As Art Toronto exhibitors head home this week, many are thrilled with the sales they made at Canada’s largest international art fair. Some are also disappointed. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights.
Historical Plus Contemporary: A Winning Combination
Perhaps driven by comedian Steve Martin’s recent interest in Lawren Harris’s work, and the just-closed exhibition “Lawren Harris: The Idea of North” at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the 1928 Harris painting A Fantasy went for $1.2 million dollars amid interest from three buyers during opening night at Art Toronto. It kicked off a weekend of decent sales at the booth of Winnipeg’s Mayberry Fine Art.
“Year in and year out, we are satisfied with the fair,” Andrew Mayberry of Mayberry Fine Art said on Monday, the closing day of the event.
During the fair, Mayberry also sold an original Norval Morrisseau oil-on-paper work, Ancestral Figure, circa 1965, for $36,000 on Sunday. The same day, the booth sold a small Henry Moore bronze to a Toronto collector; it was priced at $75,000.
Several works by contemporary realist painter Andrew Valko, based in Winnipeg, also saw red dots at Mayberry’s booth, with prices ranging from $30,700 for a larger painting (“He does two a year,” Andrew Mayberry said) to $12,600 for a smaller work.
Another gallery that had a strong weekend was Trépanier Baer of Calgary. Its solo booth highlighting the wild, comic-influenced works of Alberta-bred artist Chris Millar ended in the sale of both major works there (one priced at $20,000, the other similarly).
At its larger fair booth, Trépanier Baer sold several works by Oscar Cahen (1916–56), including a major 1953 painting. (Notably, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery was also at the fair promoting Cahen’s work in advance of its major exhibition and monograph on the artist in 2017.)
In the booth’s contemporary section, Trépanier Baer sold out its Ambera Wellman paintings (priced $3,000 to $3,500) and Chris Cran paintings (priced $5,000 to $16,000). It also saw sales for a few of Iain Baxter&’s works, and Ryan Sluggett’s painting Dollar Shades (2015) at $11,000.
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Bicoastal Bests: Vancouver and St. John’s Show Strength
A Vancouver outfit that did particularly well at Art Toronto was Winsor Gallery, whose solo booth of paintings and ceramics by Vancouver musician and artist Andy Dixon featured many red dots.
Only four of twelve works Dixon works remained unsold on Monday afternoon, with sales ranging from one of Dixon’s $21,400 Expensive Paintings to one of his $500 ceramic vases.
Back Gallery Project of Vancouver also sold a wall-sized installation by Toronto artist Talia Shipman to a New York collection. The installation consisted of 15 separate works, mostly photo-prints and one video and wall piece, with the prints priced at $1,650 each. It was completed just before the fair—and, interestingly, was made possible by the fact that Shipman and gallery director Monica Reyes met at Art Toronto the year prior, in 2015.
A mix of paintings old and new drew collectors to the booth of Vancouver’s Equinox Gallery, where vintage Jean-Paul Riopelle and Jean-Paul Lemieux canvases were sold alongside new crocheted-paint works by Vancouver’s Angela Teng, a finalist in this year’s RBC Canadian Painting Competition. Teng’s three crocheted works were priced at $2,500 each.
Innovative painting strategies also came through for artist Vancouver artist Ryan Quast, who spent much of the weekend on-site at his solo booth, brought by Vancouver’s Wil Aballe Art Projects. Quast makes remarkable realist sculptures completely out of paint, with some of the sculptures taking up to eight years to finish. At least three of the works sold by the end of the fair.
“Opening night had more energy than I’ve seen in years,” said Christina Parker of the eponymous Christina Parker Gallery from the East Coast in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Parker has been at the fair for 16 years, and this year quickly sold out her Will Gill works, as well as selling several works by Ned Pratt, Peter Wilkins, and Kym Greeley.
Studio 21 of Halifax also experienced some success in selling two canvases by contemporary Moncton-based artist Raymond Martin, whose work is rarely seen outside of New Brunswick.
