One of the biggest art events in Canada wrapped up last week with Art Toronto. Over 100 galleries participated in the event showcasing some of the best Canadian and international art dealers had to offer. Complimented by informative and insightful talks sponsored by and partnered with the Royal Bank of Canada, Axa Insurance, and Canadian Art Foundation, the fair succeeded in presenting a fluid, manageable, and polished event. Now in its 16th year, the general buzz around the fair was of delight to a streamlined layout and exemplary galleries compared to some years past. Though I cannot vouch for past fairs, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised with the calibre of Art Toronto given my experience with global art fairs and the general word of mouth from colleagues and friends.
Notable galleries including Corkin Gallery, Olga Korper, Trépanier Baer, Mayberry Fine Arts, Feheley Fine Arts, Miriam Shiell, and Rumi Galleries were some of the central heavy hitters with classic Canadian historical painting and sculpture to politically charged contemporary Native and Inuit works and international emerging artists all on display. In the “Solo” section of the fair, galleries had the opportunity to devote their booth to a single artist in a sort of mini solo vernissage allowing for audience members to be fully immersed in an artists practice. Stephen Bulger Gallery, Angell Gallery, and Galerie Donald Browne were some of the most noteworthy examples with their booths ranging from the contemporary photography of Larry Towell, Gavin Lynch’s contemporary landscape painting, and a full weekend performance from artist Jim Holyoak completing the Donald Browne booth as the fair weekend unfolded.
Perhaps Art Toronto was not as grand as some of its European art fair competitors in terms of shear scale and global representation, but there were definite nods to contemporary art market trends that moved away from the strict regionalism of the Canadian art market. Specifically, the introduction of “Focus: Latin America” for this year’s fair was a great strategy to incorporate international galleries and artists and give exposure to traditionally nationalistic collectors and fair-goers. “Verge” also helped give a refreshing breath to the fair with its focus on emerging galleries ranging from new Canadian spaces to New York and Los Angeles representation.
Not only was it great to see some more international examples at the fair, it served an important validating role for the Canadian art on display. Again, largely a regional marketplace, the international art woven into the fabric of the fair gave a certain amount of validation of Canadian art on the larger global market. Though Canadians may certainly vouch for the value and significance of Canadian art, its reputation and identity on the global market is quite superficial and is generally restricted to historical landscape painting. An unfortunate reality, Art Toronto certainly made some headway in elevating Canadian art with its exposure to both international galleries and collectors. For a Canadian art enthusiast, particularly for the contemporary and Canadian blue chip artists, this was a one-stop shop to see some of the best examples of Canadian art and practices on the market along with emerging international art to diversify and enrich the selection.