What to see at Art Toronto 2023: your weekend guide to the fair

Preview highlights from Canadian galleries. Plus tours and talks you’ll want to add to your schedule.

Preview highlights from Canadian galleries. Plus tours and talks you’ll want to add to your schedule

People walk the floor at Art Toronto in this photo from the 2022 edition of the fair. The space is white-walled and cavernous. Framed artwork hangs on the walls. In the centre of the image is a cube-shaped structure, its beams painted in bold colours. A painting that appears to remix the Woodland style hangs inside the structure.
After Thursday's opening night gala, Art Toronto opens to the public Friday. More than 100 galleries are exhibiting at this year's edition of the art fair. (Courtesy of Art Toronto)

It's "Canada's art fair," to quote the official tagline. Art Toronto returns to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this weekend, and more than 20,000 visitors are expected to prowl the floor between Thursday night and Sunday. The fair is an annual gathering of gallerists, collectors and art-lovers of all stripes — and if you plan to be among them, get the most out of your ticket by taking note of these highlights.

3 things you have to see

Good Foot Forward

Close-up view of an installation by Duane Linklater. A vintage chandelier is strung from a bundle of white painted tipi poles. The bundle forms a lever, resting on a stack of boxes upon a wheeled mover's trolley.
Duane Linklater. i want to forget the english language, ulterior, 2020/2023. (Duane Linklater)

The inclusion of a specially curated "Focus Exhibition" is still new to Art Toronto; fair director Mia Nielsen introduced the program just last year. And for 2023, she's tapped one of the country's most well-regarded curators, Kitty Scott, to oversee the project. 

Scott was famously involved in Geoffrey Farmer's exhibition for Canada at the 2017 Venice Biennale, and she's worked at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Banff Centre and London's Serpentine Gallery over the course of her 30-year career. For Good Foot Forward, she's gathered work by 15 contemporary artists. Each piece has been pulled from participating galleries, and they range from smaller works on paper to large-scale installations. All together, it's a story about "what constitutes a livable life." 

Framed photo collage. The image is intersected by a cut. At left, a female figure wearing clothing with yellow reflective stripes like those worn by construction workers, leans her weight against a pole. At right, an image of low-rise condo towers in a Modernist style.
Eve Tagny. Untitled (2), 2022. (Eve Tagny)

Just scanning through the preview photos available online, there's a striking push and pull between themes of land sovereignty, domestic life and the absurdities of the housing market. In a Q&A for the Art Toronto website, Scott said her concept for the show began with a piece by Duane Linklater, I want to forget the english language (ulterior) 2020/2023.

In form, it's a chandelier strung from a bundle of painted tipi poles — a DIY lever system precariously balanced on a wheeled mover's trolley. Said Scott: "It seems to ask 'How are we to live today?' Much of my thinking expanded outward from how this work is constructed and the ideas it opens up."

You'll find the exhibition at the top of the west escalator.

A bronze sculpture of a backpack is suspended from a bronze chain.
Elizabeth Zvonar. Daytripper, 2023. (Elizabeth Zvonar)

Project Spaces

Amid the maze of fair booths, Art Toronto has added eight mini exhibitions (Project Spaces) curated by Canadian galleries. Pangée has a survey of ceramic work by Montreal artist Trevor Baird; Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain is presenting Floating on the Waves by Ari Bayuaji, an installation colourful tapestries woven from plastic ropes used by Indonesian fishermen. (The artist splits his time between Montreal and Bali.) 

Installation of oars wrapped in colourful plastic thread are flanked by two large tapestries woven from colourful plastic thread.
Ari Bayuaji. Floating on the Waves, 2023. (Ari Bayuaji)

Another likely stand-out: Paquebot by Jannick Deslauriers, an enormous ghostly ocean liner made of nylon, tulle and silk. 

Photo of a textile installation of a ship. It hangs suspended from wires.
Jannick Deslauriers. Paquebot, 2019. (Jannick Deslauriers)

An all-new showcase for emerging talent

Fresh for 2023 is a brand new section called Discover. Eight galleries were selected to present work by an up-and-coming talent in their roster, and throughout the fair you'll encounter booths devoted to these artists on the rise. 

Framed artwork on a white wall. The piece is a colourful collage of food photos reassembled to create the shape of goblets and vessels that seem both familiar and surreal.
Svava Tergesen. Zanfirico Glassware, 2021. (Svava Tergesen/Macaulay & Co. Fine Art)

Among them: Svava Tergesen — a Vancouver artist who lends an unsettling eye to vintage-style food photography — and Marcy Friesen, a Saskatchewan artist of Swampy Cree/Welsh heritage. Her beadwork captures elements of contemporary life, while subverting traditional utilitarian forms (e.g. moccasins and mittens).

