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The Collector: How Ash Prakash became the preeminent art dealer for the country’s wealthiest families

A look at the reclusive art collector renowned for his connections, his discretion, and his secret stash of multi-million-dollar masterpieces

The Collector: How Ash Prakash became the preeminent art collector for the country’s wealthiest families

One evening last November, at the Sotheby’s auction in the ROM’s Currelly Gallery, Ash Prakash entered into a heated bidding war with David Loch, a Winnipeg-based art dealer. The coveted object was a dreamy, impressionistic early-20th-century canvas by the Quebec artist James Wilson Morrice entitled Evening Stroll, Venice, which depicts a moody twilight scene of women bustling past the gondolas on the lagoon. Prakash wanted the painting for his personal collection, and put in several bids. He paused as the price soared over a million—he hadn’t expected the piece to be so dear. He knew through the grapevine that Loch was bidding on behalf of a client, which only hardened his resolve: he was spending his own money, and he was determined to win.

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Real estate advice: the latest tips on buying, selling, staging and design from local experts

Real Estate Market Advice
A primer for sellers and buyers, by Colleen McGill, interior designer at McGill Design Group, whose clients span Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Florida
Scott McGillivray—contractor, host of HGTV’s Income Property and long-time landlord—points the way to making money
Tips for buyers and sellers from Elli Davis, a 26-year veteran agent for Royal LePage who specializes in luxury houses and condos

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A city panel will answer a question that has eluded art critics for a century

(Image: Half my Dad's age from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool)

Toronto’s so-called “war on graffiti” has taken a turn for the philosophical, with more talk of what constitutes art and fewer photo ops with power washers. Come September, the city will have a newly minted Graffiti Panel, consisting of three or more city bureaucrats who will judge pictures of markings on walls. They’ll have the final say on whether a given work is in fact art (and can stay) or graffiti vandalism (and will have to go, at the cost of the property owners). A bunch of bureaucrats deciding what art is via committee doesn’t sound very art-friendly, but the city’s manager of beautiful streets—could that be Toronto’s best job title?—Dave Twaddle insists panel members will have urban design or public art chops. [National Post]

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Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 7, because kids have a playhouse

Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 7, Because kids have a playhouse

How do you make Toronto’s best building even better? You put in a kids’ space. The Weston Family Learning Centre at the AGO is sort of like the city’s finished basement, if the city had artsy parents with money. It’s one of the rare spots where children can be happy and those responsible for them can lounge hiply, admiring an architecturally superb space, designed by the super-hot firm Hariri Pontarini. It’s almost too nice to have grubby little children running around in it.

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Current Obsession: illustrator Michael Cho celebrates the unsung parts of Toronto, one back lane at time

Current Obsession
Michael Cho’s gloriously retro drawings of superheroes like Iron Man and the X-Men made him a star in Toronto’s fanatical comic book world. But like the crusaders he drew, the 40-year-old Cho had a weakness: he lacked the chops needed to render buildings and backgrounds with as much style as he did people. To remedy this, he started wandering the streets near his Little Portugal studio with his sketch pad, and for the past five years, he has kept it up—sometimes in the dead of night, occasionally with a friend who brings along a flask of something potent to ward off the chill. Cho’s delicately coloured, fastidiously detailed drawings and paintings of downtown alleys and depopulated streets are collected in his new book, Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes. They aren’t scenes you’d find in a tourist brochure, but they’re immediately familiar to the millions of us who take shortcuts through these hidden mazes.

