Toronto is known for its neighbourhoods that bring together an eclectic mix of art and culture that attracts artists and galleries to resonate the image and the personality of neighbourhoods on canvases as well as photographs. A stroll along Queen Street West is like entering a bohemian era, which is every artist's delight feasting ones' eyes on contemporary and unusual art, home grown fashion and indie bars. Truly it stands to be the world's second hippest destination, as rated by Vogue. On the other hand of the spectrum lies Yorkville, Toronto's original bohemian enclave in the 1960's, which is now a mecca of designer boutiques, high end hotels and restaurants. In the midst of these two completely different and highly artistic districts are some of the best boutique contemporary art galleries that are quenching the thirst of the neighbourhood's creative desire to acclaim Toronto's art scenery.
On the art centric West Queen West corridor, Angell Gallery greets you with an unusual piece on its front window making passersby come to a halt and admire the beaming art.
"Gallery is always looking for artists whose work showcases innovative medium, technology and new fashion reflecting the image and character of the gallery,"
said Jamie Angell, owner of the gallery while citing the examples of works of artists such as Daniel Hutchinson and Steve Driscoll.
The gallery for the very first time opened its door at the Trinity–Bellwoods in 1996 with a mission to engage artists in pushing boundaries of contemporary art forms blurring the lines between opposing ideas to amend and shift perspectives in art.
"I witnessed a diverse neighbourhood experiencing a cultural renaissance and with no gallery in that area, timing was perfect to compliment the image of the area and people living there in contemporary form,"
The gallery stages works of both Canadian and international artists who are working in a variety of mediums such as sculptures, paintings, videos, photography and digital media. The gallery now, having moved to West Queen West in 2010, boasts a much larger area than the one in its original location. A 4,000 sq ft. area, which includes three exhibition spaces and a room dedicated exclusively to video art will help them to showcase the work of a larger number of artists resulting in running multiple exhibitions at a time.
Two Paintings by Raphael Ochoa
The gallery receives about 700-1000 people in a month from all walks of life with a common interest that is appreciating unusual and intelligent art. The average price of painting sold at the gallery is $5000.
"Our clients are bold, adventurous, always looking for new and novel subjects just like the gallery,"
Situated in Yorkville, the most affluent neighbourhood of Toronto, and surrounded by big and known names such as Hazelton Lanes, Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, etc. Ingram Gallery has certainly carved a name for itself. It's hard to miss the red brick building with a huge iconic round window, which certainly looks like a gateway to another dimension. Inside the gallery both contemporary and Canadian historical art coexist. The building in which the gallery is located has a very old connection with art and history as it was the hub of bohemian movement in 1960s.
"Location, Location, Location was something on my mind when I was looking for a new site, 15 years ago. We looked at many neighbourhoods but we chose Yorkville because of its international recognition. The Avenue road on which the gallery is situated looks a bit like Fifth Avenue as people drive and walk by, and is centrally located,"
said Tarah Aylward, director of Ingram Gallery. Aylward who is from Montreal has been with the gallery from past 17 years and is in charge of contemporary art. Her husband Jeff Dunn is responsible for Canadian historical art.
Ryan Dineen: The Infinite Zamboni Ride (2014) 70 x 70.5 oil on canvas
Aylward said that the gallery predominantly showcases works by Canadian artists both established as well as upcoming but are open to international artists too:
"In an artist we look for diversity, one should be aware of responsibility of contemporary artists, be able to take risk with innovative as well as creative vision".
Gallery has eight solo exhibitions per year running three weeks to a month and also holds special lectures, symposiums from time to time. The average price of painting sold here is $10,000. The gallery is divided in two parts – the North side is home to contemporary Canadian art that are mostly figurative works and variations on abstraction. The South side space is dedicated to works of historical interest in Canadian painting.
Aylward explained that the gallery promotes both contemporary as well as historical art together.
"South gallery is the historical focus of what happens today. A great artist is not someone who just starts; he or she should be mindful of what has been done on the subject matter and medium and then build on that tradition, which should be reflected in their painting. However, many times we see patrons are more interested in one side of the gallery but for us the greatest reward is when contemporary art visitors get equally excited seeing historic art and vice versa",
Daniel Hughes: Earl St Series 1 2014 30 x 50 oil on canvas
She likes when people come to her and say they know nothing about art, which according to her means that they know everything about it because they have an open mind.
"Artists too through their creations try to involve audiences by not assigning meaning to their work. They leave it to the audience to complete the story,"
The gallery also works with Kensington Art Academy donating their space to students to display their work who don't have access and means to afford.
Stephen Bulger Gallery
A contrarian at heart, Stephen Bulger, the owner of the gallery and co-founder of CONTACT Photography finds there is so much to photography which does not see the light of the day in Toronto. This makes obvious that he should make choices that other people will typically not show.
