Happy New Year!

A wonderful start to 2016 with my article Man-Made America published in DC Modern Luxury Magazine, featuring the amazingly talented Trevor Young’s solo show at Addison/Ripley Fine Art and not to mention, an exclusive Q&A with Dr. Tuliza Fleming from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture … read on!

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State of the Art: Canadian Auctions Round-Up

As the bright spotlight dimmed on yet another fascinating New York auction cycle — last week’s focused turned north, to the Canadian auction sales, where Heffel and Waddington’s hosted their Fall sales. Far from the $2.4 billion USD worth of artwork sold in the Big Apple in early November, the much smaller Canadian auction market is growing in strength with a record two days of sales. Heffel, whose total auction sales topped a Canadian auction house record of $23.4m CAD–celebrated its 20th anniversary (coming a long way from just over $1m worth of sales in its inaugural auction). It will come as no surprise that the stars of the show were embedded deep in Canadian art’s historical past, notably the Group of Seven master #Lawren #Harris (the three works on the auction block at Heffel sold for a total of a cool $9.5m CAD). It appears that the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles’ exhibition, “The Idea of the North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris” (that will also be making a stop at the AGO this July, mark your calendars!), broadening the artist and Group’s reach beyond our domestic borders has had a positive impact upon the market. It would be interested to know the buyers’ nationalities (did Americans leave their Thanksgiving tables to make a bid or perhaps was it Chinese billionaire Liu Yiquian, who purchased Modigliani’s “Nu Couché” for $170m USD?). This would be fascinating information to have as to whether Harris’s following is becoming global in nature due to his proliferation across the border.

The majority of the pieces sold at both Heffel auctions blew past high estimates, including a Bess Harris piece “Day’s End” that sold for over 10 times(!) its estimate price, which does leave one to ponder whether the estimates were cautiously and conservatively selected. While the Canadian market for historical & modern works by Canadian artists remains strong and continues to gain strength, I cannot help but wish there was a larger inclusiveness of contemporary artists (no matter how you define this term, either non-traditional artwork created after 1980 or by living artists. Waddington’s Concrete Contemporary auctions do emphasize this pure contemporary focus with bi-annual live and online auctions).  Juxtaposing both older and new works together could be a great platform to help ignite and stimulate the Canadian contemporary secondary market and to promote a younger generation of artists (can we please include artwork by our adopted son, the amazing Peter Doig or the fabulous Julia Dault?). That said, I must tip my hat to Waddington’s for including Kim Dorland’s 2007 piece,”Swimming in the Lake” which sold for $26K (incl. buyer’s premium), an auction record for the artist. When buyers have the opportunity to see the great works by the illustrious Group of Seven and Painters Eleven that are so well-known and loved by Canadians, side-by-side with today’s artists, it helps put newer pieces within the wider art historical canon.

A few highlights from last week’s sales (all prices include buyer’s premium):
Lawren Harris, “Mountain and Glacier” sold for $4.6m CAD (est. $1m – $1.5m)
*Artist Record

Jean Paul Riopelle, “Sans Titre” sold for $1.2m CAD (est. $500K – $700K)

Guido Molinari, “Mutation Rythmique, Rouge-Orange” sold for $248K CAD (est. $100K – $150K)
*Artist Record

William Kurelek, “Our Carolers in Western Canada” sold for $384K CAD (est. $100K – $150K)
*Artist Record

Jack Hamilton Bush, “Low Blue” sold for $129.8K CAD (est. $90K – $120K)

Holly Knows Art.


Toronto Fall Arts Program: TIFF and Must See Art Shows!

As the Toronto International Film Festival (#TIFF40) grips the city – the streets are abuzz with a flurry of activity (justifiably so, cinema related, but also fine art related too). #TO has emerged from a long, quiet summer with a full on fall program that has been exciting and fetching so far! Not to be eclipsed by the shinning stars, glitterati and celebrities on the red carpet – artists in the theatres and in the galleries have proved worthy of praise…and of attention!