Devoured by Consumerism by #artist Beau Dick – Devoured by Consumerism questions production and consumption in our society; mass production and consumerism in contrast to the individual or limited production of art. Beau Dick combines Kwakwaka’wakw forms and mythical creatures (sea monster) with simple Inuit print style narration to create a satirized image. We see a figure with a television or computer screen shaped head and another figure that appears to represent the monetary system trying to escape the sea monster. With no chance of survival, this monetary figure has fallen, will the media escape and live to tell the tale or heed the warning to others? This silkscreen serigraph ed./88 is available for $800 unframed. Contact the gallery for more details #FirstNations #FirstNationsart #art #artoftheday #instaart #contemporaryart #contemporary #print #gallery #vancouvergallery #vancity #vancitybuzz #vancouverisawesome #canartca #eastvan
Contemporary Indigenous Art Finds Buyers
Fazakas Gallery of Vancouver “officially almost sold out the booth,” reports director LaTiesha Fazakas.
Not only did Fazakas’s masks by Documenta-bound artist Beau Dick (most priced upwards of $10,000) sell through, but more minimal works by Mark Preston were also popular.
Several copies of silkscreen print by Beau Dick, priced at $800 and bearing the words “Devoured by Consumerism,” were sold, and that work was also much-photographed.
Galerie Hugues Charbonneau sold three works by Maria Hupfield, a Brooklyn-based Anishinaabe artist who is to be featured in a solo show at the Power Plant next year and who is included in the current Site Santa Fe Biennial. Hupfield’s Ghost Trophy video and sculpture was also installed as a project at Art Toronto.
Among the Hupfield works Charbonneau sold was Silent Noise for a Piano (2015), a felt blanket with satin ribbons that was used in a performance in New York last year, priced at $7,500.
Charbonneau noted that in most cases of sale, Hupfield makes it a condition that she be permitted to go back and use the artworks as she sees fit, when she sees fit—to keep them alive in a ceremonial and performative sense.
At the booth of Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain, a new large painting by Kent Monkman, completed just last week and titled Miss Europe, sold on opening night, with no price disclosed. The work was nearly wall-sized, and in Monkman’s signature style—which is to say, subverting history-painting tropes with contemporary symbols, figures and themes.
By Monday morning, Ouellette had also sold one of two new, smaller paintings by Monkman about the Sixties Scoop and Canada’s residential schools legacy. Titled Study for Mother and Child, one of these works priced at $17,000 showed a mother trying to keep her child from a looming priest-like figure. (Monkman is due to explore this theme further in some 2017 exhibitions.)
Feheley Fine Arts, which specializes in Inuit art, had many sales. In addition to selling three drawings by the late Annie Pootoogook to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Feheley sold at least 15 other such drawings, priced around one to two thousand dollars, by Monday afternoon. Large Tim Pitsiulak drawings, folded drawings by Shuvinai Ashoona (called Tetrahedrons) and a Jutai Toonoo landscape priced at $4,000 were also among the sales.
Finally, though it did not sell as of yet, a solo-booth installation by Saskatchewan artist Ruth Cuthand, titled Don’t Breathe, Don’t Drink and brought to the fair by Edmonton’s dc3 Art Projects, gained much notice among curators.
Cuthand’s application of traditional beading techniques to rendering bacteria that is in the water of many First Nations reserves was striking, as was her embellishment of a blue tarp with black mold designs. (Again, black mold has affected many First Nations houses, particularly where there are boil-water advisories.)
“We placed two of the ‘infectious portraits’ into major private collections, with several works commissioned as a result of our position at the fair,” dc3 projects wrote in an email. “We have commitment for the exhibition of the installation project Don’t Breathe, Don’t Drink from three provincial collecting institutions, as well as exhibition inquiries from museums and galleries coast to coast to coast.”
New Contemporary Art in Focus
In addition to many of the previously mentioned new works by artists like Wellman, Teng, Shipman and Quast, there were other contemporary triumphs at Art Toronto, too.
Saskatchewan artist Zachari Logan enjoyed strong interest at the fair, with a new drawing at Paul Petro Contemporary Art’s booth, Wild Man 13, Flora, selling to the Art Gallery of Ontario (wall-text price: $7,500) on opening night.
A large installation by Logan in a solo booth, consisting of several large drawings installed as a mural, is also up for collection by one of two institutions, Petro said on Monday afternoon. The work, titled Eunuch Tapestry 5, is 23 feet long in total, and rendered in unfixed chalk pastel on black paper, making it extremely delicate to handle. Like much of Logan’s work, it addresses themes of nature, beauty, masculinity and realism in a dream-like way.
The Art Gallery of Ontario acquired two avant-garde works by artists at the booth of Cooper Cole: Little Video (2015) by internationally acclaimed Canadian artist Sara Cwynar, and Awareless (2016) by Toronto-based artist Kara Hamilton.