"I gravitate a lot towards narrative based photography, pictures that are taken small so that they can be told through photographs. I look for excellence with regards to content of the photographs and the way they have been crafted, beautiful pictures of important ideas and moments. Photographs that other galleries are not going to show as my purpose is to inform the public about the breadth of photograph. For example in case of Duane Michals, a senior American photographer in his mid-80s who never had a solo exhibition in Toronto; showcasing his work is priority for me,"
Stephen Bulger Gallery
The gallery focuses on the exhibition and sale of international contemporary as well as historical photographs of Canada. It works more with established and mid-career artists than up and coming. The gallery promotes the work of Canadian artists to an international audience and at the same time look for international talents for local audience.
"We cater to both Canadian and international photographers equally and 25 per cent of our programming relates to historical photographs. Our clientele are serious collectors, museums and we also specialise in working with first time buyers too,"
The gallery receives 24,000 visitors ever year and its front section rotates exhibition every month. The other area changes photographs almost daily. The gallery is booked 18 months in advance. There are 16,000 photographs in the inventory but the front section has about 30 photographs at a time. The average price of painting is $5000.
"People become emotionally attached to photographs but for me intellectual level is equally important too. When looking at the work of photographers, whom I do not know, I try to understand what had motivated them to take these pictures. If the photographer is as interesting as the photograph, I first fell in love with, I would like to consider them. But if there is not much of thought behind it that resonates both emotionally and intellectually then I am out,"
The gallery located on Queen Street West opened its door to the public in 1995 and surprisingly the neighbourhood was not chosen keeping the gallery in mind.
"The area has nothing to do with my work. It is just that I like the neighbourhood very much and feel that people should visit this part of the town more often. When we first opened the gallery in 1995, it was a pretty run down area but it showed promise and that is what attracted me. If I ever move from this place, the new location should be something, which is yet to be discovered to its full potential,"
The gallery also organises talks and lectures of contemporary photographers on history and collecting of photographs. One of the interesting features of the gallery is the 50-seat theatre that is free to public. Every Saturday, there is screening of films that relates to the current exhibition. The cinema has full gamut of movies from classic Hollywood, contemporary and independent films.
The Elaine Fleck Gallery
Nestled in the West Queen West area among the eclectic mix of fashion boutiques is The Elaine Fleck Gallery Gallery that works with emerging mid-career and established contemporary Canadian and American artists. that works with emerging mid-career and established contemporary Canadian and American artists.
"More than art we are looking for very special artists that are really changing the scene"
said Elaine Fleck, owner of the gallery.
The Elaine Fleck Gallery Exterior
The gallery that specialises in painting, photography and mixed media had another positive run at the recently concluded Nuit Blanche, which has given them a broad platform to showcase their work among larger audience.
"Participating at Nuit Blanche is successful every year for us and this year was no different. The festival gives an opportunity to art lovers in Toronto and from elsewhere to come together and appreciate the beauty of contemporary culture,"
The Elaine Fleck Gallery Interior
The gallery that was opened in 2005 holds 12 permanent exhibitions for each month of the year. The average price of painting sold is between $3,500 -$20,000and their target audience resides in the neighborhoods of Bridle Path, Hoggs Hollow, Rosedale, and Forest Hill.
"These are upscale areas. The high end clientele are always looking for beautiful contemporary art to decorate their prestigious homes,"
The gallery also has a photo school at the gallery.
"We teach basic to advanced photography and our students range from beginners to those who have already acquired a university or college degree in photography,"
At the mere age of 22 when most of us are just fresh out of school looking for a job, Wil Kucey set out with an aspiration to make it big in the Toronto art scene and thus LE Gallery was born. The gallery since its inception has a mission to provide young and budding artists a platform to showcase their talent.
"I am 32 years old and my aim is to promote my generation of artists. I am looking to encourage young collectors typically based out of Liberty Village area as that is one area where you see many beginner artists,"
said Kucey, director of LE Gallery.
LE Gallery Interior
LE Gallery looks to promote artists with a critical contemporary practice and focuses heavily on sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints and installations.
"I am looking for incredible skill – the artist should be good at what they do. They should be ambitious and have a certain sense of professionalism. As I am looking to promote local talent, we primarily exhibit the artwork of Canadian artists. However, we do have a few American artists and one French artist"
LE Gallery was opened to the public for the first time in 2003 in the Little Portugal neighbourhood of Toronto where, not to mention, 87 per cent of population was Portuguese.
"Since then we have seen a lot of growth in the neighbourhood in regards to cafes and boutique shop. It is a great location for us as we have clients from Rosedale, Forest Hill etc.,"
The gallery is closed in January and August holds 10 exhibitions for each month of the year they are open.
"The artists who we represent are exclusive to our gallery,"
The gallery receives 300-1000 visitors a month. The price range of a painting sold is between $500-20000 while $2500 is the average price of a painting sold.
Toronto is truly a place of art as well installations where talents of various calibre and genres swarm sipping the artistic persona of the destination, which is reflected in their work in numerous forms. The city has welcomed artists from all walks of life giving them an opportunity to unleash their creativity to a large number of art lovers and admirers. What is your favourite art gallery in Toronto? Would you add any to our list? Drop us a comment below.