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Learn to distrust your eyes at an exhibition of Charles Bierk’s impeccably photorealistic paintings

Learn to distrust your eyes at an exhibition of Charles Bierk's impeccably photorealistic paintings

(Images: photo of Bierk: Evaan Kheraj; paintings: Charles Bierk)

The portraitist Charles Bierk is a professional trickster: what look like black-and-white photographic portraits are actually impeccably rendered paintings. In his Niagara Street studio, Bierk photographs his friends, blows up the images and uses them as references for large-scale oil paintings on canvas. He studied painting under his father, the landscape artist David Bierk, who taught him to divide his canvas into a grid and paint square by square, millimeter by millimeter. In his debut solo exhibition, which starts today at Metivier Gallery on King West, he shows a series of images that transform depending on where you’re standing. From 20 feet away, they’re stark, striking portraits, coated in an eerie gloss of perfection. The closer you get, the more fascinating and flawed they become, as the stubble, pores and freckles take on gritty, abstract texture. We asked Bierk for a preview of some of his most arresting shots—and to tell us the stories behind them. Click through the image gallery to read what he had to say.

Nov. 13–Dec. 13. FREE. Nicholas Metivier Gallery, 451 King St. W., 416-205-9000, metiviergallery.com.

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How Hudson’s Bay assembles its amazing, animated Christmas windows

(Image: Gabby Frank)

(Image: Gabby Frank)

Seven years ago, at its flagship store in Toronto’s financial district, Hudson’s Bay debuted its Santa-themed Christmas windows along Queen Street. The intention was to display them for a few years, then ship the sets east for use in the downtown Montreal store, but the response from Torontonians has been so strong that Santa is here to stay. The company does get the odd email from someone asking, “Is this the same as last year?” Regardless, HBC creative national director Ana Fernandes says, “I would be more worried about what would happen if we didn’t bring Santa back.”

This year, the display lit up on November 1, and it will stay up until the first week of 2015. And even though this is the eighth year Santa’s story has been told in window-display form, assembling the giant diorama is still a major undertaking. We asked Fernandes to tell us about the quirks of building the five windows. Click through the image gallery to find out how it’s done.

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Twelve visions of post-apocalyptic Toronto

Fallen Toronto

(Image: courtesy of Mathew Borrett)

Toronto sci-fi mastermind Jim Munroe’s new project, Haphead, is an eight-episode webseries set in a near-future Toronto, where a subculture of teenagers learn lethal skills by playing a new breed of highly immersive video game. To pay for post-production, Munroe and friends have set up a Kickstarter campaign where one of the rewards for donors is Fallen Toronto, a month-by-month calendar full of richly detailed illustrations of what Toronto might look like after an apocalyptic event. Taken as a whole, the images make for an unusual—and unusually unsettling—imaginative exercise. We aren’t used to seeing Yonge-Dundas Square, Roundhouse Park and CityPlace used as settings for floods, epidemics or other disasters. (In movies and TV shows, it’s usually American cities like New York and Washington D.C. that get the end-of-the-world treatment.) We asked artists Mathew Borrett, Sanford Kong and Terry Lau to share the stories behind the dozen dystopian visions they created and how they made the leap from today’s crumbling Gardiner to tomorrow’s toppled CN Tower. Click through the image gallery to read what they had to say.

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Introduce yourself to Canadian photographer Suzy Lake at the AGO

(Image: Suzy Lake, courtesy of the AGO)

(Image: Suzy Lake, courtesy of the AGO)

The title of Suzy Lake’s AGO retrospective, Introducing Suzy Lake, is a peculiar one, because the revered Toronto-based artist should require no introduction. After moving to Montreal from Detroit in the 1960s, Lake began using photography, video and performance art to explore themes of gender, identity and body politics. Her iconic, poignant work—much of it self-portraiture—has since been featured in hundreds of exhibitions. This past spring, the Globe and Mail called her a “national treasure.” Introducing Suzy Lake will trace Lake’s career in images, “from age six to 66,” through Detroit’s civil rights movement, her early work in Montreal and her success in Toronto. The exhibition will feature 50-odd previously shown works, as well as a handful of new pieces.

Wed. Nov. 5–March 22. Nov. 12 public opening. Included with general admission. The Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St. W., 416-979-6648, ago.net.

