We're continuing our series about Toronto's art galleries. You can find the first article here.
Toronto has always been a centre of hustle and bustle, creating a niche that has placed the city among the list of most likeable places in the world every year. As the city climbs the chart of popularity it takes everything associated with it to the same height: that includes art galleries, too. For many years the city's contemporary art galleries have won the hearts of millions and are thronged by locals as well as visitors who are in to experience something unique and interesting—but above all something Canadian, eh!!
Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA)
Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) first opened as Art Gallery of North York in 1993, and when MOCCA moved to Queen Street West, it was a match made in heaven, as both location and the gallery complemented each other. "Given the evolution of the urban environment in Toronto, the neighbourhood and MOCCA have kind of evolved along together; and the image of the gallery and that of the neighbourhood have boosted each other mutually," said David Liss, artistic director and curator of MOCCA.
The gallery displays the work of artists that are not only innovative, but also address themes of contemporary importance. "We try and represent current and insightful themes and issues that artists are dealing with in their life, which are important and reflective of the contemporary human condition. The gallery is open to different ideas that varies from something valuable or interesting about who we are as a species to about a specific issue or topic, or a current trend in global art or the world at large," stated Liss.
Jenny Holzer, Unex Sign No. 2 (selections from “The Survival Series”)
The gallery displays the work of both Canadian and international artists. According to him, the slogan of the gallery is Canadian Art/Global Culture because the focus is on Canadian artists but their objective is to create a global context for Canadian culture. "To me, it doesn't make sense to be showing art exclusively by artists from one country—not in Canada, not anywhere in the world," added Liss.
Entry to MOCCA is free and the gallery consists of two exhibition spaces entertaining audiences of varied age groups and stratas. "Basically anyone with pulse is our target audience!" quipped Liss. "I am extremely proud that it is difficult to describe our audience easily. We get them all: from the neighbourhood; from across the Greater Toronto Area; tourists from all over the world; young and old; wealthy and poor," he added.
MOCCA has been a regular participant in and supporter of major Toronto events, depicting its commitment to showcasing and promoting the art, the culture and the diversity of the city at its forefront. "We have been participating in Nuit Blanche since its inception nine years ago. The gallery is also the launch venue and primary exhibition of Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival and for the last eight years, MOCCA has been part of Toronto International Film Festival Future projects Program," detailed Liss.
MOCCA entertains 7,000 to 10,000 visitors per month, and about 1,000 to 1,200 people at their openings events. According to Liss, the location is a good draw and gives credit to the neighbourhood. The other area, he recognizes, is the gallery's innovative and creative ability to transform something unique and ingenious. "People like to be surprised and challenged. We are definitely not predictable and invest a lot of work as well as money into transforming the spaces to make them experientially dynamic. We get inspired by the art and the artists rather than try to impose our white cube upon their ideas," he added.
The Olga Korper Gallery
The Olga Korper Gallery - Originally established in 1973, the gallery is now located at 17 Morrow Avenue, which earlier was a renovated foundry. The building has still kept its old charm, as one cannot miss the old-fashioned metal beams running across on the ceilings with brick walls, giving the gallery a rustic look and adding charm to its already bucolic appearance. "In 1989, we moved in to the present location, on a tiny street that no one had ever heard of. And now it has become a destination for collectors and serious art enthusiasts making our trip that far west a worthwhile experience. Other galleries have joined us in the area and evidently we are now closer to everything," said Olga Korper, owner of the gallery who has been in this business for almost 42 years.
The gallery showcases the work of about 75 per cent Canadian artists, and Korper's unique way of choosing artists makes the selection criteria and their displays even more interesting. "I have a very simple formula for choosing my artists: if I crave at least one work for myself, the artist is for me. If I don't have to own one, then the artist may be excellent, but meant for another gallery."
The gallery exhibits 10 or 11 solo shows a year that include painting, sculpture, photography and mixed media installations. The majority of the artists are mid-career or senior artists, including a number of estates. "Our target audience consists of viewers who appreciate intellectual property, who like to think, who love "slow" conceptually based art rather than decorative, pretty work, " she said.
