What’s one of the best things to do in Toronto this summer? If you can, get out of Toronto. See the world. Find another city’s heat and construction and transit problems to keep you occupied—preferably a city that’s got a globally recognized art gallery or museum or horse race or something. Of course, if you find yourself stuck in the city all season, that’s okay: there’s a lot going on here that, if you squint your eyes and hold your nose (and sometimes, even if you don’t do either) could actually be comparable to all the world-class things you’d find elsewhere. You want art? We’ve got some! Ancient Chinese artifacts? You know it. Exotic fish? Sure, that too. We’re not suggesting you tear up your plane tickets or anything. But we do think that this summer, Toronto might just be able to compete with the big boys. Here, a brief guide to just some of what’s exceptional in this city—and how it stacks up against other big-ticket events around the world.
Art Gallery of Ontario
In this edition of The Weekender, a massive pillow fight, a festival of silent film and three more things to do in Toronto this weekend.
Pillow Fight Toronto 2014 (FREE!)
The annual Newmindspace pillow fight returns. Hundreds of participants will gather in Nathan Phillips Square to beat the stuffing out of one another with pillows from home, in celebration of International Pillow Fight Day. The theme of this year’s brawl is “superheroes versus villains,” and costumes are encouraged. But take note: feather pillows are banned (they make a mess). Apr. 5. Free. Nathan Phillips Square, facebook.com
Slideshow: a preview of “Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty,” the AGO’s new fleshy, figurative exhibition
With its latest exhibition, “Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty,” the Art Gallery of Ontario is offering visitors two shows in one. The first Canadian exhibition of Irish-born British painter Francis Bacon’s work will be merged with the AGO’s own collection of works by English sculptor Henry Moore.
Born in Dublin in 1909, Bacon’s work was defined by its bleak, figurative approach to the human body. A kind of proto-David Cronenberg, Bacon seemed to regard human flesh as infinitely malleable—fit to be twisted and warped into all manner of abnormal configurations. His work prods the corporeality of human nature, like a lonely bachelor poking at freezer-burned hot dogs thawing in the sink. Bacon treats humanity as though it consists of little more than sacks of misshapen meat. (It’s fitting that some of his paintings share screen space with Michael Keaton’s rapacious, cyborg-building CEO in the new Robocop remake.)
Though the two never worked together, Henry Moore’s figurative sculptures provide a nice counterpoint to Bacon’s work, exploring similar themes in marble and bronze. The AGO’s exhibit calls attention to the aesthetic continuities tying the two artists together. Finally, a chance for anyone sick of beauty to take in a little horror and repugnance!
Here are some photos of the exhibition. It opens on April 5 and runs until July 20.
In this edition of The Weekender, a festive parade, March break at the AGO and three more things to do in Toronto this weekend.
Pages Festival and Conference
During the festival component of the weekend (Thursday to Saturday), Canadian authors will work with digital artists, as well as dancers, actors and musicians to put on performances. The conference (Friday) features panel discussions on the impact of technology on the publishing industry. Mar. 13–Mar. 16. Tickets from $15. Various venues, pagesfestival.com
Slideshow: a preview of Elevated, the AGO’s new exhibition of contemporary art that’s opening this week
Seeing walls loaded with works by big-name, canonical artists from the early part of the 20th century is a great thing, and the Art Gallery of Ontario has plenty of that going at the moment. But there’s also something to be said for exposing oneself to artwork of a more recent vintage. That’s where the gallery’s upcoming exhibition, Elevated: Contemporary Art in the AGO Tower, comes in.
Opening on January 29, Elevated will consist of art made since 1970, much of it newly acquired by the AGO. Among the works on display will be photos by Anne Collier, who is known for her images of found objects. Another piece, an installation by Cuban artist Wilfredo Prieto titled One, will consist of an enormous pile of fake diamonds, with precisely one real diamond somewhere in the mix.
Here are some images of those works, as well as others that will be on view as part of the exhibition.
In this edition of The Weekender, a Canadian horror film festival, Christmas-themed family events and three other things to do this weekend.
Toronto Christmas Market (FREE!)
The annual European-themed fair celebrates everything to do with Christmas, from Polish folk dancing to German carolling to Santa Claus. Fairgoers can browse the wares of several vendors, including Parisian chocolates, Dutch trinkets and various yuletide ornaments. Nov. 29–Dec. 15. Admission is free. Distillery District, 55 Mill St., torontochristmasmarket.com
You know you live in interesting times when the chief of police is the most powerful person in town. What propelled Chief Blair to the top of our Influentials list was Rob Ford’s Crackgate—a story that consumed the city for much of the last year and whose bewildering narrative is still being written. Of course, Ford wasn’t the only politician who behaved badly in 2013. Chronic dysfunction is evident at all levels of government, from the petty infighting at city hall to the crippling gamesmanship at Queen’s Park and the expense scandals on Parliament Hill. And yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. Some of the city’s most formidable leaders are outside the traditional halls of power: global hip-hop stars, tech titans, gossip bloggers and guitar-strumming astronauts, among others. The people ranked here all did something in 2013 that made an impact on our lives, for better or for worse. Our list demonstrates that sometimes influence is enduring, sometimes it’s fickle and sometimes it rests on a single cellphone video that could forever change the complexion of the city.
