MoCA Toronto back with a bang with Greater Toronto Art 2021

The triennial exhibition features artists and collectives who work in the Greater Toronto area or have connections to the city

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Installation view of Greater Toronto Art 2021 featuring Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, Dynasty (2021). Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid. Courtesy Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, Cape Town, and London.

Installation view of Greater Toronto Art 2021 featuring Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, Dynasty (2021). Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid. Courtesy Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, Cape Town, and London.

It has been a long haul for the Canadian cultural sector since the outbreak of the pandemic. But things might be shaping up. The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in Toronto opens its ambitious triennial exhibition, Greater Toronto Art 2021, today. It includes around 21 artists and art collectives who work in the Greater Toronto area or have direct connections with the ever-expanding city.

Each artist was asked to consider: what feels most urgent to you today? The artists were invited to survey the space in advance—around 90 percent of the work is site-specific, with several of the pieces wrapped around the massive interior columns of the three-storey museum.

The works incorporate all manners of materials, some of which are found near the museum. There’s even a smattering of battered hockey sticks fused with antique farm equipment—a tribute to Black Loyalists who fled the United States for Canada between 1783-85. Also on view are ceramic vases arranged under a slowly-dripping irrigation system, found furniture and a wall-sized map on washi paper.

Oluseye, Ploughing Liberty (2021). Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid. Courtesy Patel Brown Gallery, Toronto.

The exhibition is organised by guest curator Daisy Desrosiers, the adjunct curator Rui Mateus Amaral and the MoCA artistic director November Paynter. It is envisioned as “a long-term commitment to Toronto’s artistic future”, says the MOCA director and chief executive, Kathleen Bartels.

“We’ve been open a few times over the past 18 months, but not enough to get the momentum going,” Bartels says. “We started to put it together in early April. It expanded from five to six artists to 21.”

Greater Toronto will relaunch in 2024 with a new team of curators. Why a triennial? “We’d like to take a look every three years—three years seemed most appropriate,” Bartels says. Hopefully the next three will be unlike the past few.

  • Greater Toronto Art 2021, Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto, 29 September 2021-9 January 2022
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