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An Te Liu, Installation Mono No Ma, Gardiner Museum, Toronto 2013






Sky Glabush Portrait as Gertrude Stein, 2012

This October I happened to be in my hometown visiting friends and family during the 14th annual Toronto International Art Fair so I decided to check out the art scene and attended the Opening Night Preview and Gala, benefiting the Art Gallery of Ontario. Unlike last year, which was rather disappointing with an overabundance of schlocky figurative work, this year, the organizers seemed to have kicked it up a notch and the fair itself, as well as the opening night party was actually worth the visit this time. Kitty Scott, the AGO's curator of modern and contemporary art noted this remarking that, "There is a contemporary energy at this year's fair. The works we purchased are all dated 2013; they are very engaging and immediately stood out. These are all outstanding additions to the AGO's collection of Canadian art." With funds raised from the gala preview the AGO's selection committee acquired five new works by four emerging Canadian artists, including a photo realist painting by well-known Winnipeg artist Karel Funk, who is represented by 303 Gallery in New York for $50,000; a large acrylic painting by Montreal-based Anthony Burnham; a drawing by self-taught Cape Dorset artist Shuvinai Ashoona; and finally, my favorite a diptych by newcomer Celia Perrin Sidarous, Eight cubes on their own and Eight cubes with ceramics.

Celia Perrin Sidarous, Eight cubes with ceramics, 2013

The Montreal-based artist, who is still finishing her MFA in photography at Concordia University, creates original installations in her studio and then photographs them before they are dismantled. She just had a solo exhibition at the Banff Center in July 2013 and her work is already included in TD Bank's corporate collection. The AGO bought the two photographs for $2500. I also fell in love with the work of Canadian artist Sky Glabush, whose recent work was on view at the Toronto-based MKG127 Gallery. His painting, Portrait as Gertrude Stein (2012), caught my eye and I regret not having purchased it for a mere $4000. With his newer works, Glabush has made a departure from his well-received series of large-format landscape paintings of mid-century homes in London, into territory that is more personal and psychological. I also liked the work of Montreal artist Eve K. Tremblay, whose photographs were part of a series based on books and book culture, with a special emphasis on Farenheit 451. Other artists of interest were painters Kym Greeley and Janet Werner. Greely paints large, minimal, abstract Newfoundland landscapes that look more like screen prints and Werner creates lush, painterly female portraits that deconstruct traditional notions of feminine beauty.

Eve K. Tremblay, Études pour Dancing Books (Triumph Over The Fear of Collapse - Spine #6), 2011

Attendees to the fair included internationally lauded collector Ydessa Hendeles, Janne Sirén, Director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Marc Mayer, Director of the National Gallery; Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at the AGO, Kitty Scott; philanthropists and collectors David and Audrey Mirvish, Atom Agoyan, Joe Friday, Jay Smith and Laura Rapp, Victoria Jackman, Executive director of the Hal Jackman Foundation and Paul and Mary-Dailey Desmarais, the lovely young couple whose collection I had the pleasure of visiting at a cocktail party they hosted at their home that weekend. Paul Guy Desmarais III, the grandson of recently deceased Canadian billionaire Paul Desmarais, apparently inherited his grandfather's great love for art. CEO of The Power Corporation of Canada, the late Desmarais was well known for his powerful political connections, (he counted the Bush's, Chrétien and Sarkozy as friends), but he was also known for amassing one of Canada's largest private art collections housed at the families sprawling 75-square-kilometre Sagard estate in the mountainous Charlevoix region of Quebec. Paul and Mary's unassuming and traditionally decorated Rosedale home would have been unremarkable except for the fact that is was filled to the brim with contemporary art; paintings, works on paper and sculpture that covered every inch of the house. They even had a few video works on view on some of the upper floors, which Paul gleefully doted on with guests over glasses of champagne. While there was barely a blank spot on their walls, the couple apparently have much more artwork in storage and are reported to be opening their own private museum at some point in the near future.

