of the city in art, and art in the city, we’re producing contemporary art in public places. And we’re doing so with one of the world’s foremost creators of site-specific installations, Tatzu Nishi.”

Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi is known worldwide for his extraordinary urban interventions in which he casts public monuments in a strikingly different light. Building upon historical monuments in unexpected ways, Nishi offers a fresh perspective to the casual passerby, replacing the monument’s distance and formality with a new and unexpected twist. For his Canadian premiere, Nishi delicately balances a stack of objects chosen for their relevance to contemporary life in Toronto upon the head of the Adam Beck Memorial. Through his visually stunning and delightfully humourous intervention, Nishi revivifies our relationship with this often-overlooked monument. In the process, he newly engages us with history, commemoration and community.

According to director Sabrina Russo, “We’re very grateful for the opportunity to work with this extraordinary artist. Along with the project’s artistic merits, it’s also a feat of architectural and engineering prowess that’s sure to excite visitors of all ages. We look forward to engaging with a broad and diverse audience that may not necessarily visit galleries and museums.”

Education and public programmes

The project will be accompanied by an array of education and public programmes. Animateurs will be on site for the duration of the project in order to answer questions and to provide additional information to visitors. For a schedule of animateur hours, please contact project manager Eliot Wright at Visits from school, community and other groups are also encouraged. In support of group visits, study guides are available. Group visits are free of charge, but they must be reserved in advance in order to ensure the availability of space and animateurs. To reserve a group visit and to receive a study guide, please contact project manager Eliot Wright at

Location and visitor information

The project is located in the median on University Avenue, just south of Queen Street West, in downtown Toronto. The project is readily accessible via public transportation by taking the subway to Osgoode Station or the Queen Street West streetcar to University Avenue. The project is also accessible via automobile, with parking meters conveniently located on the southbound and northbound lanes of University Avenue, north of Queen Street West. Pedestrians are advised to obey traffic signals and follow the crosswalks when approaching the median.

About the artist

Tatzu Nishi, born 1960 in Aichi, is a contemporary artist who is internationally renowned for his large-scale public art projects. Within the last twenty years, he has realized major projects in cities throughout the world, including Amsterdam, Bangkok, Bogotà, Christchurch, Helsinki, London, Los Angeles, New York, Singapore, St. Petersburg, Sydney and Tokyo, among many others. Of particular note, his Merlion Hotel was installed for the 3rd Singapore Biennale in 2011, his Garden which is the Nearest to God was installed by Oude Kerk (Amsterdam) in 2015, and his tremendously successful project Discovering Columbus was presented by the Public Art Fund (New York) in 2012. In 2015, his first major survey exhibition was held at HAB Galerie (Nantes, France). The recipient of the Grand Prize (Arts Category) of the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, he currently divides his time between Tokyo and Berlin. He is represented by Urano (Tokyo).

About Sir Adam Beck

Sir Adam Beck (1857-1926) served for two decades as a Member of Provincial Parliament, during which time he led the fight for and the creation of municipally owned hydro-electric systems funded by the provincial government. In 1906, the provincial legislature created the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario (later Ontario Hydro), the first publicly owned utility in the world. In addition to his work as a politician, Beck was a philanthropist who founded the London Health Association, the forerunner to Victoria and University Hospitals. In 1914, King George V knighted Beck for his contributions to hydro infrastructure.

About the Adam Beck Memorial

In 1934, the City of Toronto and the Toronto-Hydro Electric Commission erected the Adam Beck Memorial on University Avenue in his honour. Standing at a height of 4.2 metres, the figure is one of the largest portrait works in Toronto. The design of the monument was created by sculptor Emanuel Hahn (1881-1957), the first president of the Sculptors’ Society of Canada and the head of the sculpture department at the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University). In addition to his public works of art, Hahn also designed coins for the Royal Canadian Mint, including the Bluenose dime and the Caribou quarter.


For their support of Life’s Little Worries of Sir Adam Beck, Prefix gratefully acknowledges the Canada Council for the Arts and the Toronto Arts Council with funding from the City of Toronto, as well as the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Japan Foundation, Nuit Blanche Toronto and Partners in Art. For their support of the gallery, Prefix gratefully acknowledges the Canada Council for the Arts and the Toronto Arts Council with funding from the City of Toronto.

Prefix also extends its appreciation to the following individuals: Richard Adams, David Bowick, Kenneth Burke, David Cybulski, Claire Dawson, Barbara Fischer, Blake Fitzpatrick, Jesse Hamerman, Clara Hargittay, Brad Hayes, Kenneth Hayes, Candice Hopkins, Umbereen Inayet, Barry Isenor, Betty Julian, Rameez Khan, Shannon Linde, Shawn Micallef, Scott Paterson, Fidel Peña, Paul Roth, Matthew Rutledge, Nato Thompson.

Supplementary credits

Prefix gratefully recognizes the contributions of the following individuals and corporations: Japanese Interpreter: Kosuke Fujitaka; Historian: Kaitlin Wainwright; Photographer: Toni Hafkenscheid; Graphic Designers: Underline Studio; Architect: Team Project; Engineer: Blackwell; Fabricator: Depco; Signage: Saman Design; Security: Sword.

Photo: The Adam Beck Memorial, Toronto, Canada, 2018. Photographer: Eliot Wright

To engage with the project, please use #lifeslittleworries and please follow @prefix_ica on Instagram.

Institutional and project supporters

Canada Council for the Arts
Toronto Arts Council with funding from the City of Toronto

Project supporters

Department of Canadian Heritage
Japan Foundation
Partners in Art

Presentation partner

Nuit Blanche Toronto