“I think the Toronto art scene is one of the most exciting in the world. I actually do believe that. After New York and London, it’s the size and diversity of the scene, in terms of commercial galleries, artist-run centres, artist collectives, institutions…The number of artists who are living and working here, it’s an amazing scene. I don’t think people appreciate that fully.” – Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art director David Liss
Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel. Image: gladstonehotel.com
I was researching an article on the Canadian art market recently, focusing on the Toronto scene and how that has developed over the past ten years.
In my interviews with MOCCA director David Liss and Gladstone Hotel founder Christina Zeidler, something became very clear. As David put it, “What it takes to solidify a scene and to take a scene to the next level is that we have to be interested in it ourselves, and promote it ourselves.”
From the very beginning, he and Christina were both (and very much still are) supporting, encouraging and nurturing local talent at the Gladstone. “An art scene doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere,” says Zeidler. “It comes from developing things, trying things out, being risk takers.”
The result of us appreciating our own work is that eventually others do take notice – see this New York Times article and this ranking of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods from Vogue.com. This kind of attenion helps to feed a market for art.
Enthusiasm for our artists and crafts people is clearly a wonderful and necessary thing. But the scene changes all the time and needs to be documented. Two artists, Richard Mongiat and David Sylvestre, have recently recognized that need and are taking steps to correct this.
They have begun a project of 25 documentary film clips called Toronto’s ‘Other’ Art Scene, each one focusing on one of the many independent artist collectives that took over empty spaces in 1990s Toronto.
You can check out their Facebook page HERE.
The subjects include The House Project, a 1994 project by a group of women artists – including Madeleine Lamont and Penelope Stewart – who transformed a domestic space with wonderful, feminist installations and Mud, a group painting exhibition, also from 1994 which was headed up by the excellent artist Nicole Collins together with Anda Kubis. The project came out of a desire for these artists to show their work independently at a time when painting was being outshone by other forms of art.
Mongiat and Sylvestre, frustrated by repeated rejections for grants from the Ontario and Canadian arts councils for their project, (it was deemed too ‘documentary’ in nature, apparently) have launched an Indiegogo campaign that I urge you to support, if you believe not only in celebrating our art scene but in the importance of documenting it.