By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — A massive painting of Queen Elizabeth II that was a fixture during National Hockey League games and rock concerts in Winnipeg for two decades may soon be on public display again.
The five-metre by three-metre painting has changed hands a few times since it was taken down from the old Winnipeg Arena in 1999. The artwork has been rarely put on display this century, because it requites a crew of 10 to assemble and install it.
The painting’s owner, Ron D’Errico, said Friday he plans on putting up the painting in a Winnipeg hangar at the security firm he owns.
“The arena was a common denominator for a lot of us Winnipeg citizens back in the ’70s. We would go to the hockey rink with my family and … we would always see the Queen smiling in the rafters,” D’Errico said.
The painting was done by billboard artist Gilbert Burch in 1979. It was criticized by some who said it was not a good likeness of the Queen. And Winnipeg Jets players were known to try to hit the painting with pucks during practice.
What it may have lacked in accuracy it made up for in sheer size. It is so heavy — about 270 kilograms — that its various owners have had a hard time finding someone with a wall reinforced enough to handle it.
If hung in Winnipeg’s new arena, Canada Life Centre, it might block an entire section of seats.
The painting was taken down in preparation for the 1999 Pan Am Games and spent many years stored in a warehouse in Whitby, Ont., east of Toronto. The old arena was closed in 2004.
In 2015, CN Rail executive Jamie Boychuk bought the portrait for an undisclosed price and hoped to have it put up somewhere in Winnipeg.
D’Errico said when Boychuk moved, he gave it to him.
“I’ve made a vow to never sell the painting for monetary value or gain. What I’m looking at doing is hosting it for Winnipeg.”
D’Errico said he was already working on his plan, before the Queen died, to display the painting in a hangar his company recently acquired. That could happen within a few weeks.
In the meantime, he said, a local shopping centre has inquired about displaying the painting temporarily. He would not say which mall, adding that discussions had not been finalized.