Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 8, because we’ll traipse anywhere for conceptual art
Not too long ago, the intersection of Bloor and Lansdowne was best known for a decent Value Village, two competing strip clubs and a thriving drug trade. In the last few years, lured by cheap studio space, artists have arrived and the neighbourhood has predictably, if tentatively, gentrified. A handful of small and experimental galleries accelerated the transition: the pioneering Toronto Free Gallery, Mercer Union and the Gendai Workstation. Then, late last year, Daniel Faria, the former business partner of the gallery owner Monte Clark, left the Distillery District to open an eponymous gallery in the neighbourhood.
The move was doubly momentous: many of Clark’s big artists followed Faria, including Douglas Coupland, and it gave art collectors a reason to drive their Land Rovers west of the core. Two of those collectors even went so far as to open their own gallery a stone’s throw away from Faria’s. Last December, Samara Walbohm, the co-owner of Type Books, and her husband, private equity firm director Joe Shlesinger, unveiled their own 5,200-square-foot space in a former warehouse. Scrap Metal, however, isn’t a commercial gallery, but a shrine to the power couple’s massive, eclectic collection—its focus is on the contemporary and the Canadian, and it includes pieces by Edward Burtynsky, Micah Lexier and General Idea. Themed shows—there will be two to four a year, all admission-free—will spotlight this work, as well as rarely seen pieces borrowed from other collectors and international institutions. Leave West Queen West to the condonistas; in just a couple of years, one of the city’s dingiest corners has become its most compelling new gallery district.