With a plethora of openings last week, my top two shows to see:
1. Sandra Meigs solo show All to All at Susan Hobbs Gallery.
Susan Hobbs Gallery has been transformed into a whimsical playground – every inch is covered by the circular motifs that define Meigs’s latest body of artwork. From the vibrant canvases standing proudly on easels that line the hall, to the colourful clusters of paper cutouts on the walls on the ground floor – this exhibition has a contagious energy that cannot be ignored. The stimulation limitless, yet well balanced – leaving viewers with a fun feeling of observing fantastic art (and not complete oversaturation). The hype is amplified by the inclusion of sound art, with clocks and Sandra’s neat noise boxes (circular tins graciously spinning on loop emitting soft rattle like sounds). The second floor offers a slightly different flavour – plexiglass models covered with flowing white and yellow material “dancing” across the floor. Behind them a mural of large bright circles, reminiscent of suns or halos. Transfixing!
Should you be in the Queen St W/Tecumseth St area at 1pm – Sandra performs a regular, daily chau gong…a worthwhile stop during lunch breaks!

Sandra Meigs All to All runs until October 24th


2. Meryl McMaster’s Wanderings at Katzman Contemporary
Young and hot emerging talent, Meryl McMaster is taking the art world by storm on both sides of the border – with a show this summer at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the Native American in New York (which runs until December 11) and an unveiling of her latest works at Katzman this fall…there is no stopping this prodigy! The photographs featured in Wanderings embrace the virtues of identity, nature and performance (a wonderful touch during last week’s opening included a performance art piece by Johannes Zits). McMaster’s pieces have depth and narrative that are instantly mesmerizing – moreover, the quality and details of the photographs are stunning. Printed on watercolour paper – the colours truly pop (and in particular, Night Fragments you believe the lantern is indeed glowing…magical!).

Meryl McMaster Wanderings on show until October 10th


Under the Infinite Sky by Meryl McMaster (archival pigment on watercolour print)

Under the Infinite Sky by Meryl McMaster (archival pigment print on watercolour paper)

And finally, a TIFF review:
#TIFF40’s Wavelengths platform presents films by artists that push the boundaries of the art of cinema – one such movie by Canadian film-maker/photographer Mark Lewis does just that – his feature film, the virtually silent Invention explores the textures of art and architecture of Toronto, Sao Paulo and the Louvre in Paris. Not for the impatient or festival novices, this cinematic experience really tests its audience (to the limit in some scenes!). The movie opens with lingering shots of a nude sculpture, panning in and out – even delicate details of the piece are captured. Then immediately you are transported into the darkness of Canadian winter with a shot of Toronto’s city hall and then to a few other key locations around the city, observing passersby and the daily routines of citizens at a very, very slow pace. Unfortunately, the shots do not capture the beauty of our fair city, but rather a polar vortex of chilly temperatures and snow. Over the course of the movie, varying and novel camera angles are employed making it difficult for viewers not to feel nausea, including a rather lengthy scene of the Louvre’s main hall filmed upside down. As an art connoisseur my favourite scenes (unsurprisingly) were those within the Louvre’s galleries and the stunning cinematography of Winged Victory so elegantly poised at the top of the entrance hall stairs. Part of the excitement of going to galleries (especially at an institution such as the Louvre), I can spend as little or as long in front of pieces, digesting the artwork before me. In this movie, I’m at the mercy of Lewis and his team, who choose the length of time the camera lingers on Neoclassical painter, David’s Oath of the Horatii for example (longer please!). Although beautifully shot in some instances, I can’t piece together the common thread that links these various scenes together into a cohesive narrative. I’m afraid I cannot give Mark Lewis full marks for this one.

Holly Knows Art.