Toilet paper—even very fancy, ultra-thick toilet paper—is delicate. Gowns—especially very fancy, ultra-conceptual gowns—are complex. Therein lies the draw of Cashmere’s annual fashion show, for which Canadian designers produce show-stopping dresses using large swaths of toilet paper (or “bathroom tissue,” as the company’s press materials call it). This year, the charity event benefitting the Breast Cancer Foundation returned to the AGO to mark its 10th anniversary. During the entirely pink-and-white show, top designers like David Dixon, Sunny Fong, Marie Saint Pierre and Jason Matlo showcased remarkable feats of engineering. Here are our favourites.
David Bowie Is, which opens today at the AGO, celebrates Bowie’s evolving identity in fittingly over-the-top fashion. The exhibition spans two floors of the museum and is correspondingly massive in scope, comprising over 300 objects (all pulled from the tens of thousands of items in the British pop artist’s personal archive). It’s a pleasingly chaotic mix: school-age photos, Ziggy Stardust suits, beloved guitars and over-the-top set designs, plus concert footage and interview clips. As during the exhibit’s record-smashing run at London’s Victoria and Albert museum, every visitor gets a pair of headphones that plays songs and interview excerpts as you move though the exhibition. The result is an assemblage of film, art, costume, object and sound that encapsulates Bowie’s gift for reinvention. Here, a look at some of the highlights.
In this edition of The Weekender, the CNE, free outdoor movies and three more things to do in Toronto this weekend.
Canadian National Exhibition
The Ex returns for its 135th year of family-friendly entertainment. Along with the usual midway rides, marketplaces and air shows, this year’s fair has sand sculpting, rum tasting and an especially impressive lineup of fat-laden snacks. Aug. 16–Sept. 2. $16 ($12 for kids). Exhibition Place, 416-263-3330, theex.com
A Cultural Revolution: the AGO’s Ai Weiwei exhibition proves why the Chinese artist is such a threat
Ai Weiwei is the most famous artist on the planet, and like many who have held the title before (van Gogh, Picasso), his personal story may be better known than his art. Over the past five years, he has become China’s leading dissident, endlessly harassed and attacked by state authorities for creating work that seeks out the limits of expression in a country not big on the concept of artistic freedom. In him, the rebellion and the art, the life and the work, are one and the same.
Fifty years ago, Snow’s iconic Walking Woman sculptures made him an international art star. That was just the start of a rich life full of famous friends, bohemian bacchanals and city-wide scandals. His latest work, a dancing light beam on the Trump tower, is his most flamboyant feat yet
One afternoon last summer, Michael Snow stood on an upper floor of the Sheraton hotel examining his latest creation from a distance. It was a test run of Lightline, a 65-storey light sculpture he designed for the new Trump hotel. A glowing white spire, made up of thousands of LED lights, snaked up the seam of the tower like a stripe on a marching band uniform. Then it began to move. A blast of light shot up about 20 storeys and flickered in staccato bursts. “It waltzes,” Snow tells me. “The light jumps up and down in a rhythm—buh-bum, buh-bum.” Sometimes the computer-operated animation will flash like a strobe light, or mimic the stop-and-go of traffic, or a rainfall or snow. “The snow is really quite beautiful,” says Snow.
But the sculpture had mechanical problems, and, shortly after the test, it was shut off. It was still out of order as of this February. “Guess they have other things to worry about first,” Snow grumbles, a coy reference to the panes of glass that have been falling off the building.
Of all the works Snow has produced over the years, Lightline is the only one that wasn’t his idea. Eb Zeidler, the architect responsible for the tower—and the Eaton Centre and Ontario Place—called Snow up in 2009 and asked him to devise a light beam on the side of the building. Snow happily accepted and transformed it into a kind of cinema, controlling the movement of the lights with a computer program. That the hotel was named for the tackiest man in North America didn’t faze him. Donald Trump and Snow actually have a lot in common: unshakable ego, wilful disregard for public opinion and a knack for stoking controversy. Read the rest of this entry »
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Current Obsession: punk rocker Patti Smith pays tribute to her dead heroes in a new photo exhibition
When the New York singer-songwriter Patti Smith hit the American music scene in the mid-’70s, there was no one quite like her. She hacked her hair into a shaggy bob, wore men’s suits and flaunted her unshaven armpits on album covers. She achieved mainstream success early on with her hit “Because the Night”—still a staple on classic-rock radio—but she was always more about celebrating outsiderhood than being a typical rock star. Now 66, the doyenne of punk is undergoing an artistic renaissance: her 2010 memoir Just Kids won a National Book Award, she recently released her 11th album, Banga, and she’s mounting a new photography exhibit. Read the rest of this entry »
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The people driving the agenda for the city are more likely to come from outside local government than inside. This was the year our premier, rendered virtually impotent by a minority legislature, up and quit without warning. And our mayor, who listens to no one and refuses to build consensus on council, has created a city hall power vacuum.
What follows is Toronto Life’s list of the real influence peddlers—the people who, either publicly or behind the scenes, have had the greatest impact on the city. We looked for people whose power was broad enough to be felt across different sectors, or else so palpable in their immediate field that it somehow changed things for the rest of us. We looked for people whose ability to alter public opinion, raise money, rally troops or simply get stuff done was both formidable and undeniable. The result is a carefully calculated and highly opinionated look at power in the city in 2012. Read the rest of this entry »
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