Thursday, April 30, 2009

Contact Fest Q&A Out Today

The Contact photography festival officially kicks off tomorrow in Toronto, with what they say is 1,000+ artists participating. It also looks like it could be one of Contact's most socially conscious years ever. Today the National Post ran my Q&A with festival director Bonnie Rubenstein. Here's an excerpt:

Q The theme for this year's festival is "Still Revolution." What does that mean?

A We make our themes quite broad so they can mean different things to different people. What we're looking at on one side are the revolutions in photography itself, in its technologies. And on the other side, we're looking at photography and its ability to document transformation and massive change in social and political realms.

Q You've helped organize a central exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art on this theme. How does Still Revolution come across in actual artworks?

A The exhibition at MOCCA deals primarily with the social and political meanings of revolution. We have eight different artists with works that are very different, from documentary to completely abstract.

Mikhael Subotzky, for instance, did a documentary project on Pollsmoor Prison in South Africa, where Nelson Mandela spent some time. It's notorious for very difficult, overcrowded conditions, and he did 360-degree panoramas of certain cells. For me, it's dealing with a result of the apartheid era, even though there was such a revolution around apartheid in the nation as a whole.

Image of Martha Rosler's Home Invasion from

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Artsy, Newsy & Roundup-y, all at once

Just in time for grad! Prom dresses become phalluses in Calgary – and get sorta censored

Going to Venice, dah-link? Yeah, me neither. But there is a free official Venice send-off party this Thursday that’s a little easier to get to.

The Canadian government has decided to dole out $6 mil in matching funds to arts groups like Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the Banff Centre, the Calgary Philharmonic and the Edmonton Folk Festival; not much vis arts except MANIF Quebec, but nice to see.

The Ontario government boosts the Ontario Arts Council Budget by $5 million, bringing total funding for the year to $60 mil. I'm glad to see this; last year the OAC spread $40 million among 1,300 individual artists and 874 organizations across Ontario. But why's their funding jump less than the ROM's or the AGO's?

The feds are set today to release a few mil for "tourism-drawing arts events" like the Toronto International Film Fest as part of a newly created “Marquee Tourism Events Program”. Sadly, the monies can’t go to regular operations or deficits but must be new programs or new marketing initiatives.

After dropping out of many sponsorships due to tobacco advertising restrictions, Imperial Tobacco is getting back into the arts funding game with yet another new Canadian arts prize—the Arts Acheivement award. This one is worth $75,000 and goes to organizations, not individuals.

The Star's Murray Whyte has a nice profile of Canada’s Venice commish Barbara Fischer

The Globe's Sarah Milroy pans a new exhibit of native art at the AGO, but gives props a new exhibit of young BC artists at the National Gallery

The Coast's Sue Carter Flinn notes that dogs are having their day at gallery in Halifax

An arts centre opens in Vancouver’s contested downtown eastside

BC arts groups say funding has been frozen in the face of an election

Vue Weekly's Amy Fung says Edmonton’s art scene is “No Killer, All Filler”

Image of Kristin Ivey's "The Phallus Series" from The New Gallery

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Holy F-Stop! Contact previews are back!

Toronto's Contact bills itself as the world's largest photography festival. And with over 200 exhibitions throughout the city, as well as courses, lectures and TV programming, it just might be right. Though the fest doesn't officially kick off until this coming Friday, May 1, some shows are already open: Alison Rossiter's photo-geek look at old photo papers opens today at Stephen Bulger, while the Blackwood Gallery's group show Awashawave opened earlier in April. Some of my pencil-in-the-calendar picks are published in today's National Post. Here's an excerpt:

One highlight of the [feature] show is the Toronto premiere of a new work by internationally renowned Vancouver artist Stan Douglas. Massive prints mixing supermodels and the Middle East by iconic New Yorker Martha Rosler are sure to attract attention, too, as will American artist Trevor Paglen's covert photographs of spy satellites and CIA jets.

