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.
Compulsive art collector Salah Bachir flaunts his glitteriest, gayest pieces in
a new WorldPride exhibit. Here, a look at the iconic works on display
Over the Rainbow
From the collection of Salah Bachir and Jacob Yerex
June 21 to Aug. 17
Anyone who has driven past the Don Valley Parkway’s rainbow tunnel over the past 40 some-odd years and not somehow cashed in on the experience will be feeling pretty dumb on June 30th, when Sotheby’s London auctions off a painting of that very tunnel for a sum that, according to the Globe, is considered likely to land well north of $16 million.
Artzila.com, a new Toronto-based online art shop, hopes to do for fledgling Canadian fine artists what YouTube did for Justin Bieber. The website, which launched a couple months ago, serves as a middleman between talented Canadian artists—some of whom may not have the money or connections to monetize their efforts—and the art-consuming public. Professional and amateur creators can submit their original photographs, paintings and other two-dimensional media to the site’s curators, who evaluate each piece for pure artistic merit. If a piece makes the cut, it’s listed on the site and shoppers are able to order from a limited batch of museum-quality prints, which are produced, packaged and shipped at no cost to the artist. Prices range from $40 (for a basic eight-by-ten) to $1000 (for a wall-spanning 40 by 50), making the site a genuine money-earning vehicle for talented up-and-comers, who retain 50 per cent of the proceeds. It’s also a potential investment tool for discerning collectors.
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.
Slideshow: a preview of “The Forbidden City,” the ROM’s new exhibition of artifacts from China’s imperial palace
As part of the ROM’s centenary, the museum is renewing its Far East focus by bringing in an extensive collection of over 200 artifacts from Beijing’s Palace Museum—some of which have never left China before. Dubbed “The Forbidden City: Inside the court of China’s emperors,” the exhibition documents a strange 500-year period for China, during which only the emperor’s family and servants were allowed inside the walls of the world’s largest imperial palace.
Visitors can expect to be led through representations of various layers of the imperial complex, where they’ll be able to ogle increasingly rare objects, ending with items from the emperor’s personal chamber. There will be an imperial throne from the Qing dynasty, a porcelain cup from the Ming dynasty, and even a golden-fringed robe worn by Puyi, the palace’s final inhabitant and the subject of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 film The Last Emperor. Here, a look at some of the artifacts that will be on display as part of the exhibition, which opens on Saturday, March 8.
The Design Exchange has hosted exhibitions dealing with everything from urban factories, to French lingerie, to the pursuit of happiness. It’s not surprising, then, that its upcoming show delves into yet another niche: the peculiar world of the conceptual toys—objects that are made not as playthings, but purely as examples of art and design.
Opening on Friday, February 7, This Is Not A Toy will feature gigantic contemporary sculptures, miniscule figurines, and a range of artwork and film by artists like Kaws, Friendswithyou, Coarse, and Huck Gee. Curators John Wee Tom and The Design Exchange’s Sara Nickelson had the help of recent Grammy winner Pharrell Williams, who is a big fan of conceptual toys.
Here’s a slideshow of some of the works that will be on display, from the intriguing to the downright bizarre. The exhibition runs until May 19, and tickets are $18.90 each.
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.
Each year, for its annual Come Up To My Room event, the Gladstone Hotel temporarily transforms itself into a kind of art-world funhouse. Many parts of the building, but especially the rooms on the second floor, get sublimely strange makeovers by different designers, and visitors are free to wander through. It’s like exploring a series of walk-in dioramas—some lovely, others totally demented. The experience is worthwhile in itself, but it also works as counterprogramming for the annual Interior Design Show, which is as businesslike as Come Up to My Room is dark and mysterious.
Here are some photos of this year’s Come Up To My Room installations. The event runs until Sunday, January 26, and admission costs $10.
Lutz Dille’s 1950s street photography captures characters from the city’s gritty past
When Lutz Dille immigrated to Toronto from Germany in 1951, he brought only $30 and his Leica IIIf camera. During the day, he worked in car washes and bowling alleys; at night, he slept at the Fred Victor Mission above the St. Lawrence Market, where he’d curl up around his camera to hide it from thieves. He got to know the city by shooting its residents. By the time he left Canada in 1980—he moved to Wales and later France, where he died in 2008—he’d built up a distinguished career as a documentary filmmaker and photojournalist, though he’s best known for his street shots, which have been collected by the National Gallery of Canada and the MoMA.
Ellen Fielding, a 26-year-old photographers’ assistant, has been keeping a Tumblr called Drawing Toronto for a few months. As the name suggests, it’s full of her meticulous pencil drawings of Toronto buildings—and not just any Toronto buildings. It would be easy enough to illustrate some window-walled condo towers, but Fielding finds herself drawn to older structures with complex stonework. “I like drawing intricate masonry and all the different shapes and images that make it up,” she told us. “I like to look at a building in its separate pieces and sort of imagine the hands that put it all together.” The level of detail is remarkable. Fielding says each piece takes her about 12 hours to complete.
Here’s a selection of six of her drawings. And, of course, there are plenty more on her Tumblr.
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.
Abramović became a performance art superstar by torturing herself and daring us to look away. Why we can’t stop watching
In 2010 the Museum of Modern Art mounted a retrospective of the hardcore Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović. Young, naked artists recreated some of her most provocative pieces, while grainy video from the ’70s and ’80s projected Abramović’s greatest hits—the time she drove a van in circles for 16 hours straight, or carved a Yugoslavian red star into her stomach, whipped her back raw and lay on a crucifix made of ice.