Home » Loved and Loathed: Oakville Galleries, Jessica Bradley, Susan Hobbs, Thrush Holmes

Loved and Loathed: Oakville Galleries, Jessica Bradley, Susan Hobbs, Thrush Holmes


VoCA hasn’t seen anything really mind-blowing lately, but then we still haven’t been to see the David Altmejd show at Oakville Galleries. Until we manage to get there, we recommend checking it out.

David Altmejd, The Academy (birds), 2005. Image: artnet.com

We did really like Shary Boyle’s sculpture at Jessica Bradley Art & Projects in Toronto. Her figurines and her watercolours are best. We love the detail, the consideration, the care that she puts into these precious objects. We have loved small, sculptural objects for a while now, and these are exemplary.

Shary Boyle, Untitled, 2005. Image: harbourfrontcentre.com


Thrush Holmes Empire

Thrush Holmes’s studio. Image: thrushholmes.com

Wait – let us clarify. We haven’t figured out T.H.E. quite yet. The young artist recently opened a gallery on Queen Street West in Toronto with a show of his own work, which is for sale in the tens-of-thousands-of-dollars. This has rankled much of the art world (especially artists, needless to say.)

Question: Is he just a ballsy, deluded young artist with an odd name? Or is he worth examining closely?

Image: buddhawheel.co.uk

In our opinion, the art holds little interest. It isn’t nearly as interesting as the fact that Holmes is a self-described “Art Star”. He has two other alter-egos, Truman Couture and Herman Weiss. He even has his dealer, Bill Lowe, in on the act, who describes the artist as – get ready – “At once intensely heroic and, yet, sweeping in their melancholic yearnings, the works that flow from this artistic genius around primal stirrings in the hearts and souls of viewers.”

Thrush Holmes, I survived a government audit and all I got was this lousy clown suit, 2004. Image: Lowegallery.com

It has occurred to VoCA that if – and it’s a big if – the entire Thrush Holmes Empire turns out to be an artwork in and of itself, including the bland work, the ironic pretensions, the copycat design of his gallery, the ridiculous prices – this young artist might really be on to something. As Malcolm Gladwell might say, It’s more of a puzzle than a mystery.

VoCA remains hopeful that one day Thrush Holmes will reveal his whole persona as an artwork and sells it to a collector in Miami for an exorbitant price – in keeping with the market, of course.

If, however, Thrush Holmes does take himself seriously- as presented – it’s a great example of the type of artist that an outrageously inflated, commercially-driven marketplace creates, where celebrities add weight to the perceived importance of an artwork. We don’t see that often in Canada.

(Halle Berry’s apparently bought his work.)

Image: stuff.co.nz

We won’t mention the other artists whose work you could buy for the prices that Mr. Holmes is asking, but Stephen Bulger Gallery, Clint Roesnich Gallery and Susan Hobbs Gallery are all within walking distance.

Speaking of Susan Hobbs, there is an excellent show by Arnaud Maggs on now through March 10.

The work is beautiful:

Arnaud Maggs, Lessons for Children. Image: susanhobbs.com

Interesting and little-known Canadian Art Fact # 6:

“Hello Mr. Beuys, I’m Mr. Maggs”

In 1979, when photographer Arnaud Maggs saw a show of work by revered German artist Joseph Beuys, he knew immediately that he had to photograph him.

He thought about sending him a letter, but that didn’t seem right. So he decided to fly to Paris and phone him. He got to Paris, but it didn’t seem right to phone him, so he decided he’d go to Dusseldorf and then phone him. He arrived in Dusseldorf and figured that since he was there, rather than phone him, he should just go to his house.

So he found himself standing at Beuys’ front door. He rang the bell. Joseph Beuys answered the door, and upon hearing the photographer’s request, brusquely declared that he was too busy. “Well,” said Maggs. “I have all the time in the world.” Beuys eventually reconsidered, suggesting that Maggs return the next week. Maggs then photographed the artist in the same position 100 times, a work that became his best-known work, Joseph Beuys: 100 Frontal Views and 100 Profile Views, taken in 1980.

