Latest Toronto Biennial of Art News
Sep 15, 2019
. The 10-week exhibition expects to welcome over 400,000 guests to its multiple locations throughout the city. With over 20 new commissions, the Biennial–all of which is free to the public–will feature more than 100 works of art as well as a robust schedule of programming covering a wide array of subjects. More than 70 local and international programs participants will lead talks, workshops, and performances that intersect and extend ideas emerging from the 2019 Biennial’s central question: “What does it mean to be in relation?” That question takes on heightened importance in Toronto, home to over 250 ethnicities with over half its population born outside of Canada. It also provides a challenge to the event’s organizers. In one of the world’s most globally enhanced cities, how do you stage a biennial that both accurately portrays that broad diversity while honoring its Canadian roots? “We took our time to do the hard work to create a model that would feel deeply connected to Toronto and Canada, but also one that would excite internationally,” Patrizia Libralato, one of the Biennial’s founders and its executive director, said. 'Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home, OGR Torino 2018. 'Project by: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian With the participation of: Francesco Fassone, Joan Baixas, John Cole, Roberto Luttino, and NiyazAzadikhah with Photo by Andrea Rossetti, Courtesy of OGR Torino and the artists. The Toronto Biennial will host over 90 participating artists from more than 40 countries around the globe including Brazil, Guatemala, Iran, Thailand, Turkey and the United States, as well as First Nations and Inuit communities. More than half of the Biennial’s participants are black, Indigenous and people of color, honoring the Biennial’s commitment to expose a multiplicity of perspectives. “There are many eyes on Toronto, which makes this an ideal time to invite local and international visitors to experience a biennial that is relevant to this place while responding to today’s many pressing global issues,” Libralato said. Doing so wouldn’t be possible without a deep and wide network of partnerships which the Biennial has carefully fostered. “The Toronto Biennial was built on the idea of partnerships,” Libralato said. More than a dozen galleries, international arts organizations from Liverpool to New Orleans, a handful of artist-run spaces, five colleges and universities, public spaces across town as well as city governments have come together to launch the event. Impressive buy-in for a debut. What attendees will see comes as the result of years of planning. “It has been a five-year journey to get here, commissioning and producing, including both local and international voices–a feasibility study, an education strategy, a fund development plan, a marketing plan, a curatorial framework and the Toronto Indigenous Context Brief,” Libralato said. “All of this work was necessary in order for us to convince partners and funders that what we were building was going to be what this city and its art sector needed.” Dana Claxton, ‘Headdress-Dana,’ 2019. Image courtesy of the artist. Currently, over 250 biennials are staged around the world, the majority of which are institutional, such as the Whitney Biennial in New York . Only six independent, city-based biennials exist in North America. With no other visual arts events of this scale and ambition in Canada, organizers believe this has the potential to become an international beacon and distinguish itself as North America’s landmark visual arts event, positioning Toronto even more decisively as an global arts leader. “Our international Biennial is grounded in Toronto as a reference point,” Libralato said. “We are thus collaborating with partners to amplify the inspiring work that is already being done and to create a platform for a more collective approach to collaborating with artists, exhibition-making, programming, and audience-building.” A majority of the Biennial’s programming takes place along Toronto’s waterfront, a location holding particular significance within the host city. “For the most part, the city has turned its back to (Lake Ontario)–we are literally cut off from it by a freeway, train tracks, and private developments,” Libralato said. “In recent years, there’s been a turn towards ‘renaturalizing’ the waterfront, bringing some of the natural habitat back as development continues.” That movement has been 20 years in the making. In October 2000, the Government of Canada, Province of Ontario, and City of Toronto each contributed $500 million to formally launch the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Initiative. A 25-year mandate was issued calling for the transformation of 2,000 acres of brownfield lands on the waterfront into green, sustainable, mixed-use communities and dynamic public spaces. Toronto’s waterfront represents North America’s largest urban renewal project. TORONTO, ON- JUNE 24 - Construction cranes along Queens Quay to the west of the Quayside site. Sidewalk Labs unveiled a conceptual scale model of the Quayside development, all the buildings will be tall timber buildings with the tallest at 35 Toronto Star via Getty Images “The waterfront is an ideal place for us to start given this context,” Libralato said. “The amount of development going on allowed our partner, Waterfront Toronto , to provide us a vacant, 42,000 square foot ex-car dealership in the downtown core, which has been repurposed as one of our main exhibition spaces.” The Biennial’s question of “relation,” refers not only to personal relationships, but our relationship to the land. Toronto’s relation to its waterfront. Biennial curators Candice Hopkins and Tairone Bastien forward the notion of a “Shoreline Dilemma” in their curatorial statement, which closes with this passage, “Toronto’s inaugural Biennial embraces the unquantifiable, fugitive and unknowable, and like the shoreline, resists the systems that seek to discipline and control.” If everything goes according to plan, the Biennial will impact its host city well beyond the December 1st closing date. “We are working to grow and nourish exchanges with artists and arts organizations beyond Toronto–within Canada and abroad–as we establish deep, meaningful relationships that will contribute to the vitality of Toronto’s arts and culture scene for many years to come,” Libralato said. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn .Check out my website .