Out on the streets, there's also a lot to see via Contact's 24/7 public installations program. Mumbai-based art star Shilpa Gupta will put some smart, historically inspired photos on shipping containers at Harbourfront, while Toronto-born, New Yorker-published photog Louie Palu will install photos of Afghanistan graffiti in the bathrooms and back walls of Queen West's grotty Bovine Sex Club.

Image of Stan Douglas' Abbott & Cordova, 2008, which will be on view at the fest, from

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Friday, April 24, 2009

About Last Night... Matthew Teitelbaum & the $20,000 MOCCA Award

So I got a press invite at the last minute to the MOCCA Award ceremony last night, and I went to see what the award recipient, Matthew Teitelbaum, might mention in his remarks.

After all, MOCCA announced it was bestowing the $20,000 award on Art Gallery of Ontario director Teitelbaum back in December 2008, while the gallery was still basking in renovation afterglow--and well before the gallery laid off 23 workers. Seeing as how the gallery didn't decide to rehire any of those workers following a surprise grant of $18.6 million from the provincial government, which was announced just days after the layoffs, there was some speculation (see Gabby Moser in a past comment here) about just what Teitelbaum would do with the $20,000 prize.

Answer: Teitelbaum did the quite politically wise thing of turning around and donating the $20,000 back to MOCCA, an institution which, though its name sound grandly national, is a much smaller, younger, closer to the ground museum than the AGO.

Overall, the evening seemed to have the tone of a roast or, really most readily for me, a bar mitzvah. Photos from Teitelbaum's youth were displayed, as were images of the first places he worked like the London Regional Museum and the Mendel Art Gallery. (Generating laughs were images of Teitelbaum with Keith Richards in real life, and with his head pasted onto Andy Warhol's Elvis silkscreens.) Quotations on each wall provided testimony to why Teitelbaum deserved the award. It seemed that many funders of the AGO and of the MOCCA were in attendance--the ceremony itself being a $500-a-ticket funder for MOCCA--and there was a sense of pride for certain.

But were the layoffs mentioned? No. "Challenges," yes. "Optimism," yes. "Inspiration," yes. But "layoffs"? No. Adding irony to the situation was the fact that one speaker spoke fondly of how Matthew knew the first name of every one of his staff. It's hard to reconcile that "affectionate family" tone with what has been going on there of late.

The criticality was slightly upped by a post-award conversation between TVO pundit Allan Gregg and Teitelbaum. Gregg did ask some key questions about the current mania for museum renos (Teitelbaum rationalized the AGO's reno as "providing a better home for art") and also asked Teitelbaum to rationalize the millions his institution has recently received (his answer included the observation that the government knows "As the AGO rises, so do the prospects of all cultural institutions.... You can't let your flagships fail.")

So besides a couple of piquant attempts, the back-and-forth was mainly a soft-lob affair. To be expected, really. And it truly does seem that Teitelbaum has done some hard work and served as an inspiration to the local funder community. But when the AGO has been unprestigiously named on an international timeline of museums and recession impacts, and when they're turning their fall/winter season over to an exhibit of King Tut (a move prompting newly forgiving media supporters to backpedal) to bring in the cash, there are a lot more questions that remain to be asked.... and answered.

Image of (L to R) the AGO's Matthew Teitelbaum, the MOCCA's director David Liss and the BMO's Gilles Ouellette from Canada Newswire

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review of Jae Ko Out Today

Korean-American artist Jae Ko makes some really lovely sculptures with paper. Unfortunately, some of her most interesting work is excluded from her current Toronto show at Galerie Lausberg. Read my review in this week's NOW for more details.
Image of Ko's art from NOW

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bingo + No Internet = Nouveau Retro?

I'm interested in a strange juxtaposition that's developed today. Mercer Union, a hip-yo artist run centre here in Toronto, is doing bingo tonight as a fundraiser. And Eyelevel Gallery, another oft-youthful locus, this one in Halifax, is at midnight starting its Eyelevel Unplugged project, yanking all computers and Internet access from the space and (I presume) banning their staff from checking work emails otherwise.

