Why Art Toronto is worth the visit: A young collector’s perspective
Image courtesy of Art Toronto
Taking place this week at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from October 28th-31st is one of Canada’s most important annual arts events— Art Toronto, now in it’s 17th edition. Audiences will have an opportunity to see a wonderful cross-section of Canadian and International galleries with a wide variety of both contemporary and modern art. In addition to a jam-packed four days of art, private tours, curated projects, lectures and panel discussions from prominent art world experts, this exciting program extends throughout the city with a West-End Gallery Hop and after party, featuring 11 top contemporary galleries in Toronto.
To share the ‘Art Toronto’ experience from a young collector’s point-of-view, we talked to local collector Geoff Plant-Richmond, a twenty-seven year old banking professional. Geoff has a deep interest in Canadian art spanning from emerging artists to the Master’s, with a focus on painting. He is actively involved in the Toronto arts community as a member of the committee supporting MOCA’s (Museum of Contemporary Art_Toronto_Canada) Young Patrons Group, the ‘mocamigos’. Having attended the previous three editions of the fair, Geoff shared his personal experiences with art, as well as his top tips for new collectors attending Art Toronto for the first time.
How did you get interested in art—was there a defining moment?
Before I was born, my father purchased a large painting from his cousin, Michael Merrill, a painter based in Montreal (Galeries Roger Bellemare et Christian Lambert). The painting, Potato Eaters, (which depicts a family eating potatoes around a dining room table), accompanied us from house to house as I grew up. Over time, and many moves later, it became obvious to me that the presence of this painting really helped connect any given space to a feeling of ‘home’. Today it hangs in my mother’s condominium, and this same feeling revisits me whenever I see it there. The impact of that painting throughout my early years naturally coaxed me into thinking more seriously about the influence of art in our lives, an initial thought that has since evolved into a passion—as art is now an integral part of my life.
How long have you been collecting? What were the first and last artworks you purchased?
I first started collecting art about five years ago, but with much better focus over the past two. I started off as I often suggest one should, buying signed editions. This was a fantastic way to get used to buying and owning artwork without making a more involved financial commitment during this early, and inexperienced, time. By taking this approach, I became familiar with the research, learning and acquisition process; experiences that are part and parcel of building a collection. I will caution that because of their relative affordability, editions can be easy to ‘over-do’; take your time, only buy what you really like, and don’t rush for quantity. A great collection is not defined by how many works it contains, but the quality of works it comprises of.
One of my first ‘proper’ painting acquisitions was a watercolor on paper by Alex Bierk, purchased through General Hardware Contemporary, Toronto. My most recent addition was just last month, an etching by one of Canada’s foremost painters, David Milne – acquired directly from another private collection.
Tell us about your time as a mocamigo. What has this experience been like?
I’ve been involved with the mocamigos as a member for a number of years, and as a committee member for the past year. In both capacities, it has been an unbelievably beneficial experience. Through the mocamigos, I have had invaluable opportunities to meet artists and gallerists through studio visits, talks, and exhibit openings. I am thrilled to be a part of the Museum of Contemporary Art_Toronto_Canada (MOCA, for short), and look forward to the opening of its new location, the first five floors of the Tower Automotive building on Sterling Road, next year. There, MOCA will continue to serve as Toronto’s central hub for contemporary art, where education and social engagement, centered on the appreciation of leading Canadian and international artwork, will be the hallmark experience. If you have even the slightest inclination to meet other young art-patrons, and wish to be involved with MOCA’s exciting journey, sign up for a membership! Be sure to stop by the MOCA booth at Art Toronto to learn more.
How has the art fair changed since the first year you attended?
As the interest in art in Canada continues to strengthen and expand, so does the fair—this has been a noticeable and welcomed trend. Year after year, fair attendance is on the rise. Further, the fair continues to attract a greater presence of international art dealers with each iteration, which is a strong indication that the Canadian art world is healthy and growing.
What are you specifically excited for at this year’s fair?
I am looking forward to seeing new works by some of my favourite Canadian artists, to name a few: Kent Monkman (Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain inc.), Mario Doucette (Division Gallery), and Keita Morimoto (Nicholas Metivier Gallery). I also always look forward to seeing the Montreal-based galleries; thankfully, Art Toronto affords the opportunity to see some of the best Montreal has to offer.
As a collector, I am very excited to checkout the Verge galleries. Galleries in this section of the fair are younger and present artwork by talented emerging artists. It’s not difficult to find great works of art here at relatively modest price points. In particular, I am looking forward to seeing paintings by upcoming Toronto-based painter, Brian Rideout (exhibited by AC Repair Co.). Lastly, I am keen to explore Art Toronto’s second instalment of FOCUS: LATIN AMERICA, a curated exhibition of works by artists from this area of the world – be sure to check it out.
How do you prepare for Art Toronto?
I want to enjoy Art Toronto at my leisure and not feel pressured by time, so I always avoid penciling-in other obligations around my visit. Other than that, I bring a water bottle and have my mental checklist of ‘must see’ artists and galleries complete before entering.
What are your top tips for new collectors attending Art Toronto for the first time?
Go to look at the art, but don’t forget to meet people. Art Toronto is a terrific opportunity for new collectors to engage dealers, artists, and other collectors. If you’re inclined to make an evening of it, pick-up tickets to the opening night – this is a great way to meet with a variety of different art-world participants in a close setting.
Don’t rush the fair, and do your best to see everything. Take your time and learn as you go. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, gallerists want to speak to you! Divide the fair across two visits if required; this is an opportunity to experience a lot of art in one place and absorb all the fair has to offer.
Take note of galleries you want to visit after the fair. Whether in Toronto or elsewhere, create a mental note of the galleries you liked and make sure to drop-in some time after the fair. Building relationships with gallerists is an important aspect of collecting good art. I’ve established relationships with many, and as a result I’m often kept apprised on newly available works from artists I’m interested in. Some of my favorite works in my collection have been acquired simply because I was on the gallery’s radar when the work became available.
Write down the names of artists you like. By the time you’re through, you’ll have a tidy list of artists to further read up on at home.
Don’t go in thinking you need to leave with a new artwork, but don’t hesitate to buy what you love. Dealers will bring the ‘best of the best’ from their artists to Art Toronto, so generally speaking you shouldn’t be concerned about whether you are viewing strong works. If you see something you really can’t live without, go for it. Maybe it will be the Potato Eaters of your future generation…
What under-appreciated artist, gallery or artwork do you think people should know about?
It would be tough to highlight any one thing in particular. In general, I feel Canadian art is slightly under-appreciated in the international art community. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a country that is as diverse as Canada. There are endless unique perspectives to share and important stories to be heard; it is a wonderful ecosystem for artistic output. Canadian artists are world-class artists, deserving of international recognition and support. We have come a very long way, but there is still work to do. When you support a Canadian artist’s work through acquisition, you not only contribute to the health of the local art community, but also to Canada’s recognition on an international level, as the important contributor we are. Art Toronto plays a critical role in furthering the appreciation of our artists.
For more information on Art Toronto programming, events and details, visit arttoronto.ca. Art Toronto has partnered with official online preview partner Artsy, to bring you a full preview of this year’s offerings.
Marla Wasser is an independent museum curator and art consultant who heads the advisory firm Pursuits Inc., Toronto. Whether working with public institutions or private clients, Marla is passionate about connecting people with art.