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Your guide to purchasing art at this year’s Art Toronto fair

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The fair returns IRL to the downtown core, featuring the work of 150+ artists

Your guide to purchasing art at this year’s Art Toronto fair

Returning to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on October 28 to 30, Art Toronto will present its expansive showcase in person, featuring a diverse selection of works from across various genres, eras and styles. It will feature artists from both local and international institutions, including Daniel Faria Gallery (Toronto), Galerie Pici (New York, Seoul), Pangée (Montreal) and others.

RBC Wealth Management has been a sponsor of the event—Canada’s largest exposition of art—for 17 years, significantly bolstering Toronto’s world class-creative sphere. David Agnew, CEO of RBC Wealth Management Canada, notes that RBC has a longstanding commitment to the arts and deeply values the impact of artists and innovators in our society. “The arts play an important role in creating strong and vibrant communities,” says Agnew. With more than 6,000 pieces in the RBC Art Collection, the RBC Emerging Artists platform, and its newly launched public gallery at RBC Plaza (200 Bay Street), RBC is a champion for the arts and encourages its communities to recognize the value art holds.

Your guide to purchasing art at this year’s Art Toronto fair
RBC Community Gallery, RBC Plaza, 200 Bay St., Toronto, ON. Image courtesy of RBC.
Practical tips for buying art

In advance of Art Toronto’s weekend-long exhibition, we spoke to RBC’s Senior Art Curator Corrie Jackson, who offers helpful tips and tricks for purchasing pieces at the fair. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a storied collector, Jackson will help you navigate how to start or add to your collection.

  • Consider how you want to live with the art

“Start with the basics. Before going to the fair, measure your wall space and know what might fit, taking pictures to reference. Think about what conversations an art piece might spark and what perspectives you want to bring into your home. I live with art that I love sharing conversation over, and with the RBC Art Collection, I know a work is successful when it sparks a discussion. While these two environments are different, the importance of conversation is a constant.”

  • Let curiosity guide you

“Reflect on what about the work feels familiar and what offers you something new. Art affords an opportunity to learn about yourself, what you’re drawn to and why. Realize your heart and your eye can work in tandem but also separately. Just because a work catches your eye initially doesn’t mean it will hold your heart over time, so make sure there’s something in the piece you can come back to and appreciate.

Allow the work to challenge you. The work I continue to come back to in the collection are often pieces that are initially difficult or uncomfortable, but understanding why I feel that way is a learning process that’s become really important to me.”

  • Research before you buy

“Don’t be shy. Talk to gallerists about themes, topics and artists that interest you. Most importantly, be open to their suggestions; learning is an important part of collecting. Each piece of art will have a unique story waiting for you to discover. Ask the gallery about the artist, where they’re from, and what they were exploring through their work. Look at the artist’s CV, and see if their work has been written about or curated in public projects or museum exhibitions. Don’t forget to inquire about the materials and how the piece will age over time, as this will help determine where it should be showcased.”

  • Know your budget

“There are works available from a few hundred dollars to well into the six figures. Pricing should reflect how established an artist is in their career, material and time costs, and market demand—don’t be afraid to ask about this. If something is above your price range, let the gallery know what your comfort zone is and what you’re enjoying about a work. They’ll likely have some recommendations of what could work for you.”

Artists to watch

Supporting the arts means recognizing and bolstering the talent of budding creators. Here are some up-and-coming artists whose work will be on view at Art Toronto and may be the perfect fit for your space.

Élise Lafontaine (b. 1984, Montreal, Quebec)
Your guide to purchasing art at this year’s Art Toronto fair
Élise Lafontaine, Let The Stone Dance, 2022
Oil on linen over wood panel
46 × 40 × 5 inches | 116.84 × 101.60 × 12.70 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Pangée

The Quebec native conceives her body of work from time spent in isolated communities, where she uses her canvas to investigate places of worship that are mostly inaccessible to people. Lafontaine’s practice has taken her to prisons and psychiatric environments in Switzerland, prehistoric caves of the Aegean Pyrenees in France, as well as the Carmelite monastery in Montreal. She seeks to imbue the sensorial, psychological, and experiential elements of these sites, honouring their inhabitants and histories through a deft handling of paint that emphasizes her canvases’ plasticity.

Sharona Franklin (b. 1987, Vancouver, British Colombia)
Your guide to purchasing art at this year’s Art Toronto fair
Sharona Franklin, Drosophila Clock y, 2021
Collected decorative spoons, medical pills.
50 x 50 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Bradley Ertaskiran

Franklin’s approach to creating her multimedia oeuvre is informed by her experiences as a disabled person, augmenting an interest in bioethics and disability activism. Her work consistently examines the various social, psychological and biomedical factors involved in living with a chronic degenerative illness that is influenced by genetics and environmental factors. Franklin’s use of both natural materials (botany) and pharmaceuticals when creating her pieces investigates the various ecological impacts of modern-day medicine practices while also defying widespread ableism that is directed at individuals with disabilities. Sharona Franklin’s sculptures are on view in the fair’s Focus exhibition, courtesy of Bradley Ertaskiran.

Oreka James (b. 1991, Toronto, Ontario)
Your guide to purchasing art at this year’s Art Toronto fair
Oreka James, To be Titled 1, 2022
Oil and acrylic on canvas, wood and paper mache
106 × 83 × 3 in
269.2 × 210.8 × 7.6 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Art Toronto

James’s canvases are a portal into an alternate reality where elements of their personal history chart a path to self-actualization. Drawing upon folklore and oral chronicles, the artist summons narratives of the people and places that have informed her identity, looking to the past and the future to carve out a unique niche in the present. Utilizing various media, James imbues each piece with a strong graphic appeal that can border on the esoteric, allowing its viewers to ponder each artwork on their own accord while opening an abstracted portal of endless conceptual potential.

Jen Aitken (b. 1985, Toronto, Ontario)

Aitken’s sculptures and drawings combine perceptual ambiguity with structural clarity. She arranges geometric volumes, planes, and negative spaces into forms that both tempt and resist recognition. Aitken is widely known for her cast-concrete sculptures, in which stacked and cantilevered architectonic forms seem to morph from different viewpoints. Initially drawn to the material for its density and crude presence, Aitken continues to find emotional resonance in the way that concrete grounds her abstract forms in real space and time. Aitken’s sculpture Aqlerioc will be on display at Art Toronto in front of the RBC VIP Salon.

Your guide to purchasing art at this year’s Art Toronto fair
Jen Aitken, Aqlerioc, 2019-2020
From the series: Tattic
44 x 31 x 18 inches
Fibre-reinforced concrete, ceramic inlay, painted steel, stainless steel hardware
Unique edition 2/3
Image courtesy of the artist

Get your tickets for Art Toronto here.


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