Tradition and Innovation Bolster Growing Canadian Art Mecca. (City Beat Toronto)

By Hart, Jane | Art Business News, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Tradition and Innovation Bolster Growing Canadian Art Mecca. (City Beat Toronto)


Hart, Jane, Art Business News


Toronto, with its cosmopolitan presence, is an obvious departure from the "usual" Canadian landscape. In the midst of a largely unoccupied Canadian landmass, Toronto juts up from the wilderness with its skyscrapers, apartment buildings, shopping destinations, restaurants, museums and art galleries. Toronto's impressive and attractive cityscape boasts almost 2.5 million residents, half of whom are immigrants from more than 100 different countries. Not unexpectedly, the city's art scene is as diverse as its population. It boasts an expanding variety of galleries and a noted emerging younger population of both artists and art consumers.

"Canadian Art"

When one speaks of "Canadian art" images of the Canadian landscape and/or native or Inuit art may come to mind. Landscape art as Canadian art is an image that is in large part influenced by the famous "Group of Seven," Canadian landscape painters who lived and worked from the 1920s to the 1960s. Carlie Edward, gallery director for the Envers Chapin Gallery, commented, "Art from the Group of Seven is, to this day, what people think of as `Canadian art,' with the Canadian landscape depicted in an Impressionistic style," But according to Edward, the actual Toronto art market is not reflective of nor limited by that view of Canadian art.

"Many people still look at a fall or winter landscape or a wildlife painting and say `this is Canadian art,'" she said. But Edward said there is no "one look" of Canadian art, and Canadian art is as diverse as its population. "Toronto is so diverse in its culture, so the nice thing about Canadian art is just how diverse it is," said Edward. "We actually don't have a clear identity. People are open minded to the multi-cultural influence, and art correlates with immigration and the people who have settled here."

Located in the King West District of Toronto, the Envers Chapin Gallery is four years old and approximately 3,000 square feet in size. Its art typically sells from $1,000 to $6,000 to what Edward calls "a younger client" who is interested in "originals."

Demetra Christakos, executive director of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries, commented that the Internet has opened the opportunity for young people to see beyond Canada into the "whole world" and to find out what is happening internationally. "The Internet increases their exposure to all kinds of things that are going on in art," said Christakos. Still, Christakos believes all young Canadian artists respond to the legacy of that which has traditionally been considered "Canadian art."

Flourishing Art Scene

Located on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto is touted as the fifth-largest city region in North America and appears to be growing. "We are undergoing a period of population growth in Ontario which is due to immigration," said Christakos. As a result, new cities and communities are cropping up, and with them, so are art galleries and gallery projects, according to Christakos. With this new growth, more artist collaboratives, co-ops and experimental projects are being seen, and Canadian youth are responding to these opportunities.

Michael Havers, president of Progressive Editions Ltd., a Toronto-based publishing company, said the Toronto business climate is good for selling art. …

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