On the photography front, the AGO acquired Jessica Eaton’s Transition H45 (2016) from the booth of Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran. Nadia Belerique, whose work was recently featured at the Gwangju Biennale and currently at the Biennale de Montreal, was collected by the AGO with her work Bed Island (Don’t Sleep) (2016) at Daniel Faria Gallery’s booth. And the AGO also collected Janet Werner‘s large painting Untitled (Curtain) (2016), with a wall-text price of $16,000, from Parisian Laundry.
By Sunday afternoon, Galerie Joyce Yahouda of Montreal sold three glitter-based paintings by Nika Fontaine, who recently received an honourable mention in the RBC Canadian Painting Competition. Also popular at the booth were collages by David Elliott and a new video work by Paul Wong titled Patti and Lawrence that collaged memoir-like images with footage of Patti Smith in performance.
Dealer Nicolas Robert of Montreal said this was his best year yet at Art Toronto, selling several photographs by Lorna Bauer and paint-based works by Jim Verburg by late Sunday.
Karilee Fuglem’s delicate, mobile, light-reflecting sculpture Holding You As Steady As I Can, priced at $1,250 in an edition of 20, had four red dots by Sunday afternoon at the Pierre-François Ouellette booth, with many visitors taking photographs and enjoying its ephemeral quality. Mark Clintberg’s Opening Tool—a small wedge made of copper, priced at $500—had also sold through a few copies at the booth.
Also on the contemporary front, MKG127 sold a major sculptural installation by Roula Partheniou. Storage Shelf (2015) was done in Partheniou’s typical trompe l’oeil style.
Differences Between Canada and US Apparent
LA gallerist Rick Royale of Royale Projects, which brought a couple of major Ken Lum works to the fair, said it noticed a definitive difference between Canadian buyers at Art Toronto and American ones in Miami and other fairs.
Namely, Royale noted, Canadian buyers at Art Toronto take longer to make a decision.
A light sculpture by American artist Philip K. Smith III was of interest to two buyers on opening night at Royale’s booth, for instance, but both left it until the weekend to confirm the $25,000 selection, one coming just an hour after the other had finalized purchase.
“In Miami, that would be immediate,” Royale said. However, he was pleased with the fair overall, and he thought one of the Lums might still find a home in Toronto in the weeks to come.
New York based dealer Donald Ellis, who moved to the US from Canada some years ago and is a veteran of fairs such as Frieze Masters and the Armory Show, has sold First Nations art to the Louvre, among other institutions.
However, Ellis did not find much success at his first Toronto foray in 25 years, and his first-ever showing at Art Toronto: “Very slow,” he said, when asked about his report for the show.
There were other galleries—domestic ones—who also said sales were slow for them at Art Toronto, and who lamented the loss of Feature Art Fair, a boutique fair that ran in 2014 and 2015 before shutting down completely.
Upgrades to Design and Layout Appreciated
Despite the downsides of the fair for some, at least two longtime exhibitors seemed pleased overall by recent upgrades to design and layout at the fair. This refreshed strategy, they say, has brought in a new and engaged audience.
“I find it every busy this year, and positive,” said director Gisella Giacalone of Mira Godard Gallery, one of the oldest Canadian galleries at the fair. “Probably more than ever this year we are dealing with brand new people looking and buying.”
Among the sales at Godard’s booth were classic favourites—a $21,000 watercolour landscape by veteran Newfoundland artist Christopher Pratt, a $9,000 aquatint by American artist Robert Motherwell—but also several photographs in the $2,000 range by Montreal’s Laurent Guérin and small paintings in the $2,800 range by UK and Ontario based artist Simon Andrew.
Charlene Wildridge of Roberts Gallery—a space even older than Godard Gallery, at 170 years and counting, and at Art Toronto for 16 years—reported that audiences and potential buyers seemed particularly energetic this year.
“The year the clientele seemed very engaged, asking lots of questions,” she said during a relaxed moment on Monday. Among the sales were small paintings by Arthur Shilling: Autumn Trees c. 1983 for $5,500 and Trees at $3,400.
This article was corrected on November 2 and 3, 2016. The original implied that all the elements of Talia Shipman’s installation were priced at $1,650 each, when only the photo-prints were. Arthur Shilling’s name was also misspelled in original copy. And the title of Kara Hamilton’s piece was incorrect. Canadian Art regrets the errors.