Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Condo Craze fills TO Galleries this Week

Sometimes it seems like various galleries get bit by a conceptual bug at the same time. Such is the case with two Toronto shows right now: Sylvie Bélanger's Des Fleurs Pour Decorer at Birch Libralato and duo Daniel Borins and Jennifer Marman's Marmco International at YYZ Artists Outlet. There's even a real-life art-condo project this week to add to the art-life momentum.

In her show, Bélanger actually compiles the work of various artists into a model-suite-like arrangement. Her own videos hang on flatscreens in a pseudo living room. The best part of this show, I think, are the metal-plate signatures that Bélanger creates for each artist, as if each was branding a particular kind of condo layout. The show will be wrapped up with an auction this Thursday, July 23 -- though it's unclear what will be auctioned off. The ersatz business cards? The blank books covered with coffee-table-tome covers?

Borins and Marman, for their part, aim for that partly constructed, heavily signaged feel that condo construction and display-suite sites have. [CLARIFICATION: They intended a mall like effect, but since I live across from a condo construction site, I associated it immediately to condos. Apologies for any misunderstandings.] There's half built walls, open toolkits, hanging celebratory opening banners, the full commerce-in-process effect. They also hang an ersatz realty co. sign in the gallery window, a nice touch.

In an interesting twist, perhaps, local arts nonprofit Artscape has just started to blitz local papers with ads for their new real-life foray into real estate development. Set in the "Boheman Embassy"-ed area of Queen West, the Artscape Triangle Lofts offer "substantially lower monthly carrying costs compared to other new-build loft condominiums in Toronto" to artists. They even offer an "Artscape Mortgage".

Artscape's collision of artist culture and condo craze in Toronto is far from ironic. It's true that artists, like other folks around, need affordable housing. But given artist skepticism to commercialized "culture districts", as exemplified by Bélanger, Borins and Marman, I wonder who will turn up to Artscape's first qualifying info session on Thursday, July 23. No judgment here, just saying the timing is very ripe for real-life meets art-life comparisons.

All images from Sylvie Bélanger's Des Fleurs Pour Décorer from her website


Nicholas Brown said...

Not sure if you've mentioned this already, but the Danish and Nordic Pavillions exhibition "The Collectors," curated by Elmgreen and Dragset, is on a similar wavelength:

Really, really well executed and (albeit cynical) was a high point in an otherwise tepid Venice Biennale.

Leah Sandals said...

Hey Nick,

Thanks for noting that. I do feel like artists have been riffing on condo stuff for a while now, but it is interesting when so much of it converges.

I wish I had seen that pavilion -- it did sound pretty cool.

m.m. said...

note on the artscape lofts ... these are actually the end result of a long-term negotiation (read: fight) with the developers over community benefit undertaken by Active 18 ... Artscape is indeed undertaking the administration of the project, but it really is a result of community engagement ensuring that artists, in this case, don't lose everything in the process of gentrification.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi MM -

I did some research on the Artscape dev't for a story a couple years back and I'm not trying to imply they're bad in trying to create affordable housing of any kind.

What I am suggesting is that they present a problem to those artists opposed to condo development in principle.

Also -- I should clarify! -- Borins and Marman actually created a *mall construction* like environment, which I took for a *condo construction* environment, in part because I live across from a condo construction site and I've come to associate all drywall and construction mess with condos. Apologies to the artists.

MM said...

Point taken re: resistence to condo dev't in principle. Personally, I'm not against it in principle. Only in application. In this particular case, West Side Lofts (or whatever their current name is for that particular project) stepped up to the plate and paid back some to the pre-existing community unlike other players in that particular sections of WQW.

I think an important thing I was trying to note, however, is that Artscape was not an instigator in this wrinkle, they are only an administrator.