The Museum of Contemporary Art
158 Sterling Avenue, Toronto
This new museum in Toronto wouldn’t just be a new building but also a fresh approach to the functions of museums as explained by their new CEO and Director, Chantal Pontbriand. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Toronto will be an engaging and welcoming institution where the art will mirror social and artistic issues and encourage a dialogue. There will be areas for artists to meet and workshop ideas, performance rehearsal spaces, exhibition rooms, cafes, administration offices, resource centres and much more – spread over 5 floors and 55,000 sq. ft. The first phase scheduled for opening in May, 2017. Phase two will be open in 2020 with another 75,000 sq. ft. on the adjacent site and this building will hold expanded performance areas and space for resident artists.
The space for Phase 1 is a ten-storey industrial automotive building of which the museum will occupy the first 5 floors. Pontbriand explained that they have been working with the architects to preserve as much of the original space as possible as it is already an engaging, unassuming space that will work well with the new concept for the museum. She also expressed how they have been privileged to work with the CastlepointNuma and Greybrook Sterling Inc Developers in a special working relationship with a forty year lease. Castlepoint Greybrooke Sterling Inc is a partnership between Castlepoint Numa and Greybrook Realty Partners. Alfredo Romano, the President of Castlepoint Numa brings with him a long experience and history of support for cultural institutions such as the Royal Museum of Ontario, T.I.F.F., the former MOCCA among others.
The surrounding 8 acre site is being developed as a mixed use area known as the Lower Junction. Castlepoint Greybrook Sterling Inc is also to make donations to the institution’s programming for the first five years. Floor one will contain an agora as a meeting place for people as well as a reception area and bookshop. It will be connected with an outdoor plaza. Floors 2 & 3 will have exhibition and performance spaces as well as storage for the collection. The 4th floor will have an area known as the SQUAT with an informal seating area for visitors plus workshop spaces and a cafe-bar. The 5th floor will house offices for the staff, meeting rooms, a library and a performance–rehearsal space. The windows on this floor will offer visitors a panoramic view of the city.
The new plan and new CEO have been embraced with much enthusiasm. Pontbriand was welcomed by over 500 guests from the art community at the AGO in this January and, as she said, she was overwhelmed with the reception she received. The new plans were revealed on March 29, 2016 at an impressive media brief. As Pontbriand explained it is easier to secure all the funding with a plan that outlines how things will work. The Board of Directors, staff and all those involved with the project must be relived that a plan is in place and they are able to move forward.
Pontbriand besides being the CEO and Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto will also curate Odyssey 2040, an exhibition that will run between May and August, 2017. The year 2040 will be the year when Toronto’s population growth is expected to hit 10 million and the Odyssey refers to Homer’s epic writing. That’s how the journey for this new museum will begin. Pontbriand has a history of curating international exhibitions and is also known for being a founder of Parachute a contemporary art magazine that published 125 issues from 1975 t0 2007. She also co–founded the FIND Festival (Festival Internationale de Nouvelle Danse, 1982-2003). She also worked at the Tate Modern in London and so she brings a wealth of experience. She was appointed in her new position in 2015 almost the same time she was involved as an advisor to Demo– Graphics, 2017 a Diversity Based Biennial Project for Greater Toronto. Pontbriand comes with impressive credentials from both Montreal and Paris. She has spent some time in Toronto before but is getting to know her new home better now. We talked about the differences in the cultural landscapes between Montreal and Toronto. For her Montreal is a cosmopolitan city but Toronto is more of a worldly urban centre attracting people from across the globe. In her opinion cultural centres like the Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto are important for any global city.
Programming for the museum has been announced and includes both international and Canadian artists. Pontbriand believes that every artist should be international. Local artists will play an integral part in the new museum’s as it wishes to become a nexus for convergence of exchanging ideas. There will be a three–monthly magazine announcing the programming and events of the museum to the public. A larger journal, The Idea of the North, will contain essays on issues expressed by artists and thinkers. The title of the journal is from a radio documentary by Glen Gould aired in 1967. On the subject of acquisitions Pontbriand said that the museum’s approach will be different from the past since works might be acquired from exhibitions that are created through partnerships. The collection will start from the year 2000 but older works might be collected if they are relevant to the exhibitions and programming. Pontibriand talked about a lot of cross pollination in the arts where performance and art intersect and where different partners co produce exhibitions and works from those exhibitions are then acquired.
David Liss becomes the curator advisor in this new museum and will curate the show Toronto: You Are Here (September – December, 2017) as part of the first year’s programming. Long known as the face of MOCCA on Queen St. West (2000-2015), Liss has curated over 50 exhibitions and is certainly familiar with the Toronto art scene.
In May of 2017 the Museum of Contemporary Art will open its doors and Toronto will have a new museum where new ideas and art will emerge and the art world will be invited to participate and engage in a new cultural model. Chantal Pontbriand’s vision will come to life and Toronto will have a new international museum and nexus space for exchange and networking.