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2012 Roundup: Curatorial High Points

Canada stretched its legs in the international curatorial world in 2012. As the year began, the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London was still showing director Ian Dejardin’s remarkable “Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven” that brought new audiences to and a new take on the stalwarts of Canadian art history. Katerina Atanassova, chief curator of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and Anna Hudson, associate professor of Canadian art and curatorial studies at York University, brought great support as knowledgeable co-curators.

In May, curator Denise Markonish and eager art audiences finally got to see the fruits of her legendary studio research project “Oh, Canada” at MASS MoCA. With 400 studio visits under her belt, expectations were high. Former Canadian Art editor Sarah Milroy interviewed her and reviewed the show for the magazine, while Nancy Tousley recapped the highlights of its opening week online.

Elsewhere, the international press took a shine to two Canadians at Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, as Geoffrey Farmer and Gareth Moore brought some new limelight to the Vancouver art scene. Documenta 13 curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev gave writer Daniel Baird a picture of her thinking behind the big exhibition in an exclusive interview from her home in Rome for our magazine. Christov-Bakargiev’s use of various “agents,” including then–Banff Centre curator Kitty Scott, is part of what put many Canadians in the spotlight and brought the exhibition itself, in a form, to Banff in late summer.

Canadians were a big part of the Biennale of Sydney as well, which was co-curated by the AGO’s Gerald McMaster. Read McMaster’s extensive meditation on his vision for Sydney from our Summer issue and Tanya Harnett’s July web review for more details.

On the international front, too, Canada’s greatest gift to curating, Toronto’s Ydessa Hendeles, parlayed her longstanding work at the Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation (which announced its closure in November) into curatorial projects and solo exhibitions in New York and Berlin.

At home, the Sobey Art Award came into its own with its 10th anniversary edition. It was a show that could have been the pride of any institutional curatorial department anywhere in the country, let alone a prize show.

In another notable omnibus project, “Builders,” Jonathan Shaughnessy constructed the National Gallery’s second Canadian Biennial. It brought together more than 100 works by 45 artists, giving us a glimpse of the contemporary-art legacy that the NGC is creating with its collecting program. Other group shows of note included “Phantasmagoria,” a look at contemporary Canadian photographic practice at Presentation House Gallery in North Vancouver, “Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture” at the Vancouver Art Gallery and  “60 Painters,” a “monster show” of heavy hitters in Canadian painting at the Humber Arts and Media Studios in Etobicoke.

Several solo efforts also stood out as curatorial exercises, beginning with Iain Baxter&’s AGO retrospective, which gave us a glimpse of his ever-fresh conceptual playfulness. The Doug Cranmer retrospective at Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology was another instance of highlighting an artist who shone with a large-scale gathering of his work. Tasman Richardson played the scale game in a different way with an impressive gallery-wide installation at MOCCA. Blockbuster summer shows on Van Gogh (at the National Gallery) and Picasso (at the AGO) were also strong outings.

On the events front, Nuit Blanche projects continued to sprout up this fall. Calgary’s first, curated by ACAD director Wayne Baerwaldt, was an evident success, attracting crowds in the thousands. Nuit Blanche continued strong in Toronto; we interviewed several participating artists including Weppler & Mahovsky and Oliver Husain on their thoughts regarding the phenomenon. Assistant editor David Balzer also visited Detroit for its first Nuit Blanche, “Dlectricity.”

Discussions on curating in Canada and abroad were moved forward by a couple of key phenomena this year. In early spring, managing editor Bryne McLaughlin visited the “Manufacturing Exhibitions” conference at the Museé d’art contemporain de Montréal, which gathered international and national figures to discuss history and innovation. And in the fall, Vincent Honoré’s  “House of Leaves” at the David Roberts Foundation proved a standout during the week of Frieze London. The show was a symphonic effort in fusing space, objects and thoughtful minds. It raised the bar for 2013 when we get to see, among other things, what the talented Massimiliano Gioni can do at the 55th Venice Biennale.


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