Skip to content

May we suggest

News / November 8, 2018

News in Brief: An Art Fair Controversy, and More

The Invitational touted work from LA’s Blum & Poe and NYC’s Gladstone Gallery. But an open letter from Toronto artists called it “a poorly disguised real-estate ad.” Plus: textile art wins and the Weeknd’s new art incubator.
An painting by American artist John McAllister at the Invitational art fair in Toronto. Photo: Instagram / @scristello. An painting by American artist John McAllister at the Invitational art fair in Toronto. Photo: Instagram / @scristello.
An painting by American artist John McAllister at the Invitational art fair in Toronto. Photo: Instagram / @scristello. An painting by American artist John McAllister at the Invitational art fair in Toronto. Photo: Instagram / @scristello.

Controversy and Concern

New Toronto art fair just promotes gentrification, artists say. The Invitational, touting participation from LA’s Blum & Poe, New York’s Bortolami, Gladstone Gallery and James Fuentes, and Toronto’s Cooper Cole and Towards, held its inaugural edition in a newly renovated building at 346 Spadina Avenue in Chinatown from October 25 to 28. On October 27, an open letter signed by more than 200 artists and art workers and by 16 cultural and labour groups was released, calling out organizers Metropolitan Commercial and David Moos Art Advisory for artwashing. The letter read: “The Invitational has branded itself as an ‘international art exhibition’ but is in fact a poorly disguised real estate ad…. Racism forced Chinese people to create their own neighbourhoods to live in, and now the people who built these vibrant places are being pushed out.” (fair announcement on BlogTO, open letter on Medium)

Association on American Indian Affairs denounces Met Museum show including Tsimshian and Anishinaabe cultural objects, among others. The exhibition is titled “Art of Native America: the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection.” And Shannon O’Loughlin, the executive director of the AAIA, is quoted by Art Newspaper as stating the Met “did not consult with affiliated tribal representatives to perform their due diligence, but their first mistake was to call these objects art.” The AAIA asks the museum to “remove items of Native American cultural heritage, including sacred items, cultural patrimony and funerary objects from its exhibition” until “affiliated tribal government representatives are consulted.” (Art Newspaper)

“Artists fear paintings lost after long-running Vancouver gallery closed.” That’s the headline on a CBC investigative story about Harrison Galleries, which shut its doors in April after nearly 60 years in business. Ontario artist Bill Schwarz says 11 of his paintings are still missing. B.C. artist Drew Keilback says he is still missing 6 paintings. CBC was not able to reach gallery owner Chris Harrison “despite several attempts.” (CBC News)

Award Wins

Catherine Blackburn and Meera Sethi are winners of the 2018 Melissa Levin Emerging Artist Award. The award, administrated by the Textile Museum of Canada, “helps emerging artists conduct self-directed activities such as art production, apprenticeships, residencies, and research,” says a release.Catherine Blackburn is a Saskatchewan “bead artist, painter and jeweller… informed by her Dene and European ancestry” who will buy studio materials with the award. Meera Sethi, based in Ontario, explores “migration, diaspora, hybridity, and belonging.” She will “conduct research in the Museum’s collection of garments and textiles from South Asia.” (Akimbo)

Helena Martin Franco and Victoria Stanton are the winners of this year’s Prix Powerhouse Prize. Said a release, “Our choice fell on two ambitious artists who, while being active in their community for a long time, contribute decisively to an art form still marginalized by institutions.” Both Franco and Stanton will be in residence at La Centrale in Montreal November 9 to 15, with an award ceremony November 16 and an exhibition November 16 to December 7. (press release)

Artist Support

With support from The Weeknd and his new initiative Hxouse, young creatives receive mentorship and resources. Based at the new Artscape Daniels Launchpad, and co-created with La Mar Taylor and Ahmed Ismail, this “incubator for creative entrepreneurs” helps provide “access to learning, networking, funds, production and partnership opportunities.” The 30 Hxouse program artists receive their Launchpad membership for free, “as well as four months of mentorship and coaching,” says The Loop. (The Loop)

Hundreds of artists are benefiting from new BC Arts Council funding. “This [latest round of] funding of almost $4 million in grants is more than $1 million over last year’s amount, thanks to the government’s increased support to the BC Arts Council,” says a release. “The increase provided an opportunity to deliver 66 one-time supplemental grants, totalling $876,000, to not-for-profit organizations around the province.” It adds: “In Budget 2018, the Province increased its support of the BC Arts Council by $15 million over the next three years.” (emailed press release)

