Toronto as an Emerging North American Art Market

October 26 – 29, 2012

There is a perception by recent visitors to Toronto that the “building crane” might be some sort of national symbol. At least that was the impression of Michael Lyons Wier, one of the exhibitors from New York City in Art Toronto 2012. It is true that this city has been undergoing an unprecedented building boom in the last several years, certainly in the condo market. As Art Toronto’s own prospectus for the 2012 art fair notes: “This city is the 10th most economically powerful city in the world (credit: Forbes) and the second largest financial centre in North America (credit: Bloomberg).”

Art Toronto continues to have a strong presence from Montreal galleries, whether it’s relative newcomers such as Espace Robert Poulin or the perennial Galerie DeBellefeuille, who has been showing since the fair’s inception.

Robert Poulin owner of Escape Robert Poulin, Montreal

Originally a collector himself, Robert Poulin points to the importance moving beyond collecting, as this is simply passive, and to take the necessary next step of showcasing the work, as he has done here at the fair. His Canadian artists included: Marc Leduc, Zoltan Veevaete, Mirana Zuger. Of Leduc, Poulin emphasized that these works are not made to market. Leduc’s in particular, are “genuine and emerge from a trance-like, free carving on wood.”

Marc Leduc, Tango funebre, 1992, 88 x 84 inches, mixed media on wood, from Espace Robert Poulin, Montreal

Helen Bellefeuille of Galerie De Bellefeuille views Toronto as a big art market and represents both Canadian and international artists.

Helen Bellefeuille owner of Galerie De Bellefeuille, Montreal

The gallery’s presence here helps to maintain a connection with their Toronto clients. Young contemporaries with the gallery include Nicolas Ruel from Quebec who works with UV-protected photography on aluminum, and Toronto artist Franco Defranchesca who works in pigment prints and resin. Works by international artists included a sizable exhibit of major prints by Tom Wesselman (1931-2004), one of the leading American Pop artists of the 60s.

Nicolas Ruel, Times Square New York, 2010, photograph printed on stainless steel, form Galerie De Bellefeuille, Montreal

While Lyons Wier Gallery of New York enjoyed a successful opening night preview this year, not every year has been as stellar. In the experience of this dealer, Toronto buyers tend to favour urban themes and works by the Canadian artists in his stable. Nevertheless, interest and progress is being made by Art Toronto and collectors in Toronto.

Tim Okamura, Northern Light 2012, oil and mixed media on canvas, 60 x 40 inches, from Lyons Weir Gallery, New York

Begona Malone, an exhibitor from Madrid, Spain, has been in attendance for about 9-10 years and has enjoyed a steady increase in interest from young collectors. Her artists include unique, ‘real art’ focused on the mysterious – not ‘fashion art.’

Begona Malone from Madrid, Spain in front of Taurino Vasco Sayal’s Cat looking shamans Moon

The much-talked-about MA2 Gallery from Tokyo, Japan as part of the FOCUS ASIA, did not expect to be sold out by the second day. As first-time exhibitors at Art Toronto and in Canada, they were apprehensive about their exhibit as most galleries had predominantly painting and photography on display.

Ken Matsubara, The Sleeping Water – Storm in a Glass, 2012, 35 x 30.5 x 16 cm, movie, mixed media

Artist Ken Matsubara shared his inspiration for the film series, “Sleeping Water,” mini compartments displaying water motion, people floating in water and themes that reflected, what Matsubara said, are his ode to memory, the personal and the crossing of age and race, to name a few. His small-scale works are meditations on, not only the tendency of the Japanese to focus on the art of small spaces, but also on the word ‘small’ itself, as well as an evocation of what is beautiful about everyday life in Japan. The art of tea as an idea, for example, may serve as a metaphor for the entire cosmos in a cup. In this collection of works, Matsubara’s ability to converge and translate culture into something both personal and universal, made for a captivating exhibition.

Christopher Cutts owner of Christopher Cutts Gallery, Toronto

Toronto’s Christopher Cutts is a seasoned veteran of art fairs from Berlin, Miami, London, New York, and Los Angeles. He attributes much of the success of Art Toronto to its collector’s preview gala, which is presented as an Art Gallery of Ontario benefit. “This is a real party with bubbly. They bring out the fatted calf. The other fairs don’t do this.”

Text: Steve  Rockwell and Salomeh Ahmadi. Photo: Salomeh Ahmadi

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