CURRENT ISSUE | FALL 2017: THE IDEA OF HISTORY
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An Art Toronto Sales Report

That there were more dealers at this year's fair was a positive sign. But how were the sales?

Well said @benskinnerart. Well said. #ArtToronto #art #benskinner #wantthis #amazingright

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Sales at an art fair are always difficult to gauge. Some collectors demand privacy, while some dealers like to keep business under wraps.

If a survey of selected booths is to be believed, however, it seems that a variety of galleries and artists did see sales at this year’s edition of Art Toronto.

Generally, the galleries polled agreed that the fair had steadier foot traffic this year, as well as a good assortment of corporate, institutional and private collectors on hand to connect with.

“It’s been a lot more international fair” this year, said Barbara Edwards of Toronto’s Barbara Edwards Contemporary, who brought works by William Kentridge and Sorel Etrog to the fair, among others.

“Buyers knew what they wanted” this year, said Nikola Rukaj of Nikola Rukaj Gallery, adding the show was “more manageable” this edition, with cleaner design and navigation. Rukaj had a booth with a mix of historical, modern and contemporary, from small Sonia Delaunay gouaches to 1980s William Perehudoff canvases to new sculptures by architect-turned-artist John Patkau.

At the same time, however, there was feedback from some gallerists that Canadians continue to be more tentative in their purchases than American audiences. Some US dealers had not sold anything by Monday afternoon—though other Americans did quite well at the fair (more on this in a moment) and many dealers continue to emphasize the role of the fair in educating audiences, building connections, and initiating follow-up sales.

Among the most buzzed-about works at the fair was Canadian artist Mark Clintberg’s sculpture Not Over You. Brought to the fair by Montreal gallerist Pierre-François Ouellette, the work was posted to Instagram by CBC host George Stromboulopoulos early on in the fair’s run, with the image quickly receiving more than 3,000 likes.

The work, interestingly, has institutional origins: Not Over You was originally commissioned by the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan, for a show in 2014. It sat on top of the gallery there for months, and prairie dust on the sign was intentionally left to linger there as a different kind of “collection” after the work went into storage. Later, it was also exhibited at Contemporary Calgary.

Priced at $27,500, Not Over You reportedly went to a Toronto collector involved in real estate who may one day—who knows?—restore it to an outdoor environment in that city. Luckily for fans, a free multiple print depicting the sign was also provided by the artist, and was picked up by many attendees.

Another must-see for many there to browse the fair were Toronto artist Esmaa Mohamoud’s photographs of men in gowns made from NBA uniforms. Her related series of concrete sculptures of deflated basketballs went to TD Bank’s collection.

Mahmoud’s work was brought to the fair by ltd los angeles, which is planning a solo show of her work in 2018. Ltd works with several Canadian artists, including Jennifer Chan, whose works were in the booth, and Ben Tong and Margaret Haines, whose works were in the fair’s micro cinema.

Ltd Los Angeles also had success with large, striking photoprints on silk by American artist John Edmonds. Three works from his Untitled (Du-rag) series were acquired by the Art Gallery of Ontario on opening night.

Another significant acquisition by the Art Gallery of Ontario at the fair was Christina Mackie’s Chalk no. 4 (2014), a work of birch, gesso and watercolour that reflects larger installations the UK-based Canadian artist has done at Tate Britain, among other venues.

Vancouver’s Catriona Jeffries—who was returning to the fair after more than six years away—was the gallery that sold the AGO the Mackie work, and reportedly also made sales of some new Liz Magor sculptures.

On opening night, the Art Gallery of Ontario also acquired Meryl McMaster‘s Bring me to this place (2017) from Pierre-François Ouellette and Tim Pitsiulak‘s Swimming Bear (2016) from Feheley Fine Arts.

Five of Jeneen Frei Njootli’s spectacular baseball caps, featured in a solo booth organized by Vancouver’s Macaulay & Co., also sold out during the fair.

These works by the Vuntut Gwitchin artist were altered with porcupine quills as well as with furs of wolverine, porcupine, wolf and marten. One was edged with a long, black fringe.

The booth also featured imprints of Njootli’s face on plexi shaped like a hide stretcher, as well as selections from Njootli’s recent series of photos on vinyl that depict her skin after traditional beadworks have been pressed into it.

Elsewhere, a set of ribbon gloves by contemporary Wasauksing artist Maria Hupfield was sold on opening night by Galerie Hugues Charbonneau of Montreal. The work reportedly went to an active collector of Hupfield’s work, and as with all her works, was sold on the condition that Hupfield can enter the collection and keep the work in active use at any time. Hupfield is featured in the current issue of Art in America.

Montreal-based Mohawk artist Skawennati, known for her works in Second Life and machinima, was the strongest seller at the booth of Montreal’s Ellephant. The Artist in her Studio from She Falls for Ages was one of these works sold.

#amberawellmann ✨paintings @ #arttoronto2017

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Paintings old and new remained a strong seller.

Trépanier Baer sold out its solo booth of paintings by Ambera Wellmann, who earlier this month won the RBC Canadian Painting Competition. A solo booth by Mulherin featuring paintings by Kris Knight also saw steady sales.

Mayberry from Winnipeg sold a smallish David Milne painting, Construction, priced at $230,000, on opening night. Mayberry also sold a small, abstract Riopelle (4.75 inches by 6.25 inches) before the fair was out for $225,000.