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Mingle with high rollers at Toronto’s burgeoning art festival

Primer: Fair Play

(Images: courtesy of their galleries)

Over the past decade, the art world’s biggest business has shifted from auction houses and galleries to the glamorous fair circuit, with the jet set traipsing from London to Hong Kong to Miami to Madrid for a parade of glittering parties and high-roller deals. Art Toronto, the city’s own buzzy festival, is quickly rising in the ranks. Last year, it attracted big-name gallerists and collectors from New York, Brussels and Tokyo, moved blue-chip pieces by artists like Jack Bush and Tom Thomson, and brought in $17 million worth of sales. As the fair gears up for its 15th year, here’s a look at the hottest artists, savviest collectors and biggest deals.

Fri. Oct. 24. General admission $18 advance, $20 door. Metro Toronto Convention Centre North, 255 Front St. W., 604-730-2065, arttoronto.ca.

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“It reminds me of a winery”: people try to explain the meanings of Nuit Blanche installations

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

On Saturday, almost a million people flooded downtown Toronto for the all-night art crawl known as Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. In between navigating the crowds and filling up on food-truck snacks, some attendees were actually able to take in a few of the more than 120 contemporary-art installations on display. We asked onlookers—some in awe, others fighting off liquor-induced confusion—to try, in their own words, to explain the stuff they were looking at. Here’s what they had to say.

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How do you make a three-storey-tall sculpture out of clothes, for Nuit Blanche?

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

There were more than 120 art projects on display at this year’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, the ninth edition of the all-night art festival. One of those was Maria Ezcurra’s Made in China, an installation at 330 Spadina Avenue in Chinatown. The Mexico-raised, Montreal-based artist uses textiles, mostly clothing, to explore social and personal stereotypes as well as cultural codes. “Most of the things we buy now are made in China. They’re made everywhere but the place where we are living,” she said. Through this project, her hope was to create awareness of how, as she put it, “the decisions we make in our personal life end up affecting others on many levels.” Made in China is one of Nuit Blanche 2014’s extended projects, meaning it will be on display until October 13. Click through the image gallery to see how it came together, step by step.

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Four must-see spectacles at Nuit Blanche 2014

A 2011 installation of Máximo Gonzáles's Walk Among Worlds in Madrid, Spain. (Image: Ivan Beunader)

A 2011 installation of Máximo Gonzáles’s Walk Among Worlds in Madrid, Spain. (Image: Ivan Beunader)

Wondering which of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche’s 130 installations to cram into your art-themed all-nighter on Saturday, October 4? Here are four unmissable picks—one from each of the night’s exhibition zones. (Still overwhelmed? Just head to a Screaming Booth.)

Walk Among Worlds (pictured above)
Location: Ogden Junior Public School, 33 Phoebe St.
Zone: The possibility of everything

The world will be at Ogden Junior Public School on Nuit Blanche—quite literally. For Walk Among Worlds, by Mexico City–based Argentine artist Máximo Gonzáles, the school will be outfitted with 7,000 inflatable globes, one for every million people on the planet. The globes will be in three different sizes, as a way of representing the distinction between the first and third worlds.

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Material Girl: the psychedelic, day-glo designs of art star Julia Dault

Material Girl

(Images: Laing by Jenna Marie Wakani and Anthea Simms; Art Works courtesy Julia Dault/Jessica Bradley Gallery)

The Toronto-born mixed-media marvel Julia Dault is New York’s latest avant-garde phenomenon. Dault had her big break in 2012, when her work was shown as part of the New Museum’s Triennial. The art world was so bewitched by her dizzying designs that gallerists jockeyed to represent her and the Guggenheim held a dinner in her honour. Among the collectors who now own her work are the fashion mogul Joe Mimran, Wall Street bigwig J. ­Tomilson Hill and the British millionaire Charles Saatchi.

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Check out North America’s first museum of Islamic art

(Image: Gary Otte)

(Image: Gary Otte)

It’s rare that Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau meet in a place where they aren’t the most important people in the room. But on September 12, at the opening ceremony for North America’s first museum of Islamic art, the spotlight was on the Aga Khan, the museum’s namesake and the spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims. A Swiss-born multimillionaire philanthropist, Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan IV funded the new $300-million, 6.8-hectare complex that houses the museum and neighbouring Ismaili Centre. Surrounded by an expansive garden, the building—an ultra-modern structure infused with designs from traditional Islamic architecture—houses a permanent collection of more than 1,000 portraits, textiles, miniatures, texts, instruments and other Islamic artifacts representing a wide range of styles, eras and regions. “In Search of the Artist,” a collection of signed paintings and drawings, and “The Garden of Ideas,” an exhibition of contemporary art from Pakistan, will also be on display when the museum opens its doors to the public on Sept. 18. How did all of this end up in Toronto? An honorary Canadian citizen, the Aga Khan thinks the city is a hub of tolerance and mutual understanding. Prove him right by making the trip to Eglinton East and Don Mills. (For those who swear they never go north of Bloor, the museum won’t be the only new thing to see.)

