While the avant-garde claims the Queen Street West gallery district as its own, the big guns of the Toronto art scene reside in the Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood. A three-block district that runs the genre gamut, from renowned Native Art to contemporary sculpture, this area has anchored the commercial art market in Canada since the early 1970s—it also shares space with some of Toronto’s toniest boutiques, spas, salons and restaurants. Indulge your aesthetic sense and catch a glimpse of some great works with a tour through this distinguished community.
START at Kinsman Robinson Galleries with a spectacular show of sculpture, low relief wall-works and silkscreen prints by esteemed Haida artist Robert Davidson of British Columbia. Famed for transforming traditional motifs into elegant, modern pieces, the influential artist’s reputation has grown even more lustrous as a result of a major travelling exhibition of his work now concluding at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
A FEW DOORS TO THE WEST, The Guild Shop offers fine craft, First Nations art and one-of-a-kind gifts. The Ontario Crafts Council’s retail shop, this boutique-style venue is the place to go for jewellery, metalwork and glass, wood, leather and textile art by artists from all over Ontario, a vast and diverse territory that includes the sub-Arctic. Artist Julie Moon’s ceramic sculptures of clenched fists decorated with a tattoo-like pattern are one of the highlights of the group exhibit Forms and Figures, which runs from May 5 to 31.
TURN ONTO OLD YORK LANE, a connecting laneway to Yorkville Avenue, where the venerable Hollander York Gallery specializes in paintings—particularly landscapes—by Canadian artists from coast to coast. You can’t miss the space: a trio of three chubby bronze Graces frolic on the gallery front steps, courtesy of sculptor Rose-Aimee Belanger. British-born W.H. Webb shows his high-realist paintings of the western foothills and rugged Rocky Mountain landscapes to May 7. The exuberantly patterned figure paintings of Karen Rieger appear from May 12 to 28.MAKE YOUR WAY TO HAZELTON AVENUE to Gallery Gevik, a two-level gallery that houses abstract and figurative paintings, along with bronze sculptures and First Nations stone-carvings. To May 10, see the late Carol Wald’s haunting oil paintings, in which children dressed in styles from the 1930s are the central subjects.
Feheley Fine Arts, Canada’s premiere gallery for contemporary Inuit art, presents Images from Baker Lake, an exhibit that features more than fifty original graphic works by ten artists hailing from this remote northern community on the south-western shore of Hudson’s Bay. Janet Kigusiuq evokes the symbiotic relationship between humans and animals in a hunting culture; drawings by Simon Tookoome and Irene Avaalaaqiaq are also standouts. The show runs to May 26.
A respected source of representational Canadian painting, including works by members of the seminal Group of Seven, Loch Gallery also makes space for a selection of sculptures in bronze or mixed media. Leon Belsky’s series—nobody paints fruit with quite the hyperrealist intensity of the artist whose oversize lemons and plums appear lit from within—is on view to May 16. From May 19 to 31, see A Selection of New Paintings by eight gallery artists including Ciba Karisik and Carol Stewart.
HEAD EAST ON SCOLLARD STREET to check out Drabinsky Gallery, an important venue for edgier painting and innovative photo-based art works. It’s also where wildly talented artist Balint Zsako shows photographs of his deadpan line drawings of enigmatic figures in arcane situations, from May 5 to 31.
A few doors over, Beckett Fine Art exhibits contemporary painting from Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan. Portraits by Travis Shilling are standouts among the offerings, as are the shimmering imaginary landscapes of Kotaro Migishi.
Maslak-McLeod Gallery features works from Woodland, Inuit, Plains and Maritime Native artists. See innovative stone-carved sculptures by some of the scene’s bright lights, including Ovilu Tunili, Joseph Jacobs and Kiawak Ashoona.
Across the street at Gallery One, Rob Fiocca, Dean Rowan, Jim Norton and Steve Krug show photographs from their recent trip to Iceland. According to the quartet, as they explored the island’s volcanic topography, a feeling of peace descended upon them. Their epiphanies are presented as colour giclée prints from May 5 to 29.RETRACE YOUR STEPS BACK TO HAZELTON AVENUE and proceed north on Hazelton to Davenport Road, home to Odon Wagner Gallery and Odon Wagner Contemporary . It’s a seven-minute walk on a charming residential street lined with historic homes. With an old-world elegance, Odon Wagner Gallery specializes in museum-quality 18th- and 19th-century European painting, as well as recent Chinese portraiture. Combine that with the gallery’s first-rate appraisal service and on-site art conservation studio, and you’ve got one of Toronto’s fine art heavyweights. The satellite, Odon Wagner Contemporary, is a three-storey gallery devoted to contemporary art such as the mysterious dark houses painted by American artist Treacy Ziegler, on show from May 4 to 26.
HEAD BACK SOUTH ON AVENUE ROAD Head back south on Avenue Road to Ingram Gallery. Last but decidedly not least, Ingram Gallery boasts a keen staff and a wide range of quality art in two adjoining galleries. The historic gallery features earlier 20th-century Canadian painting, prints and sculpture plus folk art, along with comfy chairs and an art history reference library. From May 3 to 24, the contemporary space features Deep Space, Brian Burke’s hallucinatory paintings of anomalies such as a disconnected bridge, an oncoming comet and a levitating carnival clown.
FINISH By now you’ll need to rest your feet! Head further on Avenue Road back to Cumberland Street to the Village of Yorkville Park. This elegant oasis celebrates the history of the site—a row of Victorian brownstones once lined Cumberland Street’s south end. In homage to the Victorian style of collecting, the park displays the Ontario landscape in miniature, including a birch grove and a pine forest, a marsh and a rock outcrop. Surrounded by these symbols of nature’s art, you may just be compelled to return to one of the nearby galleries to make that one-of-a-kind artwork you’re still thinking about your very own.
TIP! A free guided tour of Yorkville galleries is offered on the first Thursday evening of every month. Groups depart at 6:30 p.m. from the lower level of Hazelton Lanes. For details, call 416-966-2991.
A novice to the art world? To learn how to get your collection started, see 10 Tips to Collect Art With Confidence.
WEB EXCLUSIVE! For information on the city’s extensive gallery offerings, see 10 Gallery Destinations.—Betty Ann Jordan