Equinox from Vancouver was also touting a small Riopelle, sold for an undisclosed amount. It hung alongside contemporary crocheted-paint works by Vancouver’s Angela Teng, which also sold, as did at least one Equinox canvas by West Coast icon Gordon Smith. Paintings by Ben Reeves were also on view. (On the non-painting front, Equinox also sold a Michael Snow Walking Woman-related paperwork on the opening night of the fair.)

Notably, new paintings by Julia Dault, Ambera Wellmann, Jeanie Riddle and Nicolas Grenier also sold at the booth of Montreal’s galerie antoine ertaskiran.

Some editions also found favour.

Brody Albert’s Spare Keys—sets of found keys recut with the coastline of California to Chiapas, Mexico—was made in an edition of 10 plus two APs, and was launched by Vancouver’s Wil Aballe Art Projects at the fair on Thursday evening.

Proceeds from the $400 sale price of Spare Keys all went to an immigration legal aid non-profit CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles), where the artist is based.

Vancouver’s Winsor Gallery also brought screenprints of Ben Skinner’s Kiss Me Flowchart, an edition based on a mural that Skinner made in recent years. With Skinner’s large neon piece A Heart Makes a Bad Hula Hoop (2014) selling on opening night, the ongoing smaller edition by Skinner, created in various colour combinations, offered another way to collect the artist’s work.

And photographs of Aude Moreau’s massive Less is more or (2017), which earlier this year lit up the iconic Mies van der Rohe–designed TD Centre in Toronto’s financial district, were also available in an edition of three plus two artist’s proofs. One, not surprisingly, went to a Toronto law office, sold by galerie antoine ertaskiran.

Overall, a variety of contemporary Canadian artists found some welcome audiences.

At the booth of Toronto’s MKG127, works by Micah Adams and Roula Partheniou were sold. The gallery also sold all the works by Bill Burns—who did a public installation at the fair entrance—and had to go back and get more before the fair was out. Also selling were works by Kristiina Lahde, Liza Eurich, Dave Dyment and Laurel Woodcock.

Galerie Nicolas Robert of Montreal sold out Andreanne Godin’s drawing. Also popular: Tristram Lansdowne‘s paintings, Simone Rochon’s collages, Lorna Bauer’s photographs and new paintings on drywall by Pierre Julien.

Christina Parker Gallery of St. John’s reported strong sales for Kym Greeley and Will Gill—as well as Ned Pratt, who has a retrospective coming Sept 2018 at the Rooms. It also saw a resurgence of interest in the work of David Kaarsemaker, this year shortlisted for the RBC Candian Painting Competition.

Toronto’s Georgia Scherman Projects sold a work by Sobey finalist Divya Mehra to TD Bank’s collection.

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia bought four drawings by emerging artist Charley Young at the booth of Halifax’s Studio 21. Two other drawings by the artist sold to young collectors. (In 2015, Studio 21 did a solo booth of Charley Young that almost sold out.) The Canada Council Art Bank also acquired a painting by Jimy Sloan from the gallery.

Jarvis Hall Gallery of Calgary sold at least four large photographs by Robin Arseneault from a new series by the artist in a solo booth. Herringer Kiss of Calgary brought small dioramas by Jason Frizzell that sold briskly, among other works.


Art Toronto also provided Canadians with a opportunity to preview works by artists soon to be showcased at other international fairs.

Perhaps most interesting on this front for long-time watchers of the Canadian art scene is a new US surge of awareness around the work of Winnipeg painter Wanda Koop.

While Koop has been known in Canada for some time—she was actually featured on the cover of the first Fall 1984 issue of Canadian Art—she is currently being featured in a first American solo show at Los Angeles’ Night Gallery, who was at Art Toronto for the first time this year. And Night Gallery is planning on bringing her work (along with fellow Canadian Rachelle Sawatzky) to upcoming fairs at Frieze and Miami.

At Art Toronto, Night Gallery featured at least one work by Koop, while other canvases by Koop sold briskly at the booth of Galerie Division—the Montreal and Toronto dealer where Night Gallery’s Davida Nemeroff, a Canadian herself, first saw Koop’s work.

Downs and Ross of New York (co-directed by Canadian Tara Downs) brought works by US-based Canadian painters Sojourner Truth Parsons and Stephanie Hier, as well as early works by Vikky Alexander. Parsons recently had a New Yorker-recommended show at the gallery, and Alexander’s early work will also be featured in Downs and Ross’ upcoming Miami fair showings.

At Art Toronto, Parisian Laundry of Montreal brought delicate glass and metal works by UK artist Gabriele Beveridge. In March, Parisian Laundry will be featuring related works by Beveridge in a solo booth at New York’s Armory Show.

And as usual, Art Toronto was also used by galleries as an opportunity to put forward works by Canadian artists that have been little seen in the nation’s biggest city—or works by well-known artists that have only just emerged from the estate or the studio.

Gallery Jones of Vancouver, for instance, was using the fair to bring to light the work of Peter Aspell, a late BC artist who is little known outside of his home province. (Beyond this historical project, the gallery sold several editions of James Nizam’s Obliquity of the Ecliptic (2017) print, which documents one of Nizam’s alterations of an about-to-be-destroyed house.)

Michael Gibson Gallery of London, Ontario, also brought a few large-scale, and little-known, Greg Curnoe works from the artist’s estate. The gallery also sold several canvases by Jonathan Forrest, and offered a preview of compelling large-scale watercolours by PEI artist Hans Wendt.

Trépanier Baer of Calgary took the show as an opportunity to debut new sculptures by James Carl, as well as new work by Vikky Alexander.

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