As Eyelevel notes in a "Final Disconnection Notice!" email,

"Starting tonight at midnight, Eyelevel will fall off the digital grid and will not be responding to or sending any email communication for 35 days. As part of our upcoming project Eyelevel Unplugged, the Gallery will be going off-line from April 23-May 27th. During these 35 days, we will not be checking emails or or using any office technology that post-dates 1974."

The partial rationale for Eyelevel Unplugged is to commemorate the gallery's 35th anniversary by reverting to the technological conditions identical to its birth year. I will speculate that another partial aim might be to kick off a new retro trend, namely no Internet. You got it people, the 80s revival ain't just harem pants and Laura Ashley floral prints anymore!

Do you think they'll actually be able to do it?

Image of cyber-devoid 1970s coolness from the Eyelevel archives

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Steve McQueen Q&A Out Today

Steve McQueen's best known right know for his direction of the feature flick Hunger, but some of his art is also opening this weekend at the Banff Centre. I was fortunate to get a chance to chat with him by phone last week about this particular piece, "Once Upon A Time". Today the National Post published the condensed interview. Here's an excerpt:

Q You're best known right now for your prize-winning movie Hunger. How does one go from making somewhat obscure NASA slideshows for galleries to getting an actor like Michael Fassbender to fast for two months for a breakthrough role?

A I think art is like poetry in a kind of strange way, and film is like the novel. What you can get in a paragraph in a novel could be the whole universe in an artwork. In film it's much more about the linear, the story, where in art it's much more sort of a nucleus. There is a commonality.

Image of slides from McQueen's Once Upon a Time, 2002, from Banff Centre website. Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, NY

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

News You Can't Use: Time-Machine Shows

Lately, it seems I'm only going to see shows on their final weekend. This is a bad habit that I hope to break, because the result is that no one can really use the resulting highlights. Dang! Still, I saw some really fun works this weekend that you should go see if you have a time machine or some such:
  • William Buzzell at Paul Bright Gallery was really great. In a comic-book/dioramic style, Buzzell presents matrices of information and products that offer a kind of societal portrait. OK, so that doesn't sound so exciting, but if I say "reproductions of old Scholastic flyer stickers", that's much better, eh? Or "ersatz laptop displaying a porn site"? Or "colour wheels and theories"? After all, it's partly the range of Buzzell's subject matter as well as his intrictate informational style that makes the works so interesting.
  • Toronto Free Gallery's "Presently Absent" show gave a first exhibition glimpse at Christine Swintak's latest sculpture-performance project: for it, the artist bought an antique dining room set off Craigslist, hauled it to the countryside, used it for some meals, shaved it down to woodchips, and put it back on Craigslist. Photos, video, and the transformed table all provide documentation. The documentation, especially, of Swintak taking an outdoor bath in a snowy countryside/junkyard landscape, with the dining set sitting nearby, had a nicely absurd/retro Richard Brautiganesque feel. Johanna Householder also had a fun work in this show; she dressed up as Princess Leia and reenacted the "help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope" sequence. To this she then added footage from the 1984 Challenger explosion, Ronald Reagan's related speeches, and most notably more shots of her own princess Leia enjoying privilege in the form of martinis and stock reports. Also interesting was Jenna d. Maclellan's work as an artist-in-reisdnece with "Petits Mains," an immigrant women's charity in Montreal. 
  • At Xpace's "Inner and Outer Space" show I quite enjoyed works by Matthew Williamson and Mark Pellegrino. Williamson continued the Star Wars theme with an LED display sign displaying summaries of Star Wars films, like a kind of trekkie Jenny Holzer. Pellegrino continued the mood with an installation, The Psyche-Master Chronicles, that mimicked a life-size Doctor Who-type cockpit strewn with toys, joysticks and TV monitors.
  • Over at MKG127, oft-overlooked artist Ken Nicol showed a set of really interesting obsessive-process works, like a button that had been pushed 1,000,000 times, graph paper with the lines scratched off and placed in a tiny vial, and a mark-making work that used up all the ink in a single pen, and then some. I really loved how upfront this obsessive urge was.
  • A University of Guelph student show at Board of Directors turned up an interesting video work by youngster Gin Murray. A split screen shows various people dancing on the right-hand side of the monitor, while a young woman (Gin, I assume) mimics their dancing on the monitor's left-hand side. Part of what makes the piece work is that you know Murray had to really practice all these different moves to shift so seamlessly between them--kind of like a human cross-fade. Also, Saffron Hodgson's paper-mache jellyfish/pinata was really fun. It made me wonder "Are we (or perhaps, just me) having a paper mache moment?" I recently got an email about artist Hannah Jickling's "MFA in Paper Mache" project, so perhaps so?
  • Last but certainly not least, the combination of Janet Morton and Andrew Harwood at Paul Petro was really great. Loved, loved, Morton's huge, knitted and looping Doric column, while Harwood's sequinned pictures of Quebec psychic Jojo upstairs hit all the right kitsch notes; Harwood as a Jojo figure in black-light neon was also awesome.
Image of Mark Pellegrino's "The Psyche Master Chronicles" from Artist Bloc

