Israeli-born, Denmark-based artist Tal R (full name Tal Rosenzweig Tekinoktay) started painting exuberant faux-naïve canvases in the early nineties. Borrowing from graffiti, comics, and video games, his images combine abstract and figurative elements in trippy, kaleidoscopic compositions. In recent years the 41-year-old artist has enjoyed huge success, becoming a hero in Denmark and inspiring a generation of younger painters. This season he is having exhibitions at London’s Camden Arts Center and the Essl Collection in Vienna.
Toronto’s Cultural Explosion
Gutsy, diverse, flush. This is the new spirit of Toronto, which is enjoying a cultural renaissance marked by a wave of new energy, projects, buildings, and events. Last year saw the launch of a sprawling arts festival, Luminato, and this year’s version (June 6–15) features an eclectic mix of theater, music, and art. Premières include the Kronos Quartet performing a new piece with Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq and a multimedia opera trilogy by innovative composer Mikel Rouse.
The Royal Ontario Museum, a 1914 Beaux-Arts pile with wide-ranging natural history and anthropology collections, has just gotten an update by Daniel Libeskind: a jagged crystal of aluminum and glass jutting over the sidewalk on the city’s main shopping street, showing glimpses of dinosaur skeletons within. “It’s a very public and radical diversion,” says director William Thorsell. “It’s an invitation to the city.” And the name on the new wing is telling: Michael Lee-Chin, the Jamaican Canadian money manager who donated $30 million toward the project.
Nearby, the Toronto architecture firm KPMB has designed a pair of high-profile projects: the airy Gardiner Museum for Ceramic Art and a new hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music. The Canadian Opera Company also has a dramatic new downtown home, while Toronto’s premier fine art museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, is undergoing a $250 million expansion by Frank Gehry, opening this fall. Adding to the mix, the Aga Khan, leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims, has chosen Toronto for another $200 million–plus project: a cultural center and museum of Islamic art. The spate of new cultural buildings shows, in Thorsell’s words, “a vitality—an impatience to get things going.”
There’s a vibrant scene of galleries, artists’ studios, theaters, design shops, restaurants, and hip hotels in the neighborhood around the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, a city-run gallery that does edgy, well-curated shows of local and regional artists. “The scope and quality of offerings in this cultural cluster is remarkable,” says the museum’s director, David Liss. “Outside of Chelsea in New York and a couple of other big cities, it’s something you don’t find.”
Since joining the Toronto International Film Festival as a programmer in 1982, Piers Handling has helped elevate it to the top tier of film events. (This year it runs September 4 to 13.) Now, as director, he’s working on a permanent home for the fest that will be, in his words, “the Louvre of cinema.” Along the way he’s become an expert host to guests from around the world. A few of his tips on visiting Toronto.
WHERE TO STAY I often tell people to stay in Yorkville, the central neighborhood that’s home to several boutique hotels. The Windsor Arms is so close to the heart of the city and yet on a quiet street. A lot of the high-end stars love it. And the new Hazelton Hotel is extremely modern and very private.
SHOPPING The food mecca St. Lawrence Market has a great European feel, especially on Saturdays. Plus, the bookstores and the Canadian Stage Company’s theaters add to the area’s cultural mix.
WHERE TO EAT I love the flair and style of Claudio Aprile’s molecular-gastronomic wizardry at Colborne Lane—and I love the space. It’s on a lane in a low-key part of downtown.
FOR A DRINK Camera lounge on Queen Street West is the screening room cofounded by director Atom Egoyan. It’s film-oriented and has a very cool bar with a fireplace.