By John Geddes - Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 0 Comments
At 83, the innovative Canadian art icon is fine-tuning his latest project: a 65-storey light show
Michael Snow is standing on the edge of In the Way, his new video installation at the National Gallery of Canada, looking down at it and chuckling with pleasure. A projector on the ceiling beams a 23-minute video onto the ﬂoor. The ground rushes by at close range—mud and puddles for a while, then grass studded with flowers, then pebbles. Snow created the video by driving over cottage roads with a camera mounted on the back of a truck, aimed down. Both the speed and the direction of the movement change every so often. As if afraid they’ll fall in, gallery visitors passing by skirt the action on the floor carefully, a reaction Snow seems to relish. He also likes the sheer look of it. “These rocks,” he exclaims at a point when the terrain switches from grass to rough ground. “I really like these rocks.”
Snow, 83, was in Ottawa last week for the opening of Builders, a new show of about 100 works by contemporary Canadian artists the gallery has bought during the past two years that is intended to draw attention to artists who have helped establish the art scene. “I can’t think of a bigger builder than Michael Snow,” says curator Jonathan Shaughnessy. “He’s a model for Canadian artists, constantly innovating.” Indeed, Snow has painted and sculpted, photographed, filmed and videotaped and played experimental music for about six decades. Venerable as he is, he’s never been more relevant than he is now: sometime within the next few weeks, Snow’s most inescapable public piece will debut on the downtown Toronto skyline.
This latest audacity is a narrow strip of LED lights, programmed to do his bidding, that runs up 65 storeys of the new Trump Tower. He worked for two years with computer programmers from Edinburgh to create the permanent installation, an array of white-light effects that will play every night. “There are some that use rhythms,” he says. “A very simple one that’s very effective is a waltz. It’s like 40 storeys go boomp, and then the 20 storeys above it go boomp-boomp. So the building waltzes. And there are many things more complicated than that, like snow and rain effects.” Snow expects it to be activated in the next few weeks, after some technical kinks are ironed out. He and his collaborators have already tested it while watching from a nearby 30th-floor hotel room. “It’s not oppressive,” he promises. “But you will not be able to miss it.”
In his hometown of Toronto at least, Snow has long been hard to miss. His monumental sculptures of fans greet real crowds at the entrances to the Rogers Centre. His iconic flock of life-size Canada geese still cause shoppers visiting the Eaton Centre to crane their necks for a better look. But his popular impact hasn’t come at the expense of his reputation among art-world insiders. Last year he had shows in Paris, New York and Istanbul. A retrospective of his abstract sculpture at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto wraps up next month. A survey of his photography is slated for next year at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Asked how he finds the time to work on new pieces, he laughs and says, “I make art hardly at all. What I do is email and travel.”
By Sara Angel - Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
McMichael celebrates the return of Canada’s most celebrated landscape painters
Twenty-two years ago when Katerina Atanassova left Bulgaria to study medieval art at the University of Toronto, she had never heard of the Group of Seven. The last thing she imagined is that she would rise to the top rank of this country’s art professionals as chief curator at the McMichael, a gallery in Kleinburg, Ont. that houses a one-of-a-kind Canadian art collection, and play a key role in an elaborate three-year-long operation to galvanize support for historical Canadian art—one whose final component she will unveil next week.
When Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven opens November 3 at the McMichael, the final stop of a four-museum tour, including London and Oslo, Atanassova hopes to see history repeat itself. Her plan is based on an experience of the Group of Seven’s, back in the early twenties. Then, the newly formed school of landscape painters, had little appeal in conservative Toronto says Atanassova. “Their colours were too sharp and people found their style too bold, too expressive, even aggressive.”
Things changed when the painters went abroad and showed their work at a prestigious exhibition in Wembley, England from 1924-25. Their art, hung alongside works by internationally prominent painters, was celebrated with great fanfare. When the group returned home, they were welcomed as heroes. “It was almost like they needed that recognition abroad first so that we could recognize them in Canada,” says Atanassova.
By Elio Iannacci - Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 9:10 AM - 0 Comments
Toronto may be his home, but all the art world is Faria’s playground
It’s 6 p.m. on a Thursday night in September on a residential street in Toronto’s west end. The sound of clattering pots punctuates the air up and down the row of houses as families prepare for supper. But near the end of the street, in front of what used to be a mechanic’s garage, a motley crew of art groupies, design junkies and clued-in curators, collectors and critics is lining up outside the Daniel Faria Gallery to see works by Canadian mega-artist Douglas Coupland. The exhibition features 100 canvases the size of record albums carrying slogans such as “A fully linked world no longer needs a middle class.”