I also had the pleasure of meeting well known Toronto collector Ken Montague while taking a private peak of the Toronto-based artist-designer Barr Gilmore's Color Barr - a fantastic sculpture/cocktail bar that looked more like a 3D, computer generated rendering of bunny. The curious object, fashioned out of stainless steel opened to reveal cocktail shakers, tumblers and glass decanters filled with various colorful concoctions. Ken Montague, who collects works that explore black identity and the African diaspora, has described Toronto as, "one of the most art-collector-filled cities in the world. Artists here actually have a chance to have a career because people will buy their work and support them." As a Toronto native, who spent most of my adult life living and working in New York, the art capitol of the world, this came as a somewhat of a surprise, but over the course of my visit I realized that Toronto has really come into its own as a bourgeoning and important art market, filled with serious collectors who not only support local Canadian artists, but who are building impressive international and noteworthy collections.

Barr Gilmore's Color Barr, 2011

Another prominent Canadian collector named Joe Friday, who has amassed what the Globe and Mail has described as the most significant private holding of art in the Ottawa area, noted that even with more international galleries participating in TIAF each year, there is still not enough of an international presence in the fair. Friday, who buys from Art Basel, Frieze New York and NADA said, "Some of these galleries have consistently buying Canadian clients…so that can be a little frustrating to say, 'We have come to you. How about coming to us for a change?" Despite the apparent lack of international recognition, Toronto's collectors, patrons, and institutions have certainly not hesitated in bringing great contemporary art to Toronto. During the short time that I was in town there were several exhibitions of note on view. Perhaps the most spectacular being the world-renowned Chinese artist and activist, Ai Wei Wei's mind boggling Forever Bicycles installation at Nathan Phillip's Square. On view during the Nuit Blanche festival, a free all-night contemporary art event featuring hundreds of artists, this three-dimensional sculpture made of 3,144 interconnected bicycles, or Yong Jiu, reinterpreted the bicycle as a found object, and resulted in a spectacular installation that completely distorted all sense of perspective.

Ai Wei Wei, Forever Bicycles, 2013, Nuit Blanche, Nathan Phillip's Square, Toronto


Another not-to-be-missed exhibition on view at the Gardiner Museum this October was renowned Canadian artist, An Te Liu's exhibition Mono No Ma, the second in the traditional ceramic museum's Artist Intervention series. Liu is well known for his installations made of cast off and obsolete electronics such as White Dwarf (2012) and Cloud (2008) that was featured at the 11th Venice Biennale of Architecture. For this exhibition however, he decided to immerse himself in learning an entirely new technical process, that of ceramics. Instead of repurposing found objects by reassembling them into novel new forms, Liu has taken a more classical approach this time, utilizing the rather complicated ceramic slip-cast process for his impressive group of 19 new sculptures.

An Te Liu, Cloud, Venice Biennale of Architecture, 2008

Staying true to his predilection for recycled materials, Liu found inspiration in consumer culture's surplus of throwaway debris, utilizing found pieces of Styrofoam packing material used to protect electronic goods and other consumer products. Through some sleight of hand, Liu has deftly turned the packaging around Apple iMac computers, rice cookers, T.V.'s and toasters into the most exquisite abstracted, anthropomorphic forms and modernist totems a la Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Isamu Nogochi. Liu has rendered each work with a different glaze or patina that could be wood, burnished bronze or porcelain, leaving the viewer guessing and wanting to touch each sculpture out of pure tactile curiosity. For a first-time ceramicist, Liu seems to have mastered, not only this difficult technical process, but the material itself and has added a new dimension to his artistic practice with this remarkable new body of work. While maintaining his signature high production value, Liu has successfully transformed this found, everyday detritus into beautiful ceramic sculptures that evoke a multitude of references, from the Ancient to Modern: Primal African funerary figures and ethnographic objects; to Ancient Greek and classical sculpture, as exemplified in Aphros, which calls to memory the Winged Victory of Samthroace; to high Modernist masterpieces such as Brancusi's totemic sculptures or Picasso and Braque's cubist works.

An Te Liu, Gnomon, 2013

An Te Liu, Order of Solids, 2013


Christian Marclay, The Clock (2010), Power Plant

Also not to be missed in Toronto this fall was Christian Marclay's cinematic tour de force The Clock (2010), on view through mid-November at the Power Plant, Canada's leading public gallery for Contemporary at Harbourfront. This unique and compelling video work which has been called "a masterpiece of our time," consists of thousands of fragments of film: clips of wristwatches, clock towers, sundials, alarm clocks, and countdowns and includes such diverse films such as "High Noon," starring Gary Cooper; "Titanic" with Leonardo DiCaprio; and Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Eraser." Marclay's Clock, which earned him the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in June 2011, illustrates every minute in a 24-hour period, in a looped, single-channel video that examines how time, plot and duration are depicted in cinema.

