Monday, April 5, 2010

Succumbing to Toronto-pism

This weekend, I went to see Bamiyan, an installation by Jayce Salloum and Khadim Ali at the Royal Ontario Museum. I had been looking forward to seeing this project partly due to seeing strong Salloum work in the past and partly because of the nature of the project, which involved on-the-ground research in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As a result, I included it in an Images Fest roundup for, and took note of related press interest as it emerged.

While I found the installation really interesting, I found the institutional aspect of the show interesting as well. A work related to Bamiyan showed at Kelowna's nonprofit Alternator Gallery in 2008, and there cost nothing to view. At the ROM, in contrast, it cost $22 to view as part of general museum admission.

On a more self-critical note, viewers may also likely find this situation interesting from a media angle. When the Kelowna show was on, there was little coverage by supposedly national-coverage Toronto-based media folks like myself. But upon arriving in Toronto, it got this coverage. And Bamiyan isn't the only work this has happened with--when I was talking to Jason McLean last week, he pointed out his surprise at how much media coverage the show "Pulp Fiction" got when it showed at the MOCCA in Toronto following a previous (and largely unnoted) run at Museum London.

In the end, I know that this media dynamic is part of the reason artists and curators aim to show in Toronto--it's a really good way to get "national" media coverage. And the implication on the receiving end is often "well, if the show/artwork any good, it will make its way to Toronto eventually."

Still, I have to say I'm struck by the way that location changes people's access to art, as well as press coverage of same. It's kind of par for the course in a sprawling nation like ours, but it's also kinda unfortunate at the same time.

Image from Lonely Planet


sally said...

One thing I would say, after having various experiences with Toronto-based but nationally mandated art magazines, is that if you are an aspiring art writer in a city besides Toronto... submit stories about art shows in your city or town!!! Editors are mostly hungry for it.

Leah Sandals said...

Yes Sally, that is absolutely right. When I lived in Halifax I found there were actually easier entry points into some publications because the editors didn't have a ton of reporters on the ground... Non-Torontopians, please do it!