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Rear View Mirror: What ever happened to Richmond's Lenin/Miss Mao and Wind Waves?

One of the artworks has a comical tale to tell, while the other has a more sombre ending

Every Sunday morning, will dig into our archives and find out What Ever Happened To….?

What ever happened to the striking sculptures that caused controversy while gracing parts of Richmond between 2009 and 2011, as part of the Vancouver Biennale public art exhibition?

The Richmond News has been digging around to unearth the whereabouts and fate of two of the aforementioned works of art - Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin’s Head and Wind Waves – one of which has a somewhat comical resting place, while the other produced a rather sad footnote.

First off, Lenin/Miss Mao (which we’ve renamed for brevity) which, if you ever did see with your own eyes when its chrome façade shone at the corner of Alderbridge and Elmbridge ways, you would never forget.

It provoked equal measures of delight and disgust when it was erected, the latter of the two reactions coming from people who failed to get the satire of Lenin/Miss Mao’s creators – the Chinese Gao brothers – who were having a pop at communism, as opposed to celebrating it, like some concluded.

Some enraged Richmond News readers filled the Letters to the Editor section with vociferous opinions, while one even called a News staffer to accuse him of being a communist.

But where did it go in 2011, when the City of Richmond passed on the opportunity to retain Lenin/Miss Mao et al?

Well, it appears the controversial chrome bust made it all the way to the good ole U.S. of A., where it sat outside an art gallery in the Los Angeles suburb of Ingelwood.

According to the local newspaper, the Larchmont Chronicle, it sat there until at least 2017, causing, just as it did in Richmond, conflicts of opinion among residents, many of whom saw it as a local tourist attraction.

However, the gallery apparently got evicted that year and the future of Lenin/Miss Mao was cast into doubt, with the Gao brothers themselves making a public plea for a new home for their famous/infamous piece.

Later that year, according to another local publication, the Larchmont Buzz, the sculpture somehow ended up in the compound of an art collector in the Mojave Desert, near Newberry Springs, CA.

Quite how it got there, no one seems to know, but the work of art has been scalped, so to speak, with Miss Mao conspicuous by her absence atop Lenin.

According to a Facebook post in 2018, there was a suggestion that Miss Mao was still in the vicinity and they were just waiting on heavy duty machinery to lift her back to her rightful place.


As for Wind Waves – a beautiful red sculpture, which caused a buzz and attracted kids to play inside its frame when it was installed in the middle of Garry Point Park in Steveston – the News discovered a sombre ending to the What Ever Happened To trail.

After contacting the gallery of Wind Waves’ Mexican artist, Yvonne Domenge, the News was informed by Domenge’s daughter, Chantal Couttolenc, that her mother had passed away in September of 2019.

Couttolenc was thrilled to hear of our interest, however, adding “I think Vancouver has always been the most perfect spot for that sculpture!!! My mother was so proud and happy to be able to be part of that event and to be part of all the people who were able to touch, feel and even climb on her sculpture.”

Wind Waves (aka Olas de viento), said Couttolenc, is now in an estate called The Woodlands, in Texas.