A row of 10 silver spoons holding seed beads of many colours.
Marcy Friesen. Community, 2022. (Marcy Friesen/Fazakas Gallery)

Highlights from across Canada

More than 100 galleries will be exhibiting at Art Toronto, marking a return to the fair's pre-pandemic numbers. The local scene is heavily represented, but Art Toronto draws exhibitors from across the country and beyond. The mix offers a unique opportunity to fair-goers. Take a lap around the floor, and you'll get a top-level view of what's happening in Canadian art right now.

Nighttime desert landscape painting that captures the light with an eerie yellow neon glow. The canvas it's painted on is folded and creased.
John Hee Taek Chae. One-eyed Jacks, 2022. (John Hee Taek Chae/Tap Art Space)

Montreal's art galleries will be out in force, with more than 20 attending. But if you're leaning into the spooky vibe of Halloween weekend, Tap Art Space has a themed booth: "Nocturnal Nuances" — art that explores the "mystique of twilight." Expect to find eerie scenes by Olga Abeleva, Julien Parant-Marquis, David Bellemare and John Hee Taek Chae.

Realistic stoneware sculpture of a red crab sandwiched between a sliced white bun.
Erica Eyres. Crab Sandwich, 2023. (Erica Eyres/Norberg Hall)

Visit Norberg Hall's booth (Calgary) and you'll be greeted with emoji wall hangings (by 2023 Sobey Art Award winner Kablusiak) plus an extensive selection of cheeky glazed stoneware by Erica Eyres. Her realistic sculptures include a beady-eyed Crab Sandwich and a collection of life-sized Sweet Valley High paperbacks.    

Video still. A figure in drag wears a blonde frizzy wig and thickly applied red lipstick. They are dressed in a white off-the-shoulder gown and are seated behind a light-wood table. On the table are eight mannequin legs wearing tan stockings.
Séamus Gallagher. A Lovely View Gives Way to A Haunted Site, 2023. (Séamus Gallagher/Iota Studios)

Halifax's Iota Studios will have work by another Sobey finalist, Séamus Gallagher. Also at their booth: recent paintings by Jordan Bennett, small beaded sculptures by Carrie Allison and digital prints by Ruth Marsh (fantasy landscapes from Marsh's VR works).

Photo of art hanging on a white wall. It is a circular hide drum with a cyanotype portrait of a young girl printed on its surface.
Michelle Sound. Every Photo I Have Of My Mother, 2023. (Michelle Sound/Ceremonial/Art)

Ceremonial/Art (Vancouver) will be putting the spotlight on Cree/Métis artist Michelle Sound. Her series of "Medicine Print Drums" — cyanotypes on elk hide — are particularly striking.

And if you happen to be reading this from beyond the GTA, you can explore many of this year's booths online. Browse the fair via Artsy until Nov. 12.

Experiences and events at Art Toronto

Two women stand in front of an art installation in the form of a smashed gold car (life-sized). They are on the floor of Art Toronto, an art fair held inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. White gallery booths appear behind them. Framed artwork hangs on white walls.
Still feeling a little lost? Consider signing up for a free tour of Art Toronto. (Courtesy of Art Toronto)

An Art Toronto ticket includes access to free talks, tours and other happenings that will be going on throughout the weekend. 

The Platform stage will be hosting panel discussions starting Friday afternoon, beginning with a one-on-one chat between Kitty Scott and Connie Butler, director of MoMA PS1 in New York City (Curators in Conversation, 12:30 p.m.). Here's the full Art Toronto event schedule.

As for event highlights: Saturday at 6 p.m., head to Art Toronto's Event Space to join a listening party for As We Rise: Sounds from the Black Atlantic. The new compilation album is a musical companion to the photo book and touring exhibition, As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic, a project drawn from the Wedge Collection, Canada's largest privately owned collection of Black art. For Saturday's launch, Wedge founder Dr. Kenneth Montague will be in conversation with CBC Music's Odario Williams.

And if you're still unsure about what to see at Art Toronto, get help from an expert. Art-world insiders will be giving free guided tours every day of the fair. It's a chance to explore Art Toronto through the P.O.V. of esteemed collectors, curators and critics. Find the full schedule here; tour groups meet at the information desk near the top of the escalators.

Art Toronto 2023. Oct. 26 to 29. Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto.


Leah Collins

Senior Writer

Since 2015, Leah Collins has been senior writer at CBC Arts, covering Canadian visual art and digital culture in addition to producing CBC Arts’ weekly newsletter (Hi, Art!), which was nominated for a Digital Publishing Award in 2021. A graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University's journalism school (formerly Ryerson), Leah covered music and celebrity for Postmedia before arriving at CBC.

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