Buying, browsing, and Admiring Art in Toronto
Sad but true fact: a piece of art that fails to sell at a Toronto art gallery will often move to a New York gallery and sell for several times the unrealized Toronto asking price. People don’t take Toronto terribly seriously as an art city.
This oddly provincial view is terribly wrong, but forunately, if you are looking to purchase art, it can work to your advantage.
Should you be in the market to purchase some art, you’ll get it cheaper here if you know what you like and what to buy. If, like most, you just want to look, there is plenty to see. The city’s main small gallery strips are in Bloordale, on Bloor Street between Lansdowne and Dufferin; on Ossington, between Dundas and Queen; on Queen Street, west of Bathurst; and King Street between Bathurst and Strachan.
Among the best in the city is Narwhal. This contemporary art gallery located in the Junction hosts collaborations and solo exhibitions by Canadian and international artists. These exhibits are lovingly and carefully chosen with a focus on “actively exploring convergences between contemporary art, design, and visual culture.” Among recent exhibits are “A Cast of Something Else” by “Bea Fremderman, Geoffrey Pugen, Josh Reames & Tibi Tibi Neuspiel.” The show looked at the “permeation of technology in everyday life, specifically the absurdities and idiosyncrasies encountered in negotiating with our deepening digital presence.”
Another city favourite is the Power Plant. Down on the Toronto waterfront, the Power Plant, currently celebrating its 25th year, is devoted to contemporary visual art and also hosts events and lectures. The gallery is home to the Power Ball, an annual fundraiser attended by the moneyed art and fashion set. Among the 2012 lectures were author Douglas Coupland talking about his art practice and “the notion of ‘public’ and ‘private’ fiction and non-fiction.” Among the 2012 exhibits were The Clock “an ode to time and cinema, comprised of thousands of fragments from a vast range of films that create a 24-hour, looped, single-channel video” by Christian Marclay.
The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art or MOCCA is always a good bet. Located on Queen Street West, MOCCA has a mandate “to exhibit, research, collect, and promote innovative art by Canadian and international artists whose works engage and address challenging issues and themes relevant to our times.” The MOCCA has a permanent collection of more than 400 works by approximately 150 Canadian artists. It also hosts the Sobey Art Awards, Canada’s most prestigious annual art prize, that awards $70,000 dollars to five Canadian artists under 40. Among recent 2012 exhibits: Guy Ben-Ner, “Stealing Beauty, 2007” A video exhibit by Tel-Aviv-based Ben-Ner “a wry and poignant tale filmed in IKEA store showrooms during business hours in which a father attempts to teach lessons to his children on the virtues of private property.”
A more traditional offering, one must spend hours and hours to get through the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), which houses a permanent collection of over 80,000 works from 100 A.D. to the present. Among these are the Canadian Collection and Masters of European Art, which includes works by Monet, Degas, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Picasso and Magritte.
If you’re in the mood for a road trip, hop in a car and head out to The McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinberg, Ontario. Known as the “Spiritual home of the Group of Seven” and set on lovely, wooded grounds, The McMichael is devoted to collecting only Canadian art and features an almost 6,000 piece permanent collection of works by “Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven, their contemporaries, and First Nations, Inuit and other artists who have made a contribution to Canada’s artistic heritage.” Outdoor attractions include Tom Thomson’s shack, a rural cabin used by the artist during his lifetime, which has been transported to the McMichael grounds, as well as a sculpture garden. The gallery also hosts international touring exhibitions.
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