If ever asked to conjure up a list of international art fairs I would bet Art Toronto is pretty low on that list (that’s even if the fair makes it on the list at all). With such heavy hitting art fairs like Frieze, Hong Kong International Art Fair, The Armory Show, Art Basel and Art Basel Miami, it’s obvious why Art Toronto could be overlooked on an international art market platform. However, Art Toronto does fill a necessary hole for Canadian collectors. One could literally walk around this fair and get a good understanding of present day trends and what collectors within a Canadian market are currently interested in. The fair exhibitors' programming gives a good cross section of contemporary Canadian galleries with a sprinkling of international flavour. The fair also showcases a good mix of galleries that represent emerging art practices to mid-career and professional artists, e.g., Douglas Copland, Jeff Wall – giving a full buffet for visitors and collectors to gorge on. This year’s theme is Focus Asia, introducing a small section focused on contemporary Asian art curated by Zheng Shengtian (editor of Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art) and Katherine Don.
Why Toronto though? Avoiding the Toronto-versus-Vancouver pseudo competition that people from either city get trapped in from time to time, Toronto is considered the hub of contemporary Canadian art and culture with large institutions such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA), The Toronto International Film Festival, and The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, serving up exciting contemporary programming that is recognized on a national and international level. Also, Toronto now has their very own ArtSlant page to help celebrate, report, and to keep a finger on the cultural pulse in this city.
Here are a few galleries not to miss in your travels through Art Toronto:
MKG 127 is an exciting gallery space on Dundas St West in Toronto and will be at booth 1120. They will be showcasing works by Laurel Woodcock and Liss Platt who have both been the subject of significant interest over the past year; also collectors' favorites and crowd pleasers Ken Nicol, Dave Dyment, Sky Glabush and Adam David Brown will also have work exhibited at the MKG 127 booth. I asked Michael Klien (director of MKG 127) about his experiences and outlook on Art Toronto to get a better understanding from a gallerist’s perspective of this particular fair. Michael responded, “I have found that the fair is always worthwhile for making new contacts and sales. It is very well attended and organized. As the biggest fair in Canada, galleries from across the country exhibit and there are always some international galleries but visitors are almost strictly from Canada.”
Erin Stump Projects (ESP) is a fairly new gallery on Queen West with a great roster of artists and exciting curation. The last time I visited this gallery I was treated to an amazing show by Lauren Hall and Susy Oliveira, Tropical Contact High. The work was embedded in a fully altered environment with the simple element of a gradated wall connecting all the works together. Each sculptural work was a result from collaboration between the two artists. I’m sure ESP will not fail to impress at Art Toronto.
Liss Platt, Constant: 10 x 10, 2012, c print, 30 x 30"; Courtesy MKG127.
And don't miss the Opening Night Preview, a fundraiser and opening party for Art Toronto, organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario. During the night the AGO has commissioned Toronto-based artists Geoffrey Pugen and Tibi Tibi Neuspiel to perform a new work, Hurdles. The work is constructed specifically for Art Toronto and the audience attending the Preview Night. Hurdles explores the concept of "fairness," with both of the artists racing over hurdles embedded within an installation. There will be seven heats that determine the set up of the final heat where obstacles will be placed in the way of the artists performing. As an added element, the coordination of the performance, refereeing, and refreshments of champagne will be manned by butlers on site. “I can only hope to win the race and am training daily,” said Pugen regarding his outlook leading up to the day of the performance on October 25th. This piece is a part of an ongoing collaboration between the two artists. In 2011 their Nuit Blanche piece Tie-Break re-enacted the 1980 Wimbledon finals between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. Pugen describes Hurdles as touching similar themes of “sports, spectacle, and art.”
Art Toronto runs from October 26th to 29th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. See you there!
(Image on top: Geoffrey Pugen and Tibi Tibi Neuspiel, Cheers, 2012, 24x18; Courtesy the artists.)