The 10 most covetable pieces for sale at Art Toronto
For local art obsessives, Art Toronto is the undisputed event of the year—a buzzy nexus of artists, gallerists and buyers, where collectors and museums drop big money to snap up pieces by established and emerging names. This year, the festival has moved to a digital model that runs until November 8, with a a few socially distanced in-person events held at some of the 100-plus participating galleries. For wannabe collectors bit by the Covid nesting bug, there are tons of striking pieces available, including affordable paintings from up-and-comers and blue-chip sculptures that cost as much as a down payment. Here are 13 works that could be gracing your living room this winter.
A wayward commuter
“Walking Woman in the Subway.” Photograph by Michael Snow, $9,200, Michael Gibson Gallery
The 91-year-old Toronto artist Michael Snow is known for his Walking Woman, a mirrored silhouette that he used to produce and place in conspicuous spots all over the city back in the ’60s. This photograph appeared in Snow’s book Biographie of the Walking Woman, which recorded many public interactions with the silhouette. The image is up for sale for the first time.
A tornado of limbs
“Best of Us.” Painting by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, $4,800, Gallery Jones
The Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is an award-winning contemporary painter whose large-scale works are fixtures at the Vancouver airport and UBC. He’s known as the father of “Haida-manga,” creating work influenced by the tradition of Haida iconography and Asian visual culture. This abstract watercolour hypnotizes viewers with its looping swirls and faces.
A moody arabesque
“As One IV.” Photograph by Brendan Fernandes, $6,000, Monique Meloche Gallery
In this piece, the Nairobi-born Canadian artist Brendan Fernandes examines how museums serve as cultural gatekeepers: for example, when African masks were first exhibited in French museums, they were stripped of their context in traditional ceremonies, depicted instead as primitive and uncivilized. Here, a graceful ballet dancer interacts with an African mask from a French museum, playing off the power struggle between different cultures.
An artistic un-masking
“Christ Pantocrator No13.” Painting by Moridja Kitenge Banza, $3,000, Galerie Hugues Charbonneau
In this series, Canadian-Congolese artist Moridja Kitenge Banza reproduces Christian iconography—except he replaces Christ’s face with African masks. It links the spread of Catholicism in the Democratic Republic of Congo with masks displayed in Western art museums devoid of context. The mask shown here is used among the Dan and neighbouring cultures to connect the wearer with the spirit world. Normally, it’s kept hidden, only brought out during special rituals.
A day in the life of a Whitehorsian
“Tenuous Balance of Hope and Meaning.” Painting by Joseph Tisiga, $4,800, Bradley Ertaskiran
This painting by Joseph Tisiga is both fantastical and banal at the same time, showing a surrealistic mix of mundane nature juxtaposed with mystic elements. Tisiga’s work explores the complex psychological, social, economic and cultural challenges facing Indigenous people today, all underscored by a “sublime nothingness” he experienced in Whitehorse, where he lived while working at a community youth organization.
A token of forgiveness
“Apology Flower #1.” Collage and painting by Christian Butterfield, $1,800, Corkin Gallery
Toronto mixed-media artist Christian Butterfield originally began making his pieces as apology gifts to friends, lovers and acquaintances. In this collage, he paints an abstract flower over a seemingly random assortment of clippings and images cut out from issues of Time magazine—his preferred source material.
A pensive moment
“Untitled.” Photograph by Will Munro, $6,000, Paul Petro Contemporary Art
This photograph comes from the estate of Will Munro, a queer icon in Toronto who worked as a visual artist, restaurateur and social activist until he died from cancer in 2010. As an artist, he was known for fashioning pieces made from men’s underwear, and this image, produced in 2004 shows a model sporting a delicately stitched and beaded pair.
A constellation of beads
“Boundaries.” Photograph by Nadia Myre, $12,500, Art Mûr
Nadia Myre is a multidisciplinary artist of Algonquin heritage living in Montreal. In her previous work “Indian Act,” she recreated all 56 pages of that legislation with beadwork, using white beads to represent the words and red ones to represent white space. In this large-scale photograph, she returns to the material and zooms in on the texture and intricate patterns of the beads—which were used as decorative jewellery in Europe and as currency in the Atlantic slave trade—to help the viewer examine their cultural history.
A beautiful refraction
“Holding you as steady as I can.” Installation by Karilee Fuglem, $1,250, Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain
For this piece, multidisciplinary Montreal artist Karilee Fuglem created a device that reflects rays of light wherever it’s installed. She thinks of her work as drawings made with space, air and light. The materials—in this case polyester, steel and thread—are meant to disappear into the space so as to represent the non-visible world. Says Fuglem: “They testify to the wonder that can be glimpsed anywhere—how a random bit of anything can light up and come alive.”
The politics of geometry
“Positions.” Painting by Nicolas Grenier, $12,500, Bradley Ertaskiran
Montreal-based painter Nicolas Grenier places recognizable diagrammatic shapes in colourful gradients to mimic political affiliation graphs and charts. While viewing the artwork, visitors are provided with an Approval Matrix sheet—via PDF for online visits—to map their positions on the current state of the world and where it’s headed.