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Got $5,555.55 burning a hole in your pocket? This portrait of Rob Ford could be yours 

(Image: Courtesy Stephanie Kervin)

As Rob Ford continues to scrounge for funding to build his Sheppard subway, he might consider selling self-portraits: an oil and acrylic rendering of the big guy is up for sale on eBay, and it’s going for a cool $5,555.55. The painting is currently owned by Larry Houlieff, a Ford fan with a love for the bizarre—Houlieff once bought an 18-inch tall papier maché sculpture of legendary CBC broadcaster Peter Gzowski, a perhaps surprising purchase for a member of Ford Nation. Houlieff told the Toronto Star he set the price based on the “5¢” in the painting, which artist Stephanie Kervin says is a reference to Ford’s desire to scrap the five-cent plastic bag fee. Kervin won’t say how much Houlieff paid for the painting, but now knows it was far too low. Someone should tell Ford about just how profitable the arts can be. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

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The Argument: the Group of Seven has finally been set free (with help from art-obsessed London)

The Argument: The Magnificent SevenAs a native Torontonian who has spent the better part of the past decade living in London, England, I get two questions on visits home: 1) Isn’t it expensive there? And 2) What do they think of us?

The answer to the first is, it isn’t too bad if you factor in cheap booze and avoid taking taxis. As for what the British think of us, the answer is, they don’t.

Of our many collective insecurities, the enduring Canadian obsession with how other cultures view us is by far the most cringingly parochial and self-defeating. And, as they like to say in London, it really gets on my tits. We’re like the anxious party guests sweating silently in the corner. Our palpable desperation to be liked precludes the very thing we want most, which is serious attention and respect from places more populated and historied than our own.

You can understand, then, the extreme trepidation with which I approached Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, an exhibit at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London. Yes, I was glad the Group of Seven had finally commanded a large-scale show in a major European gallery—and it is, without question, the group’s most important international exhibition to date. At the same time, I was determined not to be reduced to a state of slathering patriotic gratitude by the mere fact of its existence.

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Toronto art collector Ash Prakash triumphs in a bidding war at a Sotheby’s art auction 

Ash Prakash expanded his art collection at Sotheby’s Canada’s live auction at the ROM Monday evening, scooping up a J.W. Morrice painting for a cool $1.5 million after apparently exchanging heated offers with Winnipeg-based gallerist David Loch, who has also been known to drop exorbitant sums of money in the Canadian art market. (Interesting aside: Loch is the former confidant of the late Kenneth Thomson, and Prakash is known to buy art on behalf of Kenneth’s son David.) Of course, Prakash wasn’t done there. He purchased two other Morrices the same night: a sketch called Venice for $82,000 and a garden scene for $232,500. These aren’t Prakash’s first major purchases. In 2008, he bought Tom Thomson’s Pine Trees at Sunset for a record $2 million. Thanks to Prakash’s buys and dozens more that day, the auction reported sales of nearly $8 million. If all this sounds a little excessive, rest assured that some 99-per-centers were also in attendance: demonstrators protested outside the ROM to support locked-out art handlers at Sotheby’s in New York City. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

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Camera: the $1,500-a-plate fundraiser celebrating the new Marc Chagall exhibit at the AGO

Camera: Chagall Ball

(Image: George Pimentel Photography)

October 15, AGO. If ever there were an event to rouse the city’s tastemaking, power-brokering elite, the $1,500-a-plate fundraiser celebrating the new Marc Chagall exhibit at the AGO was it. Outside, at least nine valets parked Beemers and Bentleys. Inside, ladies dazzled in sequins and feathers while men toed the sartorial line in black tuxedos. ­Bottles of Stolichnaya took the place of ­centrepieces, so the crowd was well lubricated by the time the event’s honorary chair, Norman Jewison, rose to speak about the painting (titled The Fiddler) that he donated to the exhibit. He told the story of how he purchased the work at an auction in London, a rollicking tale that involved an overzealous cab driver and a spot-on Cockney accent. When he received a standing ovation, he seemed touched, but astutely credited the Stoli shots for loosening his tongue and the crowd.

