This is the weekend of Art Toronto 2014 otherwise known as the Toronto International Art Fair. This year there are 110 exhibitors staked out in the Metro Toronto Convention Center.
The Art Fair is a slightly blurred snapshot of art in Toronto. First and foremost it is a trade show, the objective being the sale of art. (In fact I learned today that on average 30% of a participating gallery’s annual sales are tied to the Art Fair.) To a lesser extent it is a venue for corporations to display their support of the arts and a platform for public institutions, large and small, to promote themselves.
In terms of institutions, I was a little shocked by the spectacle of the Government of Canada shilling for donors to support the Venice Biennale. The art ensemble BGL will represent this country in Venice in 2015. BGL erected an installation in celebration of that fact. The piece is titled Canada Fancy. (In French the title is Canada de Fantasie and I can’t help thinking something was lost in the translation.) In any case, it is made of iron barricades, those politically charged crowd control devices, which have been recycled to fashion a giant playground carousel. This is a festive piece and viewers are invited to climb aboard and enjoy a few minutes to glide happily in a circle.
Around the corner is a display of the works shortlisted in the 2014 RBC Painting Competition. Photos of a few of the paintings are posted below. All these paintings have sophistication and style as well as an adherence to a corporate sensibility i.e. serious and safe. It’s clear that the selection committee behind this competition had a certain criteria in mind.
Cyclone by Karine Frechette
Ballet Duo by Ashleigh Bartlett
Before the Fire: 2014 Version by Gavin Lynch
Scattered across the site are some disparate “projects.” It’s not quite clear if the projects were commissioned for the event, curated by someone or exactly how they came to be here. Here are a few projects I came across:
Break Room by Thrush Holmes
It’s a messy biker clubhouse made of whacked together plywood. Sitting around in the Break Room felt sort of like being inside an early Kim Dorland painting. It just needed more flourescent orange.
Three Pieces by Greg Curnoe
It was quite fascinating to see this long lost triptych from 1965 by the late artist Greg Curnoe. All art speaks to the specific time in which it was created. This painting screams sixties, from the trippy, posterish style to the stream of consciousness poetry.
Detail from Three Pieces
Here are the words stenciled, in that essential Greg Curnoe style, on the rightmost panel:
SUNDAY MORNING – JANUARY
THE COVERS – THE SUN IS OUT
THE SUNLIGHT BLUISH THROUGH
THE WHITE CURTAINS – STRIPES
OF YELLOW ON THE GREY FLOOR
THE NOISES OF THE GAS
HEATER – THE SMELL OF YOUR
HAIR – THE WHITE WALLS
The Blind Pavillion by Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins
I admit I have been transfixed by the paint sample arrays at RONA from time to time; or by the wonderful thick books of wallpaper samples available at the Benjamin Moore location up the street. I could make something great out of that! The artists Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins gave in to just that type of impulse to create The Blind Pavillion. An assortment of vinyl coloured blinds is automated so that the colours flip this way and that, blinds roll up and down and different colour arrangements are visible.
Three Minute Miracle by Amalie Atkins
I loved seeing the little white tent, the felt boots and the floor of glass beads. This was the environment the artist created in which to view her 16 mm film, a kind of modern fairy tale about working together.
3 Minute Miracle installation by Amalie Atkins
The Art Fair offered public panels both formal and informal.
I hung out in the Break Room and listened as C Magazine hosted a chat about inter-disciplinary and cross-institutional art ecologies. This talk highlighted the currently uneasy role of the long-term alternative arts space.
Kim Simon (TWP), Amy Henderson (inter-disciplinary artist) and Amish Morrell (C Magazine)
On a more “elevated platform” Canadian Art‘s David Balzer spoke to Stefan Hancherow (Curator), Elena Soboleva (Artsy) and artist Thrush Holmes about the pros and cons of “Curationism” and having someone else create your art playlist.
What about looking at art?
There are something like 4,000 objects in this massive, sprawling gathering.
Here are few of the things that attracted me:
Tethered by John Player – Pierre Francois Ouelette Art Contemporain
Tactical System by John Player – Pierre Francois Ouelette Art Contemporain
Vielle peau by DGL – Diaz Contemporary
Photograph by Sebastiao Selgado – Nicholas Metivier Gallery
Detail of paintings by Ryan Foerster – Artsy
Painting by Alex Cameron – Bau Xi Gallery
Detail of painting by Steve Driscoll – Angell Gallery
Photograph by Lynn Cohen – Olga Korper Gallery
Organic 9702 by Andrea Juan – Praxis Gallery
Untitled #3 by Callum Schuster – O’Born Contemporary
Banger by Angela Teng – Wil Aballe Art Projects WAAP
Papoose by Ron Eady – AREA Gallery
Artwork by Jutai Toonoo – at Fehely Fine Arts
Curved Lines (After Hokusai) by Joy Walker – MKG127
Detail of painting by Carol Wainio – Paul Petro Contemporary Art
Painting by Doug Walker – Nicholas Metivier Gallery
There were so many things to see at the Art Toronto event. I really liked the uncurated, raw market feel of it, where anything goes. It was fun just to be there, despite the way the vast space was made to feel claustrophobic, the lighting harsh and dinghy, the air dead and the coffee overpriced and terrible.
It was baffling how some simple things were poorly done, for example: I took in a talk by Bisi Silva from the Center for Contemporary Art in Lagos. She showed 20 or 30 slides. It was virtually impossible for the audience to see them because the lights on stage were not turned down. The woman came all the way from Nigeria to deliver a slide lecture. Why not make sure those slides are visible?
Art Toronto may want to try to fix those problems because, as ever in the marketplace, competition has arrived. Feature Art Fair is just a few blocks away and takes place on the very same weekend.