Reinhard Reitzenstein - Butternut, Confessions of a Dendrophiliac
The gallery hosts events during CONTACT Photography Festival and arranges tours of the facility for the visitors. It receives about 400 to 500 visitors monthly. "They are either attracted by the specific artist on display or have been encouraged by a friend to see the gallery and the current exhibition," said Korper.
Dundas West has come of age and no more serves as an artistic haven for only Torontonians. The neighbourhood has steadily seen a stupendous increase in tourists too who are flocking to this area as every shop has something different to offer. The neighbourhood is also home to Narwhal, which has a wide range of Canadian artists such as Jacob Whibley, Carly Waito and Noel Middleton. But that is not the reason Steve Cober, director of Narwhal, chose this location. "We chose our neighbourhood because it doesn't have an image per say. Our location was a practical choice—great space, easy to reach through Toronto transit, close to the artists' studios and near to other contemporary galleries," said Cober.
The gallery also exhibit artists from the US, Japan and Europe. "We are drawn to artists that are passionate to their fine art practice and have a sense of design in their artwork. Many of our artists are multidisciplinary and move from painting to sculpture to video—pushing boundaries and experimenting without distancing their audience," explained Cober.
The gallery holds eight to 10 exhibitions annually, most lasting three to four weeks per exhibition. In addition to this, the gallery often host artists' talks that accompany each exhibition. "They are free and open to the public. It's a great chance to meet the artists and hear their vision behind the body of work. We also self-publish art books to document the work of Canadian artists and our exhibitions," said Cober.
The target audience of the gallery are international collectors who have interest in emerging artists, and the gallery is often busiest in the spring and fall seasons. " Visitors come because we represent artists that you usually can only see in New York, Berlin or Los Angles," added Cober.
The gallery participates in art fairs such as Art Toronto in Toronto, Material Art Fair in Mexico City and Papier in Montreal. As for the price of the paintings, they can start from as low as $300 and rise to as high as $25,000.
Cooper Cole Gallery
Another gem in the neighbourhood of Dundas West is the Cooper Cole Gallery, which opened its doors to the public in November 2011. Simone Cole, director and curator of the gallery, feels that the neighbourhood started changing significantly after the opening of the gallery. The artists exhibiting their works are both Canadians and from overseas. "We work with a community of artists across the globe who are closely tied to the gallery through social and professional relationships. Occasionally we also invite outside curators to program exhibitions," said Cole.
According to Cole, the gallery hosts between eight to 12 exhibitions a year, and they also create offsite projects and participate in international art fairs. The gallery gets roughly 1,000 monthly visitors in person and roughly five times that amount online. The average price of the paintings are between $5,000 and $200,000.
Neubacher Shor Contemporary
Nestled in the eclectic neighbourhood of Parkdale is Neubacher Shor Contemporary gallery that has been connecting the public with Canadian art and talent since 2008 while garnishing the image of the neighbourhood that enhances its innovative program of curatorial projects. "Though our clientele do come from other parts of town we have had much support from the neighbourhood shops," said co-director and co-owner of Neubacher Shor Contemporary, Manny Neubacher.
The gallery known for grooming young Canadian talent has made its name by making sure that the artists remain at the helm of long lasting popularity and recognition. "Talent, longevity and intelligence are of many qualities we look for when we scout artist(s)," explained Neubacher.
The combination of white-washed brick walls and bright white frames enhances the look of paintings, creating a contrast that is both stylish and contemporary. The gallery participates in events such as CONTACT Photography Festival and holds eight exhibition every year targeting artists' communities and collectors or Canadian art workers. The gallery attracts about 200 to 300 visitors and also holds artists' talks from time to time. The average cost of paintings is $3,000.
Toronto's contemporary art scene has revolutionized its existence and every year it takes a giant step ahead in celebrating the kaleidoscope of the city's vibrant diversity and artistic talent as never before. The city's true achievement is highlighted when it receives accolades for being diverse and creative; receiving applause from the who's who of the art world.