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Weirdest Question Period Ever: Sarah Thornton's Lecture in Toronto

Last Thursday, Sarah Thornton, author of Seven Days in the Art World, gave a lecture in Toronto at the Art Gallery of Ontario. As I've pointed out here last fall, I really enjoyed the book—so much so it even made my top ten list for 2008. I tend to understand art objects, but not the structures and subcultures around them, and Thornton's book is all about those structures and subcultures. To boot, it's pretty well written.

But the fact is, I was wavering on going to the lecture. Part of the reason for my wavering was that the lecture was presented by the Canadian Art Foundation, which funds the Canadian Art website, where I work part-time. So attending the lecture potentially had that feel of "is this work I'm doing here?", a feeling best avoided on sunny early-spring evenings. But in the end I recalled how much the book had excited me when I first read it, so I decided to go at the last minute.

The presentation itself was a bit lacklustre, albeit in ways I can empathize with—book-related/book-shilling talks often are unfocused in terms of whether they should be introducing the book or going into more depth about its themes, and Thornton opted for the former, providing a chapter recap that was a bit dull to me. Also, as with many writerly types, Thornton proves better with the printed word than with the spoken one. Finally, Thornton spent a good deal of time expounding on the importance of using an ethnographic approach rather than a journalistic one, a kind of academic topic that was sort of interesting to me as an arts journalist but potentially just confusing or dull to many others.

Question period, however, was when things really got a bit weird—although, granted, substantially more interesting.

The first question came from an older white-haired gent who tersely said "Do you know who Charlie Pachter is?" After a moment, Thornton said "no". He said "thanks". I get the sense that the questioner was seeking to "expose" how little Thornton "really knows" about the art world she wrote about. Indeed, one of the main criticisms that can be made of Thornton's book is that she focuses exclusively on the most elite echelons of the art world—Murakami, not Michael Snow, Art Basel, not ARCO, etc. (But seeing as how Charles Pachter is really a figure only known to some Canadians—because, goldarnit, he almost exclusively works with Canadian imagery—I'm personally just fine with a London-based, even if Ontario-born, sociologist who studied the most elite echelons of the art world not knowing who Pachter is. Happy, even.)

Critical approaches got zingier when a woman, identifying herself as being from a group of Albright-Knox curators, ripped into Thornton for her exclusivity, calling her book's approach to art "all about money," and nothing more than "social diary snapshot". She also took issues with positioning the book as an ethnographic study, saying she had experience in the field herself and that this was really mere "entertainment" at most. Thornton had a measured response, probably her most together part of the evening, saying she's aware her book is an ethnography of the elite, and also that the writing was meant to be entertaining rather than deadening—the latter being the reason she left academia. There were smatterings of applause for both the curator and the author.

In there somewhere a woman identifying herself as an economist took issue with Thornton's statement that the reason economists don't understand the art market is they don't understand the subcultures that create its value. This economist argued that the real reason economists don't understand the art world is "there's no mechanism for getting rid of excess inventory." She seemed quite pissed, repeating her point several times, though I had the feel this was part of a longer legacy of economist/sociologist smackdowns.

