Toronto has established itself as an innovative art-hub given the rich multicultural population, and the combination of academic, social, and commercial money flowing through the Arts sector in the city.
From Graffiti Alley to the Bau-Xi, the city’s art scene is as grass-roots as it is glitz, with a constant battle between elite aesthetic and organic 416 culture, fighting to be the definitive symbol of this hard-to-identify city.
But at the end of the day, whether you’re a budding Basquiat of the 6 or trying to make a smooth move on a Tinder date, or simply looking to dodge the cold on a Wednesday evening in the winter, the Art Gallery of Ontario continues to be the nucleus of artistic experience to all main-streamers in Toronto.
With the recent Infinity Mirrors exhibit by international artist phenom Yayoi Kusama, the AGO has become a staple status-symbol-check-in for anyone and everyone looking to embody all things up-to-date, hip, and forward thinking.
All sarcasm aside, it’s certainly a sign of the gallery’s growth that such a famous exhibit is including the AGO in its tour!
I guess my hate and shade (is that what the kids say?) comes from the fact that, to be honest…I really wanted to go to this exhibit!
I was super into Kusama’s story, core themes, and of course the mind-bending aesthetic long before news of this exhibit and when I first heard about it, I knew I had to go.
You can imagine how much of a fu**in buzzkill it was when I found the randomized online line-up for tickets and how impossible of a task it would have been for me to get them.
With the amount of tickets available never really matching the huge volume of people (or bots) in line, I knew finding tickets to this gallery would be limited to Kijiji, word of mouth sales, and early morning line-ups for scraps of leftover tickets to be used the day of.
And maybe that was my overall beef – the bull sh#t around the art.
I was stunned to find out that viewing time within each of Kusama’s distinct rooms was limited to a few minutes if that, and I could not stand the notion of social media being an “interactive” aspect of experiencing the art.
While the viral ability of the rooms to be contagious for selfies and Instagram filters is, as critics say, a deliberate part of the art, I can’t help but feel that it cheapened how meaningful this experience was to be for me.
Clearly by now I sound like a spoiled prick, feeling far too holier than thou and pretentious for the commoners staring blankly at the art.
Well to be frank, I realised I was being a douche in this mind-set and so I decided that I’d go to the AGO midday and enjoy the vibes it had to offer…while missing the famed Kusama exhibit.
Why do I go to art galleries?
The short answer is to chill.
The long answer is simply that I can lose myself in something random, go off on a wild tangent, and temporarily forget about how concrete, and painfully real the outside world is.
With a few puffs of that good, good, I love going to the AGO and taking a deep breath of serenity from the hustle and bustle of downtown life.
Retaining some semblance of zen while still being a space of culture, I find some real relaxation in the weird architecture of this place and once inside, I found the hate I had towards my crushed Kusama dreams, slowly dripping away.
So what was the point?
Really and truly I wanted to slice for you a piece of Toronto and its art scene. Mashed with culture vultures, real renaissance pioneers, grass-roots legends-in-the-making, and cold-hearted corporate zombies, the city is able to create a sector for arts and culture that’s as valuable as it is diverse.
Community arts programs, the ever strong graffiti culture, premier art schools, and the prevalence of organic multiculturalism in the neighbourhoods will always fuel creativity to the city.
But the commercialism and commodification of a vibe, image, or aesthetic, is something that this city should always be aware of given the gold-rush of culture housed in the 6.
The frenzy of the Kusama exhibit shows how developed the city’s art-scene is but it also shows how vulnerable it is to those who are more concerned with being in the “in-crowd”.
At the end of the day, I’m probably just trying to rationalize bitter shade at missing out, but in all honesty, make it a habit to visit the AGO whenever possible – it’s a fun and therapeutic way to experience art in Toronto!
And maybe while you’re there, you can figure out who made the pieces I’ve photographed in this article that I was too stoned to remember to label…