Skip to content

May we suggest

Features / October 26, 2012

Tomorrow Gallery’s Tara Downs on Exhibiting a New Generation of Berlin and New York Artists in Toronto

Tomorrow Gallery, a project space that opened in the Toronto’s west end in June 2011, is introducing the city to a new generation of international artists. Tonight, it opens an exhibition by Berlin-based artists Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff.

Earlier this week, Tess Edmonson chatted over Skype with Tara Downs, who runs the gallery with Hugh Scott-Douglas and Aleksander Hardashnakov, about their upcoming exhibition, the city of Toronto, and the pace with which commercial interests consume everything in reach.

Tess Edmonson: Your programming seems to feature a lot of younger or emerging artists working along a Berlin/New York axis of production, something that isn’t typically exhibited in Toronto. In Toronto, it seems like galleries generally either show younger local artists or established international artists, leaving very little space for dialogue about new or emerging modes of production on a larger scale.

Tara Downs: That was kind of the idea of starting Tomorrow—that there were so many artists that we were interested in working with that were either in New York, and we knew them personally and enjoyed their practice, or in Europe, and we knew that there just was not a venue to host them. That didn’t exist yet, so we looked at that as a niche to fill. I think that Toronto has a hard time tapping into that audience or taking those chances.

TE: Who are some of the artists you’ve been working with?

TD: At Tomorrow, there’s been a range of artists, from those where it’s their first solo show in Toronto, to international artists—like when we had Fredrik Værslev do the space. We’re going to be featuring Lucie Stahl and Will Benedict who are two huge international artists, although they’re probably better known in Europe.

And one thing that connects us to these artists is that they also run project spaces, and are artists as well. Will and Lucie run Pro Choice in Vienna, a great artist-run space. And Fredrik Værslev also runs a space. It was a way, in the beginning, of connecting with artists who would have a mutual interest with us. It isn’t the exclusive curatorial premise, but a way of expanding outwards, I suppose, and garnering support within a community.

We’ve done a lot of work with artists in New York who also run projects. Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff are actually a really good example of this—artists who also run enterprises and view themselves as entrepreneurs of sorts. They ran Times bar in Berlin, so they also have this understanding of both sides of it. It’s a more approachable way of working with artists as well.

TE: Could you describe what Henkel and Pitegoff’s project is and what will be up at the gallery?

TD: It’s called “Start a Magazine.” They’re very interested in self-performance and self-presentation, particularly within the art world. But they’re also interested in the reasons artists are committing themselves to entrepreneurial ventures, like Times.

So, at Tomorrow, there’s going to be 10 photographs of what looks like empty dishes, like after a meal has ended. They touch upon this spontaneous moment within the art world where, as an artist, you don’t have those nine-to-five structures, your business meetings are casual meetings, which are relationships, and everything seems to tie together with a certain social confluence. So it catches those ends of moments and business meetings, really looking at the lifestyle that surrounds artists and curators and writers and how we all mix together.

Looking over their work, a lot of it is coloured by the obsolescence that comes from viewing themselves as cultural producers—while artists, writers and project spaces are all cultural producers, they all also have the fragility that they could be nipped in the bud. The text [that they’ll present with the exhibition], 2012, is kind of this very sweet mother-to-daughter conversation about spaces in Berlin that have come and gone, and about how you remember those spaces when they were so fragile, and really rather unstructured, and run out of the personal energies of those people in that moment in that time. How do you remember them in a soulful way? One that does justice to the project?

TE: Their work with Times, this bar that they’ve opened and closed, seems so specific to a certain time and place. Maybe, to somebody who doesn’t have an active interest in the history of that space or some sort of previous knowledge of it, the work seems sort of hard to access. What do you think about how well the work travels? What role can it have for viewers in Toronto?

TD: With Times, they’re reflecting on this kind of rapid-fire turnover that exists in the art world. I think that’s the grasp, the changing face of Berlin as the art world truly takes hold of it as this cultural nexus point. It’s not that Toronto is even close to having an art scene of that calibre, but at the same time, even in Toronto I notice the pacing of the art community and how it evolves and how it’s rapidly changing in the face of spaces opening and closing, and with Queen West and Ossington being completely demolished into a condo land. You have articles written about Sterling Road being that last little strip in the city.

So you can understand the same feeling of dipping your toe into the water in this singular moment in time, and it rushing past you quite quickly. You can feel those transition points. While Times may be a location and a community that’s very specific to Berlin and to a certain group of artists, I think that you can easily extrapolate it to those feelings of obsolescence and self-performance throughout the art community.

TE: How did you begin working together as Tomorrow?

TD: We all met at OCAD. We all were in sculpture and installation together, and we got the space as a studio. Through discussions, we decided very naively that we wanted to just have one room and use it as an exhibition space, and it just grew from there very rapidly.

TE: What kind of projects do you have coming up?

TD: We’re working on a couple of projects right now. One of our bigger projects is that we’re working with Ben Schumacher and Carlos Reyes and they’re doing an off-site project in a corporate lobby. They’re going to be doing a 3-D scan of their elevator space and taking that project and reformatting it back to Tomorrow, so we’ll almost have this dual exhibition happening.

Then we’ll be working with Lucie Stahl and Will Benedict. And then we’re going to do a week or two of student exhibitions, very quick thesis-oriented exhibitions, just to see who’s out there.

So that’s what we have planned so far. We always do screenings and magazine launches and things like that along the way.

TE: What long-terms plans do you have for the gallery?

TD: Just to continue to be involved in art fairs—we really enjoyed being at NADA New York this year—and to really immerse ourselves in that international community. It’s exciting.


This interview has been edited and condensed.

Tess Edmonson

Tess Edmonson’s is writing has appeared in Texte zur Kunst, art-agenda, Flash Art, Afterall, Frieze, Rhizome, Art Papers, PIN–UP and C Magazine. She is the recipient of a 2019 Creative Capital Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. She is managing editor at Canadian Art.