There is no way, I can list all the works and shows I have seen and liked this year in the city. Toronto is bursting at the seams with high quality art and cultural events. I try to scratch the surface just as much as I can and also be content with sense of JOMO (Joy of Missing Out), a term a great colleague introduced to me, instead of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Here is some efforts make a note of top memorable works and shows.
The vibe of Art Toronto 2019 was airy and great this year. This piece from Hernâni Reis Baptista, Portugal won my heart. It is flesh and bruises done with makeup powders. It had a mysterious beauty to it and definitely looked better in flesh!
I was quite taken away but Kröller-Müller Museum, this gem of a museum in a quiet Dutch town of Otterlo, hidden in the serene and studding setting of De Hoge Veluwe National Park.
I had no idea that Kröller-Müller contains the second-largest Van Gogh collection in the world. It is a fascinating story how the vision of one single collector, Helen Kröller-Müller, the first European female collector, brings attention and shines light on Van Gogh’s work. The museum also hosts one of the largest sculpture gardens in Europe. Everything about the experience is special. The unique setting which is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of big cities inspires a sense of calm and reflection that connects you deeper with the works.
Enclosed wheat field with rising sun, 1889 Vincent van Gogh
Composition in colour A, 1917. Piet Mondriaan
Needle Tower, 1968, Kenneth Snelson
Mauritshuis in The Hague is one of my most favourite museums in the world – a quaint and intimate one. This repeat visit just rekindled my love and admiration for the works of the seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish painters and the Dutch Golden Age.
I am absolutely in love with Jan Steen’s paintings of mundane everyday life, the romantic still life paintings, and incredible portraits of the masters, Vermeer and Rembrandt . You can see most of their collection online with high resolution details. It is a treat.
Kitchen Scene with Christ at Emmaus, 1560, Joachim Beuckelaer
Kitchen Interior 1644, David Teniers II
Panorama Mesdag was yet another surprise, delightful discovery of a genre of panoramic paintings that I had never heard of. This is a cylindrical painting of 120 meters with a height of 14 meters by Hendrik Willem Mesdag and it is the oldest 19th century panorama in the world on its original site. It is a 3D experience of the fishing village of Scheveningen. The villages, the sea, the dunes are painted beautifully and augmented by real sandy dunes, rocks, seashells, beach chairs and sounds of the sea. The line between real objects and painting blends and since you are surrounded by the painting it feels like you are in it too. The dome of the structure is transparent so the changing light of the sunshine and the moving clouds change the color of the sky in the painting in the course of the day. They call it an ancient virtual reality and it truly is. Obviously the real experience is surreal and better but you can get a glimpse of it here if you are curious.
Joana Vasconcelos at Kunsthal Rotterdam
Ok, I am a late discoverer of Joana Vasconcelos’s work but now she is my artist crush of the year!
Her installations and their scale are just epic. Her daring, super intelligent, humorous take on gender issues, contradictions in female roles and her approach to social commentary with her art blow my mind. Chandelier made of tampons! Stiletto made of cooking pots! Just wow!
I don’t remember having been this knee deep into seeing art, producing art and making art in such a full cycle and as intense as this year.
I thought it is best to capture these memories at the end of the decade here to remember inspiring experiences and to share with you a snippet of these discoveries.
I closed the year, fulfilled, by creating a new body of work for my new show, quiet vignettes, part of DesignTO Festival. I will tell you more about it soon.
My passion has been, for the past fifteen years, to bring audiences and artists together to share moments of joy, engagement and stimulation that happens through creative exchange. Leading Toronto Outdoor Art Fair continues to be an enriching, intense and rewarding endeavour that fulfills that passion.
This year also unusually was filled with visits to some major art events like the Venice Biennale, Frieze New York , The Other Art Fair and discovery of new museum gems, great exhibitions and performances (a separate post on that will follow). There was no shortage of incredible works of art, old and new, jaw dropping, beautiful, thought provoking as well as works that I wanted to take home with me to keep forever (which we did!).
So here are my selected highlights of 2019 art adventures.
Venice Biennale – May You Live In Interesting Times
Visiting Venice Biennale was one of those bucket-list wishes that came true this summer. Two full days was barely enough to scratch the surface and to take it all in. I feel I missed a lot of important works but still captured some moments that has stayed with me since.
It’s impossible to list everything that inspired me or highlight the works I saw. There is a catalogue for that written by professionals :-). For me, Venice Biennale filled was filled with intellectual, social and political work and most of them required focused attention, reading statements and deep engagement which is hard to achieve when you are visiting with little kids. I was at first overwhelmed by the task of reading about the works for context and thought I won’t get what I need from the experience. However, to my surprise the work descriptions, the curatorial and artist statements were written in such clear, simple and engaging language that made the viewer more curious about the artists and their intent.
I sometimes get weary of reading artist statements that are dense, heavy and intelligent sounding at the expense of making the audience feel unintelligent. If the work is great and connects with my heart that’s ok and I can dig more into it but that’s not often the case. I caught myself trying to read every single statement throughout the show and I even managed to explain them in a simpler language for the little ones and they made their own connections in their own way. The experience was stimulating and inspiring and I left with a great deal of food for thought.
Here are some of the works that has stayed with me.
Carol Bove – I don’t know how many times I went back and looked at Carol Bove’s sculptures!
This is what’s told about her work: The formal syntax of Carol Bove is bends, dents, twists, torques, kinks, crumbles, creases, and other folds that animate the sculptural surface. No wonder why! I love folds and creases 🙂
Mari Katayama’s intricate and invigorating self-portraits just mesmerized me.
Loved this painting of roots of bamboo groves and trees that were entangled with garbage by Handiwirman Saputra and his equally captivating sculptural installation.
One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk by Isuma artist collective atCanada Pavilion is captivating and eye opening. We only got to see 30 minutes of it there but plan to watch it on isuma.tv.
Poland’s pavilion featured a real inside-out aeroplane! “Flight” by Roman Stańczak was an instant hit with the kids! Not sure if that was their target audience but hey get them curious when they are young 🙂