Gallery Gallopin’ – Toronto’s Top Summer Art Shows

With the summer officially upon us, Toronto’s art scene is in full bloom with a range of exciting exhibitions that will have you ditch the patios and head straight to the galleries! Here are my top three picks of Toronto’s hottest shows this season:

I ❤ Paint II at Angell Gallery
June 5 – July 11
Erin Loree‘s Wing It
At Angell Gallery, artist Kim Dorland is back in the role of curator for their latest summer exhibition, entitled I ❤ Paint II–showcasing a wide breadth of talent from the emerging to the established featuring artists from around the globe. The highlights are the effervescent works by newcomer, Toronto-based painter Erin Loree. Her artwork sings to viewers; the beautiful chorus of bright colours, combined with powerful gestural brushwork give her canvases a refined, yet energetic appeal. Erin creates a soft abstraction through her circular and layered markings that dominate the aesthetic of her pieces…they are truly enchanting and worth a visit in person!

Foil by John Eisler at Diaz Contemporary
June 6 – July 11
Keeping with the summer theme of intoxicating colours–is the mesmerizing work by another red hot Canadian talent, John Eisler. His gigantic, sweeping pieces resemble rich geometric tapestries fit for 2015 audiences (further enhanced by their unstretched nature, without the structure of a canvas). Using a variety of shapes (semi-circular and elongated trapezoids etc.) repetitiously executed, Eisler’s paintings take on a collage-like aesthetic that are hypnotic. The defined shapes and the resulting negative spaces intermix to create beautifully balanced compositions.

Rounding off my list is Tropical Blooms, a solo exhibition of artwork by Caroline Larsen at General Hardware Contemporary
June 25 – July 25
Caroline’s stunning painting technique gives way to fascinating textured effects that are cutting-edge and a wonderful play on age old painterly traditions. Who says painting is dead? The weave-like qualities of her work intermingle precision with dexterity. The sumptuous borders created by endless delicate lines (resembling embroidery) outline the lush floral-inspired shapes. Her paintings are a hybrid of the abstract meeting the representational, which really allows your imagination to run wild. The strong textural qualities give Caroline’s artwork a three-dimensional persona, an organic growth that emerges from each and every canvas.

Don’t forget to check out the Luminato Festival (which wraps up this Sunday, June 28!) – the festivities celebrate both the visual & performing arts as well as music with a roster of activities across the city

Holly Knows Art.

#MuseumWeek2015: The Art of the Heist

After watching CNN’s special on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s $500m art heist, that still remains unsolved (anything art-related hitting prime-time TV airwaves gets my full and undivided attention!), got me thinking about some other notable art thefts that have occurred in Canada’s own backyard. Although Randi Kaye’s “special investigation” led me wanting more, I was disappointed the documentary didn’t detail what happens to the art once it went missing; the implication of making the theft public, why even in the unlawful underworld, burglars are hard pressed to find buyers on the black market and does art become a criminal currency for drugs and weapons?

The biggest art heist in Canadian history (which is also sadly, remains unsolved), is the Musée des beaux-arts in Montréal theft from 1972. The armed thieves ran off with a myriad of works, including 18 paintings by French masters, the likes of Daumier, Delacroix, Millet and Corot as well as Evening Landscape of Cottages by Rembrandt (worth $1m at the time and now worth $20m today). The three thieves with the use of a ladder, entered through the skylight, which was only partially armed due to repairs (note: this was equally a problem at the Gardner where individual pieces were not hooked up to an alarm system, apart from Rembrandt ‘s The Storm on the Sea of Galliee to caution viewers they were too close – what about protecting against theft?!). Quebec is the only province in Canada with a specialized art-theft task force.

Artist Sophie Calle (winner of the coveted Turner Prize), in 1991 inspired by the Gardner Museum theft, created Last Seen – a mixture of text vignettes and photographic works compiled from interviews of the Museum’s curators, security guards and conservators of what they remember of the missing pieces. In response to Calle’s series, the Gardner reinstalled the empty frames that once housed the stolen artwork. In 2012, Calle was invited by the Gardner to revisit Last Seen with a new project What Do You See? a compilation of reactions to those void, vacant frames, evoking a sense of emptiness and loss, yet in a way serves to repurpose each missing painting’s memory. Interested in seeing Calle’s work? From February 5th until May 10th, Sophie Calle’s For the Last and First Time will be on display at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, a project that consists of both photographs and films focusing on cognitive images of blind people.

