Over 110 plus art galleries are participating this year in Canada’s largest art fair, including 17 galleries for which it is their debut at the fair. The majority of galleries are from Canada with many local Toronto galleries. Going to the media preview before the evening gala I found there were very few people as it hadn’t opened to the public. I ran into some other media people and we both felt like kids left alone in the candy store. Gallerists were doing final touches to their booth before the public were allowed in.

Installation view of Art Toronto at the media preview, October 26

The McMichael Art Gallery was my first stop upon entering the fair. Works on display including “Before the Flood After the Fire” (2023), mixed media on paper by Marcel Dzama. Opening Night revenues were to go to the McMichael Canada Art Foundation.

Installation view of McMichael Art Gallery’s booth with Flood After the Fire, 2023, mixed media on paper by Marcel Dzama

I chatted with Robert Steven of the Canadian Portrait Gallery which featured textile works by Nova Scotia artist Letitia Fraser. She lives in Preston, near Halifax. We were joined by David Liss of MOCA and Arsenal Gallery and we talked about the local Toronto art scene. The Portrait Gallery is currently without a home.

Textile works by Nova Scotia artist Letitia Fraser

Robert Steven of the Canadian Portrait Gallery (left) and David Liss of MOCA and Arsenal Gallery (right)

I met Art Toronto Director Mia Neilsen, who was busy moving tables. She told me about some of the highlights of this year’s fair including respected curator, Kitty Scott’s special group Focus exhibit of Canadian artists, titled GOOD FOOT FORWARD. The works by the 15 artists addressed “speak to the contradictions of contemporary life and prompt questions about the land, issues of sovereignty, ancestral knowledge, healing, care, the political economy of real estate and the undersides of domesticity.” The fair had its usual tours and panel talks, as regular events.

Art Toronto Director, Mia Neilsen

I wandered into a display of Arcana with an “iconic cabin from Muskoka”. The cabin was brought into the fair on a flatbed. There are three cabins up near Collingwood and they plan to put 23 on a Muskoka property. The idea is to create a seasonal residency for artists from across the country. The cabins are self contained with a kitchen, bathroom and a sleeping area facing the lake. The bed looked inviting especially after a full day at the fair. Individuals could also buy a cabin with its oak interior and put it on their own property.

Arcana cabin interior

At IOTA Studios, a Creative Agency representing artists, I talked to Mireille Bourgeois, Founder and Artistic Director and Amanda Shore, Arts Manager who showed in their booth several artists who exhibit internationally but are based in the East Coast. I liked the bead works by artist Carrie Allison especially “Pleasure Moon, Blue One”.

Amanda Shore (left) & Mireille Bourgeois (right), IOTA, Lower Sackville, Halifax

Carrie Allison, Pleasure Moon, Blue One, rabbit fur, Charlotte beads, wood frame

Exploring the Focus exhibit curated by Kitty Scott I saw the work of artist Kara Hamilton, “Nothing is Wild” (2019), mixed media. She is represented by Cooper Cole Gallery. There were works by 14 other artists as well in this Focus Exhibit. All impressive.

Kara Hamilton, Nothing is Wild, 2019, mixed media.

While talking to gallerist, Clint Roenisch of Clint Roenisch Gallery I recognized several artists’ works such as Margaux Smith’s “Mycelial Network” as well as others from the local Toronto art scene. Nearby as the gala evening approached, I talked with Burke Paterson of United Contemporary and artist Jeremy Kimbell.

Clint Roenisch in front of Margaux Smith’s painting, Mycelial Network

Jane Corkin of Corkin Gallery talked about the importance of having art publications at the Fair and missed seeing Border Crossings Magazine and C Magazine with a booth at the fair. She gave me a tour and told me about David Urban’s painting, “The Butterfly”, which was done just for the fair and arrived crated just in time. I looked at Barbara Astman’s “Woven Stories #34” (2023) and Corkin explained how the textile work was made. Astman had been featured in a recent issue of Artforum. Jane Corkin had a great roster of artists, young and old.

Jane Corkin in front of David Urban’s painting, The Butterfly

Woven Stories #34 by Barbara Astman

Wandering about I saw some familiar works such as John Scott’s, “Alpha Male” (2008), mixed media on canvas in the booth of the Nicholas Metivier Gallery and Mary Pratt’s “Donna Kneeling”, oil on canvas, Equinox Gallery, Vancouver. Another work that attracted my eye was Kobe Bryant – Mamba Forever (2023) by Stikka Peaches from Taglialatella Gallery, Toronto, New York City, Palm Beach, Paris.

John Scott, Alpha Male, 2008, mixed media on canvas

Mary Pratt, Donna Kneeling, oil on canvas

Kobe Bryant – Mamba Forever, 2023 by Stikka Peaches

Art Metropole Executive Director, Jonathan Middleton told me about their new space on College Street.

Art Metropole Executive Director, Jonathan Middleton

As fan of Kent Monkman I was happy to see his work featured at Art Canada Institute in the booth B34.

Installation view with Kent Monkman’s work

At the Andrew Rafacz Gallery of Chicago, I talked with Jenal Dolson. She explained that this was their first year participating in the fair. Turned out she had been an artist exhibiting in Toronto before moving to the US to do her undergrad studies.

Jenal Dolson of Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago

After only a few hours I was a little tired but adamant about returning to the fair another day. Much to see in this 24th edition of Art Toronto and a wonderful variety of works – a feast for the eyes – cliché as that may sound.

Text and photo: Phil Anderson

*Exhibition information: Art Toronto, 255 Front Street West, North Building, Toronto, Hours: Fri 12 – 8 pm, Sat 12 – 8 pm, Sun 12 – 6 pm.

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