Also, during the question period, Thornton said that she emphatically didn't want the book to be about celebrity journalism--and then told a celebrity-riffic story she didn't include in the book: namely, that Damien Hirst insisted his interview be in his messy bedroom, but he didn't whip it out as is sometimes the case, but he did promptly fall off the wagon at lunch after 6 months of sobriety.

Best question and answer, really, came at the end, when an older woman asked Thornton whether she thought things were getting any more equal for women in the art world. Thornton basically said the situation was still pretty depressing.

Overall, the evening had a bit of a strange feel. People I spoke with afterwards found it by turns dull, confusing, annoying, and lacking passion for art itself. However, a lot of people did buy the book afterwards--which I can vouch, as a former book marketing gal, makes the evening a success as far as the publisher is concerned.

For my part, I enjoyed seeing the person behind the page, as is often the case at these things. The main sore point for me as a conflict-of-interest-wary journalist was Thornton's flip-flopping on her pro-ethnography campaign. On the one hand, she seems to want arts journalists to integrate more "participant-observation" into their reportage. Yet she also recognizes that now that she's engaged in that process, there's no way she could, say, review a show at Blum & Poe, because she has a "relationship of trust" with them, and she'd feel pressured to give them a good review. Conflict of interest principles exist for good reasons in the journalistic field; so do principles around the opportunity for sources to revise quotations. (The latter is apparently used extensively in ethnography.)

Basically, I'm totally cool with sociologists such as Thornton doing more ethnography and nonfiction--and as I've made clear, I'm more than interested in reading same--but please, don't tell me I should be doing it. I also wonder how she balances these conflicts of interest in her recent art-market freelance work for the Economist and the Art Newspaper. She probably just doesn't cover the galleries she profiled/interviewed for the book?

Anyone else with thoughts/diatribes/nonsequiturs on the talk, please comment!

Image from

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Martha Wilson Q&A in today's National Post

I feel like the last few months have been a gold mine for examining key feminist legacies in visual art. First WACK at the Vancouver Art Gallery, then the Judy Chicago show at the Textile Museum in Toronto, and now a Martha Wilson survey at the Dalhousie Art Gallery in Halifax. I felt lucky to chat with Wilson about her work on the phone last week; today the Post published a condensed version of the interview. Here's an excerpt (love the straightforwardness!):

Q The first phase of works in this exhibition -- the self-portraits -- were also started in Halifax in the late '60s. Where did those come from for you?

A I would say misery. Misery, unhappiness, awareness that women are held as valuable if they are beautiful, and knowing that I am not particularly beautiful. And knowing how very unfair that is, and living in a male-dominated environment. In addition to the culture at large being male dominated, the art school was, too.

There were a few female visitors at that time, one being American critic Lucy Lippard. She looked at the work I'd done and said, "Yes, you are an artist" -- which was good because no one else had said that!--and, "I know other women around the continent who are doing work in the same direction." Through those connections, I moved to New York in 1973.

Image of Martha Wilson's Male Impersonator (Butch), 1974 from the Dalhousie Art Gallery

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Union pickets at Art Gallery of Ontario

I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario this evening to hear a talk by Sarah Thornton—more on that later—and was half-surprised, half-not to see a picket line outside of the gallery. The picketers held signs like "AIG:AGO" and handed out flyers describing their concerns: namely that because the AGO received $18.6 million from the Ontario Government on April 8—a mere two days after laying off 23 full time staff—the AGO should now rescind the layoffs. The picket was organized by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents several of the laid-off staff.