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Homes

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Great Spaces: Four places of worship, born again (this time, as trendy condos)

There’s nothing sacrilegious about this city’s appetite for loft conversions, even when the raw space is a deconsecrated church

By Alex Bozikovic | Photography by Michael Graydon

A 1906 building formerly home to the Centennial Japanese United Church

1| A 1906 building formerly home to the Centennial Japanese United Church

A 1941 building, once home to a Slovenian Catholic congregation

2| A 1941 building, once home to a Slovenian Catholic congregation

A 1921 addition to the Riverdale Presbyterian Church

3| A 1921 addition to the Riverdale Presbyterian Church

A 1911 Methodist church, used by an Italian evangelical congregation since 2003

4| A 1911 Methodist church, used by an Italian evangelical congregation since 2003

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The Argument: David Hockney’s iPad paintings show that a cool device can’t rescue bad art

David Hockney’s Fresh Flowers

David Hockney’s Fresh Flowers exhibition has been touring Europe in advance of its only Canadian stop, at the ROM’s Institute for Contemporary Culture, and garnering a lot of hype along the lines of “74-year-old visionary explores cool new medium!” The show consists of hundreds of flower-themed still lifes done exclusively on iPads and iPhones. (Hockney added his own spin, saying that working with the Apple devices allows him to paint without the “mess”—which sounds as though he’s promoting a cleaning product.)

This could be seen as familiar territory for the British pop art pioneer. In the ’80s, his use of office-quality photocopies, fax machines and Polaroids put him at the forefront of art about the tension between original works and reproductions. The kind of heavy collage pieces he created by manipulating original work is now a regular sight in modern art galleries. (Today, the subject of reproduction couldn’t be more relevant to the copy-and-paste practices of young artists, though Hockney’s influence is cited far less often than you’d expect.)

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The one thing you should see this week: lush paintings that turn portraiture on its head (by cutting out the faces)

“Mulieribus Quinque” by Lauchie Reid (Image: Courtesy Narwhal Art Projects)

This week’s pick: Lauchie Reid’s The World Turned Upside Down at Narwhal Art Projects

Sure, the past century hasn’t exactly been kind to the sort of classic portraits with stately, poised subjects that populate dusty European wings in art galleries (something to do with the advent of photography). But in his new show at the Narwhal, Lauchie Reid (an OCAD grad and member of the art and illustration collective Team Macho) pays homage to the neglected form and adds his own ingenious twist.

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Best of Fall #6: Marc Chagall’s spell­binding artworks are the main draw of a Russian avante-garde show at the AGO

Best of Fall #6: Magical Thinking

Everyone’s childhood is a disappearing world, but Marc Chagall’s was lost more than others: he fled Communist Russia for Berlin, and later he barely escaped the Nazis when they conquered his adopted France. Chagall’s attempt to capture childhood with sentiment (not sentimentality) is what’s so moving about his art. His most famous masterpieces have a brightly coloured, youthful purity and a dreamlike—or sometimes nightmarish—logic to them. Like Brothers Grimm fairy tales, they combine joy and horror.

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How Kent Monkman—a half-Cree illustrator from Winnipeg—sexed up the exploitation of First Nations people and conquered Toronto’s art world

Kent Monkman. (Image: Jody Rogac)

(Image: Jody Rogac)

Pink high heels. Heartthrob pink. These are dream shoes, shoes to break your heart. Shoes that are up to no good, shoes to dance their way into millennial visions or scuttle their way into nightmares. Tricky shoes. Trickster’s shoes. Kent Monkman’s shoes. He is painting them into the picture he’s working on as I watch, his fine-tip brush glowing with pink acrylic pigment. The figure in the picture who’s wearing those still-wet, kick-ass platforms is Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, a virtually naked bubble-butt hussy in a cascading feather headdress. I am watching Kent Monkman sitting in front of a canvas painting a picture in which Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, who looks remarkably like Kent Monkman, is also standing before an easel, putting the finishing touches on a canvas. Tricky.

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The one thing you should see this week: the rediscovered work of a forgotten Canadian artist

Kathleen Munn’s The Last Supper (Image: Art Gallery of Ontario/Kathleen Munn Estate )

This week’s pick: The Passion of Kathleen Munn at the Art Gallery of Ontario

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