The owner, a 36-year-old dealer and gallerist, burst onto the scene when he opened the space last October, showing B.C.-born Shannon Bool, now based in Berlin, and then Toronto photographer Chris Curreri and his Mapplethorpe-ian collection of bodybuilder portraits. A recent New York Times story anointed Faria a “Toronto tastemaker,” which immediately filled his inbox with CVs from artists all over the world who wanted him to represent them.
“Some of my mornings are now consumed by clicking onto websites and opening jpegs from all these great talents,” says Faria, whose own resumé includes the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and a decade with Monte Clark in Toronto. “I feel like I have to go through them all so I don’t overlook anything exceptional that comes my way.”
His roster, which includes Hamilton filmmaker Mark Lewis, Canada’s representative at the 2009 Venice Biennale, benefits from Faria’s connections with international collectors. That’s why Douglas Coupland—who Faria credits for encouraging his entrepreneurship—signed on.
“I met Daniel 3,000 years ago when he was serving drinks at an art opening,” Coupland says over the phone from Vancouver. “I could tell back then that he was soaking in everything and figuring out how it all works. A good dealer needs to have specific skills—I think Daniel understands that 40 per cent of the job is matchmaking, finding the right artist for the right person. Another 40 per cent of it is about being institutionally engaged, 10 per cent of it is diplomacy,” Coupland says, pausing to relate how Faria delicately told him to revisit some of his pieces. “The other 10 per cent is important too. It’s about throwing really good exhibit openings. Luckily Dan’s hyper-social.”
Part of Faria’s allure—aside from his suave salt-and-pepper hair, tailored jackets and daytime-drama looks—is his social network. He proudly talks up friends as if they were clients: singing the praises of fashion designer Jeremy Laing and that of his former housemate, musician-singer Fritz Helder (who leads a Toronto-based electronic music quartet called Azari & III), as well the Canadian Opera Company and the Power Plant, two art institutions where he regularly serves on committees.
“This job is not about social climbing—it’s about building connections with other communities,” says Faria. “As a gallerist, I’m always trying to promote the business and the artists that I work with. The more people that I meet and who get to know me will come through to the gallery and then it becomes a really cool place. My primary goal is to work with artists that I completely believe in and promote their work to curators, sell their work to collectors, and be part of the process.” Another of Faria’s artists, New York-based painter Kristine Moran, insists there is more to him than hot type and cool guests.
“He’s ambitious and has made the art scene in Toronto cross over into other countries by putting himself out there,” says Moran, whose new solo show, Between Life and Death, opens Oct. 26. The Montreal-born artist says Faria’s presence at Miami Beach’s Art Basel and Germany’s Documenta has made him an ambassador for the Canadian art scene. “I can’t tell you how many times I meet artists from around New York or Europe who don’t know that he represents me, and they end up telling me about this Canadian guy they met at an art fair who impressed them . . . It always happens to be Daniel.”
By Marc Mayer - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 10:40 AM - 17 Comments
The capital of Manitoba (not T.O. or Montreal) has Canada’s second-hottest art scene
One of Canada’s more fascinating cultural features is the spectacular international success of the Vancouver art scene. But that’s old news. More surprising is Canada’s No. 2 spot. It belongs neither to Toronto nor Montreal, but to Winnipeg. These days, when foreign art lovers talk about Canadian art, they generally mean western Canadian art.
The success of the Winnipeg scene is hard to explain because it’s exceptional in so many ways. For example, as a rule, the biggest cities harbour the liveliest vanguard art communities: New York, London, Paris, Berlin…So what’s the deal with Winnipeg?
The capital of Manitoba is known for being rough around the edges and yet, art-wise, you couldn’t call it disadvantaged. For starters, the University of Manitoba runs a decent school of art (est.1913); then there’s the Winnipeg Art Gallery, a centenary art museum now new and improved; and Plug In, a one-time artist-run centre now pushing 40, just morphed into an Institute of Contemporary Art with fancy new digs. There’s also Border Crossings, a classy art magazine that keeps a sharp eye on the home front.
By John Geddes - Monday, November 8, 2010 at 2:58 PM - 6 Comments
The National Gallery of Canada has just opened a show of recent Canadian acquisitions, filling exhibition space last occupied by the summer blockbuster Pop Life, the Tate Modern’s survey of how the art of Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, to list the big names, plays off celebrity and consumerism—in other words, sex and money.
As I made my way through It Is What It Is, a selection of 82 works by 57 Canadian artists bought by the Ottawa gallery over the past two years, Pop Life kept popping back into my mind. It’s not that I saw much evidence of direct influence. On the contrary, what struck me was the absence in the new work of anything that looks beholden to those global art brands.