According to the OPSEU, the layoff notices were served in an extremely undignified manner. Well, this may already be apparent to those who know the layoffs were announced just hours before one of the AGO's biggest fundraisers. But here's some of the quotes they offer:

"After 13 years, I was literally asked to put down my tools and was out of the building within 2 hours." - anonymous employee

"They are trying to save money and want volunteers to replace paid staff; in an institution devoted to an 'extraordinary visitor welcome' it is ridiculous to replace professional staff with volunteers." - employee with 29 years service

The OPSEU also notes that many professionals key to museum operations were laid off, including conservators, photographers, librarians, installation technicians and more. Two publicists were laid off, making me wonder how effectively the AGO will be able to spin these events. The woman I spoke to at the picket said many of these professionals are being replaced by part-time contract positions.

The OPSEU also notes that while senior management has instituted a wage freeze, it still takes up one-sixth of the wage pie in the organization. They also point out that Kirsten Ferguson, Chief of Staff at the AGO, had a $60,000 salary increase between 2007 and 2008 -- a raise of 50%. CEO Matthew Teitelbaum, for his part, had a wage increase of $20,000 from 2007 to 2008, or roughly 9%.

In my view, this is an unfortunate event for all parties—the museum, the employees, the union and the public. Who's to blame? It's a complex issue, but I would say this whole episode reeks of planning gaps at the senior level. Yes, there's a recession going on. Yes, contract employees are cheaper than permanent. But if your focus is excellence and the public trust, well, it's time to fundraise a little harder, people, and figure out the budgets to keep the organization responsible and functional. You did it for the building. Now do it for the people who make the building tick.

I'll be watching to see how the new AGO board president—announced today of all days—will affect the situation. The new prez is none other than Tony Gagliano, he of Luminato's cash-flush coffers. My first thought was, will this mean the AGO will do more Luminato stuff? My second: Well, at least Gagliano is good at raising money. We'll see what happens.

Image from OPSEU

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Q&A: Scott McFarland's Digital Gardens

Even though he recently moved to Toronto, Scott McFarland is still widely known as one of the major second-generation Vancouver photographers, that group that has emerged after Jeff Wall and Roy Arden as a force to be reckoned with. It's interesting because in many ways McFarland's images--usually of gardens--seem quite placid at first. But they can pack their own kind of conceptual punch by drawing on the process of gardening to create an image. With a show just opened at the National Gallery of Canada, I got a chance to talk with him over the phone. Today the National Post ran our interview. Here's an excerpt:

Q Is that montage process almost like gardening itself, would you say? Weeding out images you don't like, keeping some others?

A I think that, in some ways, gardens do function as a metaphor for the process. I think about gardening techniques and their relationships not just to taking pictures but developing and processing the final prints. Each body of work I do incorporates different digital techniques quite specific to the ways the gardens are constructed. Going back to Empire, I was fascinated how the Huntington garden designer took succulent plants from areas all across the world--Africa, Australia, South America, the Southwestern [United States] --and assembled them into seamless compositions, so that you didn't feel that these cacti were from different regions of the globe. I thought when I was taking these pictures and putting them together I was doing a very similar thing, putting different times of day together in a way not discernible to the viewer.

Read on here for the full text. More images here at Monte Clark Gallery.

Image of McFarland's Women Drying Laundry on the Gorse, Vale of Health, Hampstead Heath, 2007 -- one of my favourites of his -- from Monte Clark Gallery

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Garden Graffiti: The Urban Repair Squad Strikes Again

Just got a fun couple of pics by email from Urban Repair Squad, a sustainable-transport intervention group that was most recently included in Actions, a major survey of urban-activisty art at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. In the past, URS has done stuff like paint their own official-looking bike lanes and replace subway info about bicycles to more friendly formats. It appears URS was also busy this weekend on a more symbolic front. It changed the "welcome to Toronto" symbol carved in greenery along the city's multilane Gardiner Expressway to include a nod to pedestrians and cyclists.



Though the garden-billboard was restored to its original state today by city staff, the symbols were up for a good 48 hours. Says the squad: ""This is an Easter present from the Urban Repair Squad to the City of Toronto and all its residents.
Happy Easter!"

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

At the Galleries: Harbourfront

Toronto's waterfront was recently named among the worst in the world, apparently. I would beg to differ. Though it needs a lot of improvement, the galleries down there are always worth checking out. Today the National Post published my to-see picks for the nabe. Read on here.