Not all museum thefts are lost causes with unfortunate story endings, where the art disappears forever (shy of the romanticism and Hollywood-esque aura of the Thomas Crown Affair). Interpol estimates that one in five stolen artworks are recovered. In 1994, two JMW Turner paintings were stolen from the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany while on loan from the Tate. Eight years later, the paintings were recovered in a series of events that involved the then Director of Programmes at the Tate, Sandy Nairne and nothing shy of a John le Carré novel – listen to this exceptional podcast, where Nairne shares every twist and turn in recovering Britain’s beloved Turner paintings.

Monet’s the Word – Five to be Sold at Sotheby’s Sale Tonight

One of the mainstays of the auction calendar comes rolling through London this evening;  Sotheby’s has the pleasure of kicking off a week of big auction flurry, beginning with the inaugural Impressionist & Modern sales (fashionably, shortened in the industry to “Imp Mod” sales). The Impressionist & Modern auctions have become the less attractive, older sibling, having seen sale prices overshadowed by their cooler, hip younger sister, Post-War & Contemporary. Once the darling of the auction calendar, Impressionist & Modern sales have taken a hit in recent years, due to the increased popularity of contemporary works that have continued to break auction records and dominate headlines. In the 80s and early 90s, the Imp Mod category was the most expensive at auction, led by the Japanese hunger to acquire such works by prolific masters; van Gogh’s Portrait of Mr. Gachet, sold for $82.5 million in 1990, a world record at the time. However, the tides appear to be turning, buyers/collectors are showing a renewed interest and appetite, especially as museum-quality stock of the style is in limited supply. Last November, Sotheby’s sold $422.1 million of work during their evening sale (a record)–will new records be broken tonight in London?

In the spirit of reaching new heights, will current external economical occurrences hinder the market? The Art Newspaper’s Melanie Gerlis makes an interesting prediction; that falling oil prices will hit the art market harder than Lehman Brothers crash (To be determined…) As the turmoil continues to brew in the Eurozone over Greece’s potential exit while Russia slides into a recession and the Chinese market continues to slow down–will these economic woes bleed into the global art market? The high-end auction world has becoming an increasingly international playground for the ultra-rich, and more recently major players from Middle East and Asia have taken a serious interest. The auction results over the next week will provide an insight into the strength and state of the art market…will the bubble burst??

Sotheby’s Imp Mod sales this evening will be led by the Impressionists’ favorite son, Claude Monet. Five of his pieces will grace the auction block (with a combined estimate of $105 million). Leading the action under the hammer is Monet’s  Le Grand Canal hoping to fetch between 20 – 30 million pounds. My money is on this masterpiece realizing a sale price near the high estimate of 30 million pounds (and may even be purchased by an American seeing as the dollar is gaining strength…a hunch)–we shall see!

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Le Grand Canal by Claude Monet (Photo Courtesy of Sotheby’s)

Gordon Parks: Segregation Story at Nicholas Metivier Gallery

The brilliantly talented and pioneering work of photographer, Gordon Parks is currently on show at Toronto’s Nicholas Metivier Gallery. Gordon Parks Segregation Story captures the intimacy and reality of life for African-Americans in Mobile, Alabama from 1956 (for a Life Magazine assignment)–living a segregated existence in America’s deep south. One still that particularly resonates, displays a “colored waiting line” sign, a sharp and vivid reminder of the US’s dark history of discrimination. The poignancy and power of Parks’s photographs are incredibly moving, each piece harboring its own narrative, while the exhibition as a whole acts as a story book. By capturing snap shots of daily life through photography, Parks unleashes a true, earnest and honest voice that speaks to viewers. Parks’s work still resonates very strongly today and remains relevant to 21st century audiences. A wonderful exhibition, that cannot be missed!

Gordon Parks’s work is also being exhibited across the United States: Back to Fort Scott opening at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on Jan. 17 and Gordon Parks Segregation Story is currently on view at the High Museum of Art Atlanta.

Gordon Parks Segregation Story at the Nicholas Metivier Gallery runs from Jan. 8 until Jan. 31, 2015.