The Best Exhibitions to See in Toronto in 2018

Aga Khan Park | © Janet Kimber / Aga Khan Museum
Picture of Sahar Aman
Staff Writer
Updated: 1 May 2018
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Toronto’s art scene is truly vibrant. Whether featuring seasoned artists or emerging new talent, here are some of the city’s best exhibitions to check out in 2018.

Yoko Ono: The Riverbed

Thursday, February–22 Sunday, June 3

A three-part installation presented by the Gardiner Museum, Yoko Ono: The Riverbed is an experiential exhibit where visitors can collaborate with the artist, the museum, and each other. Yoko Ono–a renowned artist, musician, filmmaker, and peace activist–has been a pioneer of conceptual art that encourages the viewer to interact with her work. The three pieces in the exhibit explore various themes.

Yoko Ono, Stone Piece, 2015/2018
© Yoko Ono, Courtesy of the Gardiner Museum. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

Stone Piece features river stones that have been shaped by water over time, on which Ono has written words such as dream, wish and remember. Visitors are asked to pick up a stone and focus on the word before leaving it in the centre of the room.

Line Piece is an evolving installation that invites participants to use hammers and nails to extend pieces of string in order to draw a line to the farthest place on the planet.

Mend Piece focuses on healing. Using glue, string, and tape, visitors put broken pieces of cups and saucers back together, and then leave them on shelves in a stark white room. As Ono says, “as you mend the cup, mending that is needed elsewhere in the Universe gets done as well. Be aware of it as you mend.”

Yoko Ono, Mend Piece, 1966/2018
© Yoko Ono, Courtesy of the Gardiner Museum. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors

Saturday, March 3–Sunday, May 27

Infinity Mirrors is the first institutional survey exhibition exploring the evolution of Yayoi Kusama’s immersive infinity rooms. Kusama is a groundbreaking contemporary Japanese artist who has used a variety of media to create incredible work. Through design, sculpture, installation, paint, performance, film, fashion, poetry, and even fiction, Kusama has explored themes of life and its aftermath.

This tour of this work is considered to be the most significant display of Kusama’s art in North America after almost two decades. Showing at only five locations, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is the only place in Canada where her famous works can be seen. The highly coveted tickets for this event are released every day at 10 am on the AGO website, which is the only place to buy them. They sell out every single day, but it’s still worth trying to take up this rare opportunity to experience Kusama’s breathtaking illusions of infinite spaces.

Yayoi Kusama. Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013
© Yayoi Kusama / Courtesy of David Zwirner, N.Y.

The World of the Fatimids

Saturday, March 10–Monday, July 2

In the 10th and 11th centuries, the Fatimid Caliphate created a distinguished civilisation across North Africa. They established a flourishing art and science scene, building what is now one of the world’s oldest universities, and creating one of its greatest libraries. Their knowledge and culture reached far and