Polarizing sculpture 'the Beast of Baxter Island' finds a new home in cottage country

A polarizing piece of art that faced an uncertain future has found a new home on the idyllic shores of Ontario's cottage country.

14-foot tall, one-tonne sculpture once stood in Toronto's Distillery District

Koilos, a massive sculpture that became known as 'the Beast of Baxter Island,' was sculpted by celebrated California-based artist Michael Christian. (Courtesy of Andrew Cumming)

Love it or hate it, you definitely can't ignore it. 

And now a polarizing piece of art that faced an uncertain future has found a new home on the idyllic shores of Ontario's cottage country. 

Once known among locals as 'the Beast of Baxter Island,' the curious 4-metre tall, one-tonne sculpture has been relocated to the town of Bala. 

"Even just the silhouette of it is so strange looking, I was very excited to have a giant sculpture," says Mike Chesney, owner of Mystery Diner, a food truck operating in the town on the eastern shore of Lake Muskoka. 

Chesney adopted the hulking sculpture from its previous owner, Andrew Cumming, after Cumming faced a revolt of sorts from his neighbours on the lake. 

"He had to get rid of it quickly because his neighbours were complaining. Too many people came by on their boats to have a look," Chesney, who's known almost exclusively as Muskoka Mike, said in an interview with CBC Radio's Ontario Morning on Thursday.

Indeed, the sculpture — actually named Koilos — divides most who see it. It was unveiled more than a decade ago in Toronto and spent years on display in the Distillery District. The thought-provoking piece is the brainchild of celebrated California-based sculptor Michael Christian. 

In 2013, Cumming decided to purchase the sculpture and move it to his dock on Baxter Island, in Lake Muskoka. 

Until this month, Koilos was displayed on the dock of a cottage on Baxter Island in Lake Muskoka. (Courtesy of Andrew Cumming)

People would make the boat trip from all around the lake to gawk at it.

"It was to the point where they were climbing on the dock. And it's a selfie opportunity, right. They were getting closer and closer and he just had to shut it down," Chesey said, adding that he first heard Koilos was being evicted from Cumming's dock in a local newspaper article.

A former art gallery owner himself, Chesney was drawn to the unique work. And without ever having seen it in person, he agreed to have the sculpture shipped by lake barge to his property in Bala on July 4. 

Considering Bala is a small town with a strong local bent, he wasn't sure how the sculpture would be received. 

But despite his concerns, reaction has been surprisingly positive, with "hordes of people" showing up to snap a photo with the beast.

"I don't know how the artist would feel about the fact that his sculpture has turned into almost a cheesy, up north, tourist-attraction selfie opportunity. But it's creating a lot of emotions and everybody loves it," Chesney said.

"I'm surprised."

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