Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Big Picture 61

Everybody wants my holiday gelt. So far this month, I’ve been invited to torch my fiscal Yule log at three craft sales, half a dozen book launches, one high end gym, no end of charity auctions, and, honestly, a sex club selling “a good time on Santa’s knee.” Yikes! I wish the Post would stop selling my email address to its shareholders.

The most chronic merchants in the manger, however, are art galleries. Most of the year, galleries pretend that making money is not their primary concern. Theirs is a higher calling, pure as the artistic impulse itself. Until mid-November. As soon as the frost hits, galleries become about as interested in culture as 50 Cent at a gun shop.

I don’t begrudge gallerists their mercenary urges – not even art dealers can live on human blood alone. But the sheer number of holiday art sales can trigger mild panic in the shopper, and a mild stroke in me. So, here’s a quick guide to the best of the downtown gallery bazaars. This is by no means a complete listing of all the Toronto art houses looking to poach your January mortgage payment, but the next gallery that overloads my inbox with tinselled promises gets their co-ordinates forwarded to the hooker Santa.

Gallery TPW’s annual Photorama is one of the most consistent and anticipated year end sales in town - primarily because photography fans know they can snap up a Burtynsky, an Ingelevics, or a Lake for about one third of the going price. It’s also a great way to do some boast-worthy early buying of works by newer artists, who have a habit of using TPW as an art star launching pad.

This best buys this year are digital prints by Cecilia Berkovic that replicate, in miniature, her wonderful 1980’s Tiger Beat tribute installation currently on permanent display in the Gladstone Hotel, and a set of five small, bittersweet photographs by Lukas Blakk that depict tiny toy and ceramic animals hiding underneath mushrooms and grazing on lawns. Look also for a “surprise piece” by Dean Baldwin (likely one of his hilarious and disturbing photos of himself hanging off the ledge of a prominent building) plus a vintage photo of a man standing in a Hollywood prop room holding up a fake John the Baptist severed head – part of the growing collection of oddities, outsider images and collectibles assembled by the Toronto-based archival photo dealers Camera Lucida.

Most of the works on sale at TPW are priced well below $500, and Executive Director Gary Hall reminds me that “the big names go very, very fast –sometimes within hours.” So, by the time you read this, the Ingelevics works will be long gone. Be adventurous – everyone has a Burtynsky, but how many people have a Berkovic?


The Shelf Project at C1 Art Space is the Winners of gallery sales, because it’s a new store every day. Packed with ceramics, jewellery, fine art and curious crafts by nearly 50 artists, this rotating sale will change stock every week until New Year’s Eve, and promises to tempt the spendthrift with everything from silk screened tee-shirts to one-of-a-kind art dolls.

Already in full swing, The Shelf Project’s next batch of goodies includes a collection of creepy gothic dolls by Rodney Frost, Nadia Moss’s papier mache owl figures, whose see-through stomachs are full of tiny demon animals, animator Laura Vegys quirky series of watercolours exploring the Golem legend, and Ross Bonfanti’s concrete dolls, which he makes by hollowing out stuffed plush toys and filling them with concrete (for the person who truly has everything, except a weapon).

The best deals at C1 are the wool pastel baby slippers by Irina Badescu, Lesley Ashton’s charming squirrel cards, and Julie Moon’s bright red, glazed ceramic poppy pins – all under ten bucks.

Want to make your own gifts? C1 is offering pre-Xmas classes by professional crafters. You can make a collage, an ornament, or, if all else fails, a macaroni keepsake box. Your mother will love it, at least to your face.


Good old A Space Gallery once again resurrects its Gifts That Fit sale. If only they’d been around all those childhood Xmas mornings when I was forced to squeeze into sweaters from the Sears “husky” department.

The art up for grabs is priced between $20 and $150, and comes directly from A Space members. Name droppers will be pleased to see new works by painters Sadko Hadzihasanovic, Scott Waters and Raffael Iglesias, fresh offerings from multimedia artists Peter Kingstone, Natalie Wood, Deanna Bowen and Shelly Bahl, and a specially commissioned photo-based work by the legendary artist/activist team Carole Conde & Karl Beveridge.

Those of you who know A Space’s old-school leftist programming might wonder if the gifts in Gifts that Fit will be un-ironic Che Guevara posters, home compost kits, and earnest tracts on the future of the NDP?

Fear not, says A Space Program Coordinator Pam Edmonds.

“A lot of the artists are creating new work for this show, and there’s a broad range of work. But of course, this is still A Space … it’s interesting to see these artists who do make activist work re-interpreting their own practices for the specifics of this show. Something can be beautiful and have a message too.”

So, the frivolous and shallow are welcome?

“Always! Come with a smile, that’s all that we ask. And money.”

Gallery TPW 80 Spadina Ave, Suite 310 Last day today!

The Shelf Project
C1 Art Space 44 Ossington Avenue Until December 31

Gifts that Fit
A Space Gallery
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 110 Until December 11