There are minute differences visible in the images, despite Beuys’ resolute efforts to remain perfectly still.

4 Responses to “Loved and Loathed: Oakville Galleries, Jessica Bradley, Susan Hobbs, Thrush Holmes”

  1. Art Slob says:

    C’mon, VOCA, Toronto isn’t overheated – it’s the sticks. BS boggles brains.

    And Maggs isn’t overpriced at $70,000 for pictures of a kid book on a gallery wall?

    Enough with the writing on the walls!

  2. Andrea Carson says:


    I definitely meant that the international market is overheated, not the Canadian market!

    Whether Maggs is overpriced is a matter of opinion, as it is with Thrush Holmes. But Maggs has an almost 30-year exhibition history in Canada and abroad, and has won the Governor General’s award….


  3. Art Slob says:

    You’ve got a point on the 30 year history thing for Maggs. And the GG award does have price value add.

    This brings other thoughts:

    1) Does merely showing for decades make every work produced by the artist of relatively similar artistic/financial value?

    2) Showing internationally implies art world respectability, but galleries – like movie houses – have to show something every month to fill a program slot. Does filling a slot much indication of inherent value of the work?

    3) From an investment perspective, aren’t primary market prices (initial opening shows) the implied value such work would fetch on the secondary market (auction houses)?

    4) I don’t subscribe to the Canadian Art Auction Index, but I should think that a serious art investor would refer to the artist’s sales history to make such an investment. $70,000 seems to have been pulled out of the air.

    5) For me 50% sales on the primary art issue is a successful show and warrants an increase in price for the next show. If sales are less than 50%, then prices should fall. But, to reduce prices appropriate to market is a negative buying signal in the market to the sophisticated. Money talks of real market demand while Globe & Mail fluff pieces and their like exist in a world of subjective ‘should be’ instead of the world ‘as is’.

    I would love to see someone provide a convincing argument to justify the $70,000 asking price for photographs of a kid’s book. Whatever concept(s) lie beneath have been done to death since the 70’s.

    As far a Thrush baby goes, I think he (and his financial backers) are at least mixing it up in a art community which too often seems morgue-like, or like stepping into a library at best. Why not give the ‘art entrepreneur’ a shot. See how things go in a year or two. Buddy was asking $90,000 for something? I went to his Drabinsky show last winter and there was only a couple people hanging around. So, I don’t even want to talk about the $90,000.

    Fools and their money.

    Thanks for the space to rant.

  4. art babe says:

    I agree with you, art is priced not just because someone is asking the price, but the history of exhibits, sales, etc. is important.

    As for Holmes: his art is also very much like a lot of the the art during the 70 in Europe, the art which was on the borderline of fine art and commercial art, very much like illustration.

    Were not his the realistically painted balloons in browns, with slightly surrealistic feel which he started to sell on Ebay before selling there the abstract pieces? Do I need to add that he already on Ebay advertised himself as “prodigy” and “genius” (those are his own words). Yes, there were Holmes paintings and his empire on ebay. Weiss and Couture were advertised too, to be brief. So, his ebay empire morphed, and the paintings became better and better with time. I mean I am not a fan, I am a picky type, and honestly don’t like art which looks like a scrap book.( But in general scrap book look is so popular for so long now, it really has mass appeal).

    But given his history on ebay, he really improved from his 2003 pictures, he grew artistically. Is here someone who also remembers his ebay listings? As he isn’t the only of young artists who were thinking about themselves as geniuses, (naivite of young age), I think if he doesn’t get stuck in what he is doing, if he will be searching for his more mature voice, he may improve more. He went long way from his ebay debut to what he is doing now, it was a process of artistic maturation.
    However, crass commercialism keeps him from growing faster, in my oppinion.

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