One year ago, on a dark October evening, Canadian art lovers all dressed up, opened champagne, served bites and sat at their computers pretending to attend the evening. opening of an art fair. Art Toronto, the annual fair that normally fills the Metro Toronto Convention Center with 100 gallery booths and thousands of visitors, has endeavored to offer a virtual version with viewing rooms and video interviews. There was a certain atmosphere – if you tried just as much – but without the crowds going around and the continuous chatter it didn’t really feel like a fair.
This year the gossip can be inhibited somewhat by the masks, but Art Toronto is back with an in-person event at the convention center. More than 60 galleries participate with physical booths as well as an online presence; two more dozen offer simultaneous shows on their own premises for those who want to avoid the crowds.
You will need proof of vaccination to enter the convention center and tickets are timed by the half hour. Meanwhile, the chic opening night preview, traditionally a fundraiser for the Art Gallery of Ontario, has been postponed until 2022.
Yet from Friday to Sunday there will be real art in real physical spaces; for the digital skeptic or the novice collector, shipping is back.
And from all this, a theme also emerges: indigenous art. About a third of participating galleries showcase work by Indigenous artists, from veterans such as Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore to mid-career figures such as Maria Hupfield, an Anishinaabe artist now working in Brooklyn, NY, or the Toronto artist Jason Baerg. , who is Cree and Métis and teaches at the Ontario College of Art & Design University. This is a coincidence, reflecting the interests of Canadian gallery owners and collectors, rather than any specific direction of Art Toronto. It’s a trend that includes stalwarts of the fair such as Montreal dealer Pierre-François Ouellette who has exhibited works by Meryl McMaster and Kent Monkman for years and the arrival of more galleries specializing in early art. Nations, including K Art of Buffalo, Indigenous property. NY and Vancouver’s ceremonial art.
It also happens to fit in with the fair’s panel on the decolonization of public collections, moderated by National Gallery of Canada curator Greg Hill. This is an online event, part of a series of interviews and discussions that can be watched at home. You can also visit the exhibitors online: their virtual reality booths on the Art Toronto website will remain open for a week after the physical event closes.
Toronto’s Stephen Bulger Gallery offers slice of normal – with a weird side – to mini art fair
Another in-person option, however, is offered by some of the participating galleries in Toronto who have come together to produce a city-wide galleries week to coincide with the fair. Last year, photography dealer Stephen Bulger couldn’t stand the idea of an online-only sale and hosted a small pop-up fair, inviting four galleries from across the country to his Dundas Street West headquarters and allowing masked visitors to enter safely inside. This idea gained ground and, alongside Bulger, several other Toronto venues have visiting galleries in their spaces: the Olga Korper Gallery hosts VIVIANEART from Calgary; Robert Birch Contemporary hosts Art Mûr of Montreal and Feheley Fine Arts owns the Fazakas Gallery in Vancouver.
Although not officially affiliated with Art Toronto, the convivial idea of Art Week matches the pan-Canadian reach of a fair that has historically positioned itself as a national rather than a metropolitan event. For example, this year, nearly a third of the participating galleries are from Montreal. One of these galleries is that of Hugues Charbonneau, and this dealer arrives already exhausted by two artists, both of whom deal with the history and identity of blacks, the Canadian of Haitian origin Manuel Mathieu and the Canadian of Congolese origin Moridja Kitenge Banza.
You can’t really put a figure on Art Toronto’s activity because sales are managed by the individual galleries: the barometer of its success is simply the number of galleries that choose come back year after year. The pandemic may have hit museums badly, but as Charbonneau’s example shows, the art market itself has flourished in recent months. In 2021, Art Toronto is showing resilience.
Art Toronto will run October 29-31 in person at the Metro Toronto Convention Center and online through November 7. See arttoronto.ca for details.
Toronto Gallery Week runs from October 26 to 31. See torontogalleryweek.com for details.
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