Canada’s premier art fair in Toronto was busy with crowds and enthusiastic gallery participants in its 20th year. A new director, Mia Nielsen was at the reins, no stranger to managing large projects. The fair changed its name a few years ago from Toronto International Art Fair to Art Toronto to reflect the change in their direction, which seems to be less on international art galleries. There had been a drop in the number of participating international galleries which can be explained by a few factors such as a lower value of the Canadian dollar, a small Canadian art market and perhaps the difficulties of bringing art overseas, over the US border and custom duties.
Whatever the reasons are, the few international galleries that had participated seemed happy to be there. Director Susan Eisner Eley of Susan Eley Fine Art, New York was back for her 5th year and talked about having good years and not so good years in terms of sales.
Director Susan Eley of Susan Eley Fine Art, New York
Bill Jackson of Jill George Gallery, London, England said they came back for each of the last 20 years because they liked the fair, liked Toronto and have clients buying art here. He wished there were more international galleries as well. They also represented a Canadian artist who they had hoped would have been considered for the AGO purchase but being a non-Canadian gallery excluded them.
Bill Jackson (left) & Jill George (right) of Jill George Gallery, London, UK
I talked to an artist from Vellum Projects, Brooklyn and she was having a good experience at the fair. Likewise, associate and artist from Projet Pangée in Montreal were equally pleased with the fair. This was the second year for Projet Pangée and it is only a two-year project.
Artist Diana Verge from Vellum Projects, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Schine Latovche from Projet Pangée with artist Michelle Bui
Robert Birch, of Birch Contemporary, Toronto has been participating for 12 years and said the layout and the quality of the art was better but thought it was a little conservative and the fair could perhaps do a better job attracting international buyers. Gallery Director Raphael Petrov of Galerie Raphael, Frankfurt & Paris, was glad since he sold many prints and works on paper for entry level buyers. He participates in other fairs as well such as Art Miami.
Robert Birch of Birch Contemporary, Toronto
Raphael Petrov of Galerie Raphael, Frankfurt & Paris
Director Nikola Rukaj has been a participant for 20 years and appreciated the improvements to the fair in its design to create better traffic flow. He said, sometimes you need to spent money to make a fair more successful. Everyone seemed also agree that the fair had grown and improved in overall.
Nikola Rukaj of Rukaj Gallery, Toronto
At Jones Gallery from Vancouver I talked with directors Mark Reddekopp and Anita Cirillo who believed the fair had grown steadily and matured well. I recognized the work of a Toronto artist in their booth, Jen Mann. Jones Gallery has been working the fair for 8 years.
Anita Cirillo & Mark Reddekopp from Gallery Jones, Vancouver, work by Jen Mann
Claudia LALA of LA LA Contemporary in Toronto paired up with two galleries from Argentina, Galeria Rubbers and Gachi Prieto of arte contemporano latinoamericano. They were all very busy with visitors.
Claudia LALA of LA LA Contemporary, Toronto (right) with artist Vivian Galban (left)
Galeria Gachi Prieto, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mariana Povarche from galeria Rubbers, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Clint Roenisch of Clint Roenisch Gallery, Toronto was in conversation with an artist he was showing at his gallery, Claire Greenshaw. David Liss of MOCA, Toronto was there as well and now he is also working at ARSENAL Gallery; always a busy man. Jamie Angell of Angell Gallery was happy with some red dots already on the wall beside the works. Stephen Bulger of Stephen Bulger Gallery was satisfied with the fair’s progress. Most people I talked to thought that the fair was well balanced offering contemporary pieces but also some traditional art works as well.
(L-R): Clint Roenisch, artist Claire Greenshaw & David Liss
Jamie Angell of Angell Gallery, Toronto
Stephen Bulger of Gallery Stephen Bulger, Toronto
There was plenty of art to take in and you would likely need more than one day to appreciate it all. The fair stopped being open on Mondays as they were not getting the attendance on that day that made it worthwhile. The new director, Mia Nielsen is off to a good start and Art Toronto continues to be Canada’s best contemporary art fair.
