Spend a gallery weekend in Toronto and discover art in the city in a new way

Sasha Pierce’s Shippo opening reception at the Zlucky Contemporary Gallery. (Contemporary Zalucky Gallery)

Gallery Weekend Toronto began last year with the aim of bringing people back to Toronto’s commercial art galleries after an extended closure. It included artist talks and guided tours and on-site gallery owners to help speak to the crowds through the exhibits. This is an idea that had succeeded in other cities, including Berlin and Paris.

“I think to everyone’s surprise it was a huge success,” says Juliana Zalucky of the Zalucky Contemporary Gallery, who was part of a group of gallerists who came up with the idea of ​​organizing a weekend of gallery in the city. “I think overall the event drew around 5,000 visitors. There seemed to be a lot of excitement to get out there, experience the city again and get people to engage with art in an interactive way. and meaningful.”

This year it’s back, with more galleries — it’s gone from 22 to 26 — and with the goal of bringing in people who don’t usually frequent smaller galleries in Toronto.

“I think there is no secret [Toronto] has this amazing visual art scene,” adds Zalucky. “I mainly talk about big institutions and even street art. But I don’t think many people in the city are aware of the network of independent art galleries, specifically dedicated to contemporary art. They do really interesting programming and access to these spaces is free and open to the public.”

Gray felt objects, including a tent and traffic cones.  In the background, colorful felt panels, reading
Maria Hupfield’s Protocol Break exhibition at the Patel Brown Gallery in Toronto. (Darren Rigo)

Maria Hupfield’s Protocol Break exhibition will be at the Patel Brown Gallery as part of Gallery Weekend. She will also give a talk at the gallery on September 24.

Hupfield credits her Anishnaabe heritage with influencing her approach to art – she is a member of the Wasauksing First Nation.

“I look at these other older, more sustainable manufacturing practices that are really informed by my past,” she says. “And this sense that connects us to movement, to ceremony, to land and to place. So I really think of art as living and connecting things.”

Hupfield is a transdisciplinary artist, whose work often includes both performance and visual art, and this is something difficult to recreate virtually.

“I love this freedom and release that comes from performance art,” she says. “So I make an object and often activate it in my performance, or I can give it to someone else who then plays with it. I really think art is alive and other people [present] is part of.”

A kitchen table-style chair, in gray felt, slumped on the floor
A felt chair, part of Maria Hupfield’s “Protocol Break” exhibition at the Patel Brown Gallery in Toronto. (Darren Rigo)

Protocol Break features, among other things, everyday objects that Hupfield made out of felt, including a chair, a telephone, and a traffic cone. She says her time indoors during the pandemic inspired the pieces

“I made a felt chair because I was like, ‘Oh, I’m so sitting in a chair. Like, I become a chair. Like, my life revolves around a chair,'” she says. “So I work with felt, so there’s a felt chair, and then there’s also a series of photos of that chair in different iterations on the wall.”

Hupfield adds that, more than anything, she looks forward to seeing people react to her work.

“I love seeing kids come in, or the unsuspecting public, because everyone has a very honest reaction to the art,” she says. “I feel like it’s genuine. It’s a truth.”

A gray felt depiction of an old fashioned rotary telephone, with the receiver off the hook
Part of Maria Hupfield’s Protocol Break exhibition at the Patel Brown Gallery in Toronto. (Darren Rigo)

For her part, Zalucky says what excites her most is showing off the breadth of shopping malls in Toronto. She points out that Gallery Weekend features both galleries that have been in operation for decades and DIY spaces that started during the pandemic. Zalucky says attracting more people to these smaller galleries is what will help the city’s art scene grow and evolve.

“Canada has a very strong grant program to help artists at various stages of their careers,” she says. “But public funding can’t do all the work on its own. What’s really needed in a thriving arts ecosystem is an equally robust art market, where artists can live off the sale of their works. And that’s what commercial galleries are going to do.”

Gallery Weekend Toronto runs from September 22-25.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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