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News / March 29, 2016

Ambitious Plans Unveiled for New Canadian Art Museum

Can Canada’s newest art museum really act as “everyone’s living room”? Chantal Pontbriand, CEO of the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto-Canada, certainly hopes so.
158 Sterling Road, in foreground, is a circa-1919 auto-manufacturing plant that will be renovated into the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto-Canada. 158 Sterling Road, in foreground, is a circa-1919 auto-manufacturing plant that will be renovated into the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto-Canada.

Can Canada’s newest art museum really act as “everyone’s living room”?

Chantal Pontbriand, CEO and director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto-Canada, which is due to open to the public in May 2017, certainly hopes so.

Today, in the company of Toronto Mayor John Tory, TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey, and actress Arsinée Khanjian, as well as various artists and members of the press, Pontbriand revealed ambitious plans for the new museum, which will take over the first five floors of an old, circa-1919 automotive building being renovated as part of a new housing development.

Here are some highlights of the new museum plans:

  • a space currently called a “squat” on the fourth floor of the museum, which will hold tables and couches for visitors to lounge, work and hang out
  • operating hours that will eventually see the museum open “from noon until midnight”
  • the hiring of a “philosopher in residence” who will be able to meet informally with visitors as well as work on planning of events and publications
  • a first floor that will function as a kind of “inside street” to both welcome visitors and host various kinds of events
  • a first-floor theatre described as “truly agora-like”
  • “strong publication activity” including occasional newsprint broadsides, a regular magazine detailing events and programs at the museum and a journal titled The Idea of North (the latter a nod to Glenn Gould’s famous radio broadcast of the same name)

Details were also revealed at the event for the museum’s debut exhibitions, namely:

  • a first exhibition (May to August 2017) called “Odyssey 2040” showing works from major Canadian collections as well as “new works we have imagined and elaborated with artists all over the world”
  • a second exhibition (September to December 2017) called “Toronto: You Are Here” curated by MOCA curator advisor David Liss about “Toronto in a global world”
  • a third exhibition (January to April 2018) called “China: Body to Body” curated by the Catherine David of the Centre Pompidou in Paris
  • a collaborative exhibition with the Art Gallery of Ontario and artist Mark Lewis that features 10 films on “the symbolic force of Canada and the way it has been used and is being around the world to ignite people’s imaginations”; this exhibition would take place both at the AGO and the new museum

While the 50,000 square feet of new museum space is being built and renovated, Pontbriand is also planning on holding eight evenings in the coming year inspired by Black Mountain College evenings.

Among these evening events are a late-May presentation of an interactive musical performance work by Toronto-area artist Christof Migone, presented in collaboration with the 21st Century Music Festival; and a Canada Evening of films music and art co-curated with Mark Lewis as part of the Pages Unbound Festival at the Gladstone Hotel on May 5.

Collaboration also comes to the fore in a pavilion project Pontbriand mentioned, which will present “a different pavilion by a different architect or designer every year, enabling us, maybe, to get a glimpse of the future.”

There are other contemporary art museums in Canada—notably the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal—as well as major public contemporary art galleries in Toronto, such as the Power Plant. But MOCA will possibly be distinguished from the latter by its collecting activity, which Pontbriand confirmed would be a priority.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto-Canada is the latest iteration of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, located until recently on Queen Street West in Toronto.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is news and special sections editor at Canadian Art. She has also written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications. She welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.