Text and photo: Phil Anderson
Art Toronto is a big show and it’s hard to take it all in. Even if you spend several hours, you’ll likely feel that you haven’t given most of the pieces the attention they deserve. The vast range of work on offer demonstrates how wide open and diverse contemporary art has become. It’s a vibrant and exciting event, even if a bit overwhelming. Below is a sample of some of the work that appealed to me.
Axel Pairon Gallery from Knokke-Heist, Belgium showed the work of Regine Schumann, a minimalist light artist who builds works out of specially pigmented acrylic. These pieces change and shift in the light. The booth was set up with extra lighting so that the work could be shown in several different lighting conditions. A cool feature was that they glowed brightly when exposed to UV light.
Lightboxes by Regine Schumann at Axel Pairon Gallery from Belgium
Deborah Carver, the director of Studio 21 from Halifax brought several of her east coast artists to the fair. The booth included work by Charley Young, Brian Burke, Sara MacCulloch, Jack Bishop, Sara Caracristi, Richard Thomas Davis, Kizi Spielmann Rose and Raymond Martin.
Deborah Carver in her booth in front of Sara Caracristi’s work
Galerie Isabelle Lesmeister from Regensburg, Germany presented several pieces by artist Mathias Hornung. Large blocks of wood were painted and scored with a saw, creating a grid pattern. As the wood was partially chipped away, interesting colours and patterns emerged reminiscent of cities and buildings.
Mathias Hornung’s work at Galerie Isabelle Lesmeister
Niki Dracos, director of General Hardware Contemporary, Toronto showed a beautifully curated selection of her gallery artists: Alex Bierk, Agathe de Bailliencourt, Jordan Broadworth, Paul Collins, John Armstrong, Mark Crofton Bell, Matt Crookshank, Scott Everingham, Joe Fleming, Christian Gonzenbach, Caroline Larsen, Maslen & Mehra, Celia Neubauer, Sarah Sands Phillips, Julie Voyce, Stanzie Tooth, Kate Wilson, Lyla Rye, Clint Neufeld, Stacey Tyrell, Clara Couzino and PA System (Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson).
General Hardware Contemporary’s booth with paintings by Jordan Broadworth (detail, left) and Scott Everingham (right)
Rukaj Gallery, Toronto showed several pieces by Eberhard Ross. At first these appear to be simple colour field paintings but on closer inspection, one discovers that the surfaces are richly textured and an ingenious colour treatment on the sides and back make the piece reflect a radiating glow on the wall.
Rukaj Gallery showed several pieces by Eberhard Ross
The Sandra Ainsley Gallery from Toronto showcases glass artists and their booth had many beautiful examples of what is possible in this medium. Wilfried Grootens creates his colourful organic work by painting and then bonding several layers of glass together. John Kiley has allowed the cracking and breaking of glass to help develop his forms. A work that struck me most was a glass tower by Peter Bremers, Ascending Spirit.
Glass work by Wilfried Grootens at Sandra Ainsley Gallery
Peter Bremers, Ascending Spirit at Sandra Ainsley Gallery
Ellephant Gallery from Montreal had several digital works by Adam Basanta. The artist uses historical landscape art from museum collections and manipulates them with his own digital processes to create new images.
Adam Basanta’s work at Ellephant Gallery
The Angell Gallery had a vibrant booth focused on modern landscapes. They range from the exuberant expressive work of Steve Driscoll to the quiet white sand and acrylic painting of Gavin Lynch.
Installation view of Angell Gallery’s booth with Steve Driscoll’s paintings
Text and photo: Mikael Sandblom
*Exhibition information: October 25 – 27, 2019, METRO TORONTO CONVENTION CENTRE, North Building, Exhibit Hall A & B, 255 Front Street West. Hours: Fri 12 – 8 pm., Sat 11 am – 8 pm, Sun 11 am – 6 pm