Canadian Art

See It

Beautiful Fictions: The Bigger Picture

Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto Sep 9 2009 to Jan 24 2010
Axel Hütte  <I>Audubon Swamp</I>  2005  © Axel Hütte/Schirmer-Mosel Axel Hütte Audubon Swamp 2005 © Axel Hütte/Schirmer-Mosel

Axel Hütte <I>Audubon Swamp</I> 2005 © Axel Hütte/Schirmer-Mosel

While the blockbuster exhibition “King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” dominates the Art Gallery of Ontario’s winter programming, another kind of monumentalism takes centre stage in the gallery’s top-floor contemporary art space. “Beautiful Fictions” draws together a selection of large-scale photographs from the collection of local art patrons David and Vivian Campbell set alongside a complementary sampling of key photo works from the gallery’s own contemporary holdings.

It’s an impressive display that mixes major international artists with homegrown players. From the AGO’s permanent collection come influential stalwarts Lewis Baltz, Jeff Wall, Suzy Lake, Michael Snow, Arnaud Maggs and Cindy Sherman as well as works by younger artists like Kristan Horton and Janieta Eyre. Last year’s Venice Biennale artist and 2007 Gershon Iskowitz Prize winner Mark Lewis gets his own room featuring three of his recent cinematic projection works.

The exhibition’s main gallery is set aside the Campbells’ collection of signature works by artists from the vaunted Düsseldorf school of photography. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, international photo practice was dominated by these German artists with their architecturally inclined and massively sized views of the contemporary world. But, with the exception of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s recent Andreas Gursky retrospective, it’s been rare for Canadian audiences to get a close look at any substantial gathering of works by this influential group. “Beautiful Fictions” offers just that opportunity. Consider, for instance, Thomas Struth’s panoramic Museo del Prado suite, which frames bustling museum crowds examining art masterpieces, in contrast to the poetic stillness of Candida Höfer’s view of an empty Rubens gallery in the Musée du Louvre. Or Gursky’s Pyongyang IV (Red) which turns the human mass of a North Korean political rally into a deep-field abstract composition while on another gallery wall Thomas Ruff’s Substrat 13.1 enlarges the fantasy realm of Japanese anime to a blur of softly hued colour. Or Axel Hütte’s Audubon Swamp and companion photo of a glacial front, Vetlebreen, Norway, where the natural world is amplified to otherworldly proportions. In their monumental scale and monumental impact, the beautiful fiction in these works is undeniable. (317 Dundas St W, Toronto ON)

This article was first published online on January 14, 2010.


  • Year in Review: The Top 10 Exhibitions of 2009

    In our year-end top 10 countdown, Canadian Art editor Richard Rhodes checks off his favourite exhibitions of 2009 across the country, pinpointing newly relevant trends and resonant historical references along the way.

  • Lab work

    One of the pleasures of editing Canadian Art is saying yes to invitations to sit in on year-end grad crits at Canadian art schools.

  • Owen Kydd: Frames Between Photo and Film

    That Owen Kydd once worked as Jeff Wall’s studio assistant should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen his compelling video installations. Where Wall made “cinematographic photographs,” Kydd offers a kind of “photographic cinema.”



[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: Black Birds

    New York critic Joseph R. Wolin heads to the Park Avenue Armory where Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are creating a buzz (and other sounds) at the US premiere of a dark, nightmarish installation originally created for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

  • Grange Prize 2012: Hot Shots

    One of Canada’s largest cash-value art prizes—$65,000 in total with $50,000 going to the winner, $5,000 to three runners-up—announced its finalists this week. Take in their wide-ranging works in this slideshow.

  • Wanda Koop: Into the Woods

    A visit to Wanda Koop’s cabin near Riding Mountain National Park in southern Manitoba proves intriguing for Vancouver critic Robin Laurence. There, Laurence writes, Koop bridges old Grey Owl myths with a new series of paintings on our increasingly digital culture.

  • Brad Tinmouth: Survival Strategies

    The basement of an art gallery may seem an unlikely place to create an emergency shelter. However, Xpace's lower gallery is an ideal setting for Brad Tinmouth's “If Times Get Tough or Even If They Don't,” which evokes a cold-war bunker.

  • Wim Delvoye: Blame it on Paris

    Silk-covered pigs, lattice-cut car tires and a tattooed man are just a few of the works that Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has shuttled into the old, Gothic wing of the Louvre this summer. Jill Glessing reviews, finding a terrific amalgam of high and low.

More Online

Report a problem