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10 Museum Shows for a Cultured Spring



Abbas Kiarostami’s exhibition, Doors Without Keys, continues at the Aga Khan Museum through to March 20 (photo: Craig Moy)

The permanent collections at Toronto’s major cultural institutions are always worth exploring, but this season their limited-run shows are also very compelling. From two distinct displays of doors to an anthropological examination of tattoo art, there’s something for everyone at these unique new museum shows.

TO MARCH 20 The world’s longest-running nature photography contest and exhibition, the Natural History Museum in London’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year is currently on dynamic display at the Royal Ontario Museum. The winning images, selected from tens of thousands of submissions, depict everything from a battle between two komodo dragons to the variety of life in the African savannah.

TO MARCH 27 Doors Without Keys, a world-premiere exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum, presents life-size images of closed doors shot over the course of 20 years by acclaimed Iranian filmmaker and artist Abbas Kiarostami. Beguilingly arranged as a quasi labyrinth, the doors are superficially beautiful, but great mystery lies behind them.

TO MAY 21 At the Museum of Inuit Art, a showcase of recent sculptures by renowned carver Abraham Anghik Ruben reveals the mythological and cultural connections between North America’s Inuit peoples and the Viking Norse.


Ancient gold and ceramic artifacts from Central America are on display at the Gardiner Museum (photos: Gardiner Museum)

TO JULY 17 A second set of doors can be found at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Chinese artist Song Dong’s Communal Courtyard features 100 vintage wardrobe doors, set up to reflect the communal living spaces traditionally found in China’s largest cities. Beginning at the end of March, the exhibition will also host five three-week-long interventions by Toronto artists, offering new perspectives on the installation and its themes.

FEBRUARY 6 TO JUNE 26 The Aga Khan Museum continues its nascent efforts to juxtapose the past and present with A City Transformed: Images of Istanbul Then and Now. By matching historical pictures of the Turkish capital with contemporary works by photographer Murat Germen, the exhibition aims to tell the story of a metropolis that has witnessed centuries of political, economic, social and cultural upheaval.

STARTS FEBRUARY 10 Drawing from its extensive collection, the Bata Shoe Museum’s latest display examines the technological ingenuity and delicate artistry of traditional Arctic footwear. In turn, these unique artifacts—kamiks from Greenland, reindeer boots from Siberia, and much more—reveal the idiosyncrasies of the world’s northern cultures.

FEBRUARY 18 TO MAY 29 The Gardiner Museum looks back—to the ancient world, but also to the 1940s—in an exhibition focusing on a thousand-year-old Panamanian burial ground and its mid-20th century excavation. Featuring splendidly preserved gold, ivory, bone and ceramic artifacts, the show draws a sophisticated portrait of the Coclé people of Precolumbian Central America.


Christ Belcourt’s colourful So Much Depends Upon Who Holds the Shovel is part of the Textile Museum of Canada’s Eutopia exhibition

FEBRUARY 24 TO MAY 29 Combining pieces from the Textile Museum of Canada’s vast collection with more recently produced works by Canadian artists, Eutopia colourfully explores the connection between the fibre arts and grassroots socio-political activism.

MARCH 12 TO MAY 29 The works of iconoclastic mid-20th century American photographers and film artists—like Diane Arbus and D.A. Pennebaker—depict a country in turmoil at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

STARTS APRIL 2 The evolution of tattooing—from ancient tribal practice to semi-subversive subculture to mainstream phenomenon—is on full display this spring at the ROM. Imported from Paris’s musée du quai Branly, the exhibition Tattoos: Ritual. Identity. Obsession. Art. presents a visual history of body art, offering insights into its symbols and meanings, and its rise to prominence in the contemporary world.

—Craig Moy

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