Image of a (nice looking) part of Toronto's waterfront from the City of Toronto

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy Canadian Arts News, Batman!

The past couple of days seem to have yielded a bumper crop of Canadian art headlines. Here ye be:

The Ontario government gives a surprise $43 mil to some cultural institutions. The Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum get the biggest boosts -- does this mean the AGO will be rehiring the folks they just laid off? That the ROM will drop its $22 admission fee? I'm watching, but doubtful.

The head of the National Gallery says they'll be running a public consultation on what to do with the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, which recently lost its leaky, if purpose-built, facility to government uses.

Palestinian leaders object to an upcoming, much-much-promoted exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Royal Ontario Museum

The Art Gallery of Windsor puts out a call for funds, then rejected by Windsor City Council

Vancouver artist Liz Magor wins the $30,000 Audain prize for prominent BC artists. Deservedly, I say.

The Alberta government does away with the 8.5 mil lottery funds granting pool The Wild Rose Foundation

The Hope colour processor at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design is retired for inkjet -- a nice look at the significance of these now-commonplace shifts

Image of the Dead Sea Scrolls from

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

When Being A Critic Means Making Your Education Public

Right now I'm repeating a phrase to myself that I was told by Mexican curator and critic Cuauhtémoc Medina: "Being a critic means making your education in public."

Being a critic means making your education in public. Being a critic means making your education in public.

I'm repeating this to myself because, well, something I blogged last year, and later regretted blogging about--because blogging is a form of professional writing, and I was treating it at the time as private--has been quoted in an Eye Weekly feature by Chandler Levack that's up online today and out in print tomorrow.

Ah well. The main piece of Levack's implication that I'd like to correct for the (seemingly undying) Internet record is this:

My policy is to refuse reviewing work by people I have a personal like or dislike of. Why? Because personal feelings of like or dislike either way will bias me in reviewing their work, and ultimately create a disservice to a reader who wants a relatively objective point of view about the work.

Also, for this reason, since becoming a full-time freelancer, I've cultivated professional rather than personal relationships with artists and curators.

Being a critic means making your education in public. Being a critic means making your education in public.

Yay! Today, I guess I'm a critic.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Weekend Links: AGO Layoffs, Montreal Curator Smackdown and More

Some newsy links from over the weekend:

The Art Gallery of Ontario announces layoffs just before their Massive Party fundraiser. Classy. The CBC says layoffs number 70, the Toronto Star says only 23. Union to respond today, apparently.

Montreal Curator Smackdown! The National Post reports that Quebec uber-curator Louise Dery does not approve of the celeb-oriented Yoko Ono/John Lennon exhibition just opened at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. The show was led by MMFA head Natalie Bondil.

Hey guess what? After years of being lumped in with tourism, parks and recreation, Alberta culture actually has a separate ministry. FFWD has an interview with the new minister.

I'm late on this news, but AGYU curator Michael Maranda released a "Waging Culture" report last week that confirms artists barely make a living. Gabby Moser has some comments on whether day jobs might actually be a good thing. The Star offers report highlights.

Toronto city government hasn't let the recession cut their arts spending; they've increased it by 2%. The Star reports.

The Images Festival kicked off in Toronto this week -- Jason Anderson reviewed one piece for Local media reports here here here and here.

Murray Whyte at the Star talks new native art as a related show, Remix, opens at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Image of "Imagine Peace" bed-in redo in Montreal from the National Post

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Q&A: Melanie Authier

Melanie Authier is a rising Canadian painting talent who's managed to make a go of it, even in this poor economy. Today the National Post runs my interview with her on zebras, process and the picturesque. Read on here for the full details, and here on her website for more images.

Image of Melanie Authier's Channelize 2009 from her website

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

GG Awards show in Review @

The GGs are one of Canada's biggest publicly funded arts awards. But does the related exhibition measure up to the prestige? Not so much, as I reveal in a review published today at What think you?

Image of our 2009 GG award winners from

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