Biennial Scenes

Get ready for the new Winnipeg Indigenous Biennial. The project was announced this morning in a press conference at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The inaugural biennial, co-curated by Julie Nagam and Jaimie Isaac, will open in 2020—the same year as the WAG’s Inuit Art Centre. The theme for the first edition will be “To Draw Water.” “Derived from an Anishinaabegmowin concept,” says a release, “the exhibition will reflect on how many Indigenous nations within Canada and abroad continue to focus on issues of sustainability, climate change and the environment.” (press release)

Marianne Nicolson and Raymond Boisjoly will be showing at the Honolulu Biennial. Titled “To Make Wrong / Right / Now” will run March 8 to May 5 at a dozen locations on O’ahu. The event “brings together 19 artists and artist groups from Hawaiʻi and 29 artists and artist groups of the Pacific, Asia and the Americas,” says a release. (press release)

Dates are now set for the 2019 Bonavista Biennale. Themed on “FLOE,” the biennale will run August 17 to September 15, 2019, in Newfoundland and Labrador. The curators are Catherine Beaudette of 2 Rooms Contemporary Art Projects, David Diviney of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and Matthew Hills of Grenfell Art Gallery. (emailed press release)

Museum & Institution News

The Vancouver Art Gallery has broken its old attendance record. In 2017/18, says a release, “More than 600,000 visitors attended exhibitions and programs at the Gallery and its public art site, a new record exceeding 2016/2017 visitation by close to 100,000 people.” The success is attributed in part to the exhibitions “Claude Monet’s Secret Garden” and “Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg,” the first survey of Murakami’s work in Canada. Also: “The gallery’s total operational revenue of $21.4 million surpassed budgeted expectations by $1.4 million.” (press release)

The Art Gallery of Windsor is celebrating 75 years. To kick off the milestone, a special collections show featuring works by Rebecca Belmore, Bonnie Devine, Maurice Cullen and Tom Thomson, among others, will open November 30, as will a tribute show to the AGW’s first director, Kenneth Saltmarche. (press release)

While larger museums grow, smaller art centres are looking to provide something different. This week, Mercer Union and the British Council introduced the Aggregate Program. Says a release: “As major art institutions aspire to become more mainstream through expansion, rising audience figures and corporate communication strategies, Mercer Union wishes to investigate how smaller, like-minded organizations are adapting to these demands. More specifically, what are the benefits to working small scale?” The Aggregate Program seeks to explore these issues, with its first event being a talk by curator Sepake Angiama. (press release)


Luminato’s 2019 dates and first shows have been released. The festival returns June 7 to 23, 2019, to venues across Toronto. Included is Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, a collaboration between Inuk artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory and queer theatre-maker Evalyn Parry. There will also be the world premiere of Hell’s Fury: The Hollywood Songbook, in which “baritone Russell Braun portrays the rise and fall of Hanns Eisler, the famed Oscar-nominated composer who fled to the United States from Nazi Germany only to become blacklisted by Hollywood film executives and banned from” the US. (press release)

Shifting Positions

Marie-Claire Findlay-Brook has been appointed executive director of the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture. “She has been the institute’s programs manager for the last two years,” notes Galleries West. The Dawson City organization hosts performances, an art gallery, residencies and more. (Galleries West)

Y Vy Truong is the new assistant curator at Open Space in Victoria.Y Vy Truong is an emerging curator from Vancouver,” says a gallery announcement. “She recently graduated from the University of British Columbia where she earned a double major in English Literature and History, and a minor is Asian Canadian Asian Migration Studies (ACAM). Her latest project, in collaboration with Centre A Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, SFU’s David Lam Centre, and SFU’s Centre for the Humanities, was the premiere of Trinh T. Minh-ha’s latest film, Forgetting Vietnam (2016).” (emailed press release)


Curators and dealers still can’t agree on what to do about Canada’s art laws. A court ruling in June interpreted the Cultural Property Export and Import Act differently than it had been interpreted in the past, resulting in a holdup on art donations to museums (due to uncertainty around tax incentive rulings) and a freer pass for certain art exports. A panel at Art Toronto recently highlighted continued conflict about what to do next, and its impact on both donations and the art market. (Canadian Art)