Admission to view the work at the Power Plant was free of charge and participants were invited to stay as long as they wished. The viewing room included seating for 50 people at a time and special 24 hour viewings were scheduled for those who were intrepid enough to watch the film in its entirety. Viewers can actually use the piece to tell the local time, so whether you're reading the hands of an ancient grandfather clock in a black and white movie or listening to Matthew Broderick read the time off a digital display in a 1980s flick, your own wristwatch will reflect that exact time of day. The work also offers the experience of a vast range of cinematic settings and moods within the space of a few minutes, making time unravel in countless directions and rupturing any sense of linear, narrative sequence. The work is both an homage to film history and an affirmation of our present time.

Since premiering at White Cube in London in 2010, The Clock has been viewed with critical acclaim at venues around the world, but with the help of Toronto collectors Jay Smith and Laura Rapp, the work was jointly acquired by the National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. In his article in Canadian Art, Murray Whyte describes how Toronto collectors Jay Smith and Laura Rapp and her parents Carol and Morton Rapp were instrumental in acquiring this work for the National Gallery of Canada and bringing it to The Power Plant. At the 2011 Venice Biennale the work was a showstopper. It was also the object of all-night line-ups at both White Cube in London, where it had debuted in the fall of 2010, and at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York. In his article Whyte describes The Clock as, "a sort of Holy Grail of contemporary art: a thoroughly rigorous, intellectually and formally challenging work that nonetheless has the popular appeal of a Hollywood blockbuster." He went on to say that, "it seemed impossible that a piece so unabashedly famous (what he described as the single most celebrated work of 21st-century art in the world)…could land in Ottawa."

With only six editions available and several institutions on White Cube's waiting list, acquiring this work was difficult, but somehow with the help of seasoned patrons Smith and Rapp, the National Gallery of Canada managed to pull it off and the work is now part of Canada's cultural heritage. Smith said, "The Museum of Modern Art had it, the Tate had it, LACMA had it, and I think Laura felt it was really important that Canada had it, and I agreed." Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) director Matthew Teitelbaum has called Smith and Rapp "the King and Queen of the Toronto Art community." Smith and Rapp's relationships with artists are legendary. They do frequent studio visits with the likes of Stan Douglas, Jeff Wall and Ian Wallace and count Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller as frequent houseguests. Cardiff even made one of her audio walks for their house after they supported her work at dOCUMENTA (13). As the first vice-president of CIBC Wood Gundy, Smith manages more than $1.5 billion in assets, but Smith and Rapp have not used their wealth to simply amass an impressive private collection for themselves. Alternately, Smith and Rapp have had a direct hand in dozens of events and acquisitions for the AGO, the NGC and the Power Plant. Former curator of modern and contemporary art at the AGO turned art adviser, David Moos has described them as "…without a doubt, among the most generous and welcoming people in the art world in this city." It is through the efforts of Canadian patrons such as Smith, Rapp, the Desmarais and Montague, that Toronto may now be counted as a bona fide destination for contemporary art and a city that boasts some the finest private contemporary art collections in Canada.


We are pleased to announce that Sarah Belden has been nominated as a member of ArtTable - the Leadership Organization for Professional Women in the Visual Arts. ArtTable is a professional network of more than 1,500 women throughout the United States with membership centers in Boston, Los Angeles, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C., Chicago, Miami and New Orleans. ArtTable supports outstanding women leaders in the visual arts, recognizing and promoting their achievements and increasing their professional opportunities. Since ArtTable's founding in 1980, the organization has expanded its network by connecting leading women in the arts through major art world events, conferences and art fairs. Sarah Belden was nominated by board member Heidi Lee-Komaromi, who was recently appointed Director of Strategic Partnerships at Sarah Belden is extremely pleased to be part of the ArtTable network and is looking forward to participating in their programs.

Arttable member Teresita Fernández holds the Distinguished Service to the Visual Arts award with honoree Patricia Phelps de Cisneros



Rudolf Stingel installation at Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 2013

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