By Emily Craig-Evans
Commuters saw 20 local and international galleries in Union Station’s Great Hall this week for Villa Toronto, a week-long festival of contemporary art display and live performance.
Villa, a series of international “gallery meetings” starting in 2006, was made possible by Poland’s Raster Gallery in association with Toronto’s Art Metropole. The event “encourages the cross-cultural circulation of art, artists and cultural workers” and brought international art to the commuter hotspot. Toronto is the fourth city to hold this event after Warsaw, Reykjavik, and Tokyo.
Villa Toronto stated in a press release that the event does not have a commercial motive and is focusing on public appreciation of art. The entire event is free and accessible to the public.
“We don’t want to organize Villa where the funding is, we want to choose a location and then find [the funding],” said project manager Kamila Bondar.
She also said artistic freedom and reach was a priority for Villa Toronto’s organizers from the start. Union Station, which sees thousands of daily commuters, was the ideal location for featured artists to expose their work to commuters.
Over 19 Arrays of pieces were displayed in a variety of mediums. A white totem by Toronto’s Dean Drever was featured, which is constructed of nearly 11,000 stacked individual pieces of paper. Toronto artist Iris Häussler, also known as her alias Joseph Wagenbach, had one of her sculptures displayed as well.
In terms of international artists, a monochrome series of kale paintings by New York’s Michael Portnoy was displayed with what he’s predicted to be the next trend vegetable. Other artists were from England, France, Japan, Mexico and more.
“If you see the description and the images it’s one thing, but when you actually face the work, it has the power to make you feel something,” said Bondar.
Raster Gallery initially considered Vancouver for a Canadian location, but found the Toronto art scene to be more interconnected.
However, the event organizers said they were limited by inadequate funding compared to previous editions of the event. This was the first where live music was not incorporated and participating galleries were asked to contribute a donation.
“A project of this scale really needed more partners and support,” said Stu Monck, project coordinator.
As the event comes to a close, Raster co-owner Michal Kaczynski said that he hopes Villa Toronto can help open doors for Toronto artist’s internationally.