"Femme au Chapeau Noir"
Jean Paul Lemieux, "Femme au Chapeau Noir," 1956, oil on canvas, 50" x 19.5". Photo courtesy of Mira Godard Gallery.
TORONTO INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR
Toronto Convention Centre
November 3 — 7, 2005
By Douglas MacLean
At the centre of Canada — and jokingly at the centre of the universe — Toronto is the only Canadian city that can support an event of the size and scope of the Toronto International Art Fair. For a fair to thrive, critical mass is essential, but so are its location and dates. Moving the fair into the bowels of the Toronto Convention Centre this year was a negative. Changing its timing to dates when other important international art fairs were being held was a double negative. Nevertheless, an estimated 1,200 people attended opening night. Over the next four days, however, attendance was somewhat thin and, although a few booths sold out, sales in general were less than remarkable.
After descending three escalators down into the TIAF exhibition centre, viewers were greeted by a fabulous series of multi-media installations presented by INTERACTIVE 05. These video, sound, electronic, and live projects, curated by Clara Hargittay and Thom Sokoloski, were indeed "the culture of our future today." Inside the exhibition area, Catriona Jeffries showcased Geoffrey Farmer, who also had an installation at the Power Plant Gallery. Jeffries is a veteran of art fairs worldwide and proudly presents her visions, artists and gallery. Next to her booth, Equinox Gallery exhibited great examples of Canadian art history — Jack Shadbolt, Gathie Falk, Gordon Smith — along with the fresh paint of Etienne Zack, the winner of the 2005 RBC Canadian Painting Competition.
A group of fifteen galleries from Montreal presented examples of senior photo-based artists, such as Genevieve Cadieux (Galerie René Blouin), as well as new sculpture by John Latour (Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain). To see the strength of this work from Quebec was a valuable experience.
The only Calgary gallery to appear consistently at TIAF has been Trépanier Baer. This year they featured stunning new work by Christian Eckart. Glossed with very bright colour, his trademark fastidious metal surface was more sculptural than in previous works and very exciting to see. They also brought along Chris Millar, my favourite new painter from the 2005 Alberta Biennial, and some great new soft sculptures from Luanne Martineau.
Other memorable stops amongst the Canadian booths included Miriam Shiell Fine Arts, which showed a Milton Avery, a Sam Francis to die for, and a huge, incredible Riopelle. Mira Godard, as usual, pulled out all the stops, showing recent paintings by Christopher Pratt, Tim Zuck, Stephen Hutchings and a wonderful J. P. Lemieux.
The Douglas Udell Gallery, of Edmonton, Vancouver, and soon in Calgary, had a new work from Dean Drever that bluntly asked questions of "art" and "buying," as well as a great small painting by Natalka Husar that brought me back to the booth several times (luckily, it sold to someone else!). Nicholas Metivier Gallery exhibited John Hartman's latest work in his Rivers/Cities series, some John Scott drawings, and an outstanding new work by Joanne Tod.
Always bringing an intriguing selection of work to TIAF, the Ingram Gallery showed a strong representation of figurative art by Barker Fairley, Rachel Berman, and Brian Burke. At Jane Corkin's booth I was thrilled to see Iain Baxter's light box, Wallace Neon (1967-2002), and a vintage Barbara Astman from her RED series.
Last but definitely not least, the contemporary glass shown by Sandra Ainslie Gallery highlighted the astounding new directions this medum is taking.
From outside Canada, New York's Praxis Gallery presented a standout display of tough but beautiful work by Ignacio Iturria (who also had a simultaneous exhibition at the Power Plant curated by Wayne Baerwaldt). A European gallery that caught my attention was Gallerie Lausberg from Dusseldorf which showed very hip, extreme colour paintings. China Rising, an outstanding installation of contemporary art, was the most compelling view of Asian art today.
The opportunity at TIAF to see all these new works emphasizes why it is so important to attend art fairs to keep up to date on what's being done across the country and around the world.