Thurs. Sept. 18. $15–$20. Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr., agakhanmuseum.org.

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Pay homage—er, Homerage—to a cartoon classic at a Simpsons-themed art show

(Image: Joren Cull)

(Image: Joren Cull)

Ever wanted to taste Tomacco, marvel at a stone etching of the Stonecutters logo or get a good ol’ Glove Slap to the face? Here’s your chance. Later this week, Kensington Market gallery Videofag will host Homer’s Odyssey, a four-day Simpsons-themed art show curated by local editor, artist and poet Lindsay Cahill. Ever since she started watching the show as a kid in the early ’90s, Cahill has had the idea in her back pocket. “I’ve always known the creative potential The Simpsons offered artists and fans, and I felt like there was a growing need for an official Toronto homage to this edgy animated masterpiece,” she told us. It took her about two decades, but she’s finally making good on her vision. The show will feature 22 artists’ works. We’re not sure if any of the brilliant ideas we mentioned above will make the cut, but expect to see a Simpson-ized version of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, a knitted recreation of a scene from the first-ever Itchy and Scratchy Show, an exact replica of the gummy Venus de Milo, and a performance from a rapper named Lil Zimpson. Just think of all the things that rhyme with “D’oh!”

Sept. 4–7. Videofag, 187 Augusta Ave., 647-238-3047, facebook.com.

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The Nuit Blanche 2014 program is out 
(Image: Scotiabank Nuit Blanche)

(Image: Scotiabank Nuit Blanche)

For weeks, we’ve been watching supermarkets slowly sneak Halloween candy onto shelves, and now here comes another nail in summer’s coffin: the city has just released the full program for the 2014 edition of Nuit Blanche, which is scheduled to take place on October 4. Among the highlights at this year’s all-night art fest will be Global Rainbow (pictured to the left), a massive, up-to-60-kilometre-long rainbow made of lasers, created by artist Yvette Mattern. Information on that and more than 120 other planned art projects is available on the Nuit Blanche website.

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The World-Class Toronto Summer Guide: 14 things that are worth sticking around for

The World-Class Toronto Summer Guide: 14 things worth sticking around for

Click to view gallery (Image: Katrin Ray Shumakov/Getty)

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.

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Show and Tell

Compulsive art collector Salah Bachir flaunts his glitteriest, gayest pieces in
a new WorldPride exhibit. Here, a look at the iconic works on display

Scrapbook: Show and Tell

(Image: Tom Sandler)

Every surface inch of Salah Bachir’s two-storey lakeside condo is plastered with iconic art: a pair of Warhol’s Marilyns hang in the office, Herb Ritts’s glamour shots of Elizabeth ­Taylor in the upstairs corridor, colourful pieces by Canadian painters Attila Richard Lukacs and Stephen Andrews in the ­dining room, and a portrait of an American Gigolo–era Richard Gere in all his nude, lion-haired glory near the bathroom. Bachir, the 58-year-old Cineplex president, is known for his flamboyant style (he often dresses like a genie in billowy satin robes and hoop earrings) and lavish philanthropy (his nickname on the society circuit is Gala Salah). He’s also one of the city’s pre-­eminent art patrons, rotating his 3,000-piece collection between the condo he shares with his partner, the artist Jacob Yerex—they recently bought the unit upstairs for more wall space—and a country house in Paris, Ontario, decorated to look like a rococo French salon. Bachir began amassing art in the early ’80s after befriending Keith Haring and ­Robert Mapplethorpe on trips to New York City. In fact, it was Haring who persuaded Bachir to buy his first Warhol, a 1957 “Happy Butterfly Day” drawing. Now, with 75 pieces, Bachir ranks among the top 50 Warhol collectors in the world. He buys works that stoke his obsession with queer identity, whether in the form of cheeky camp or sultry homoeroticism. In honour of WorldPride, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art is showcasing a selection of Bachir’s most famous pieces. Here, the stories behind a few of our favourites.

ART
Over the Rainbow

From the collection of Salah Bachir and Jacob Yerex
MOCCA
June 21 to Aug. 17

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A painting of the Don Valley Parkway’s rainbow tunnel could sell for more than $16 million

Country Rock (Wing Mirror), by Peter Doig. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

Country Rock (Wing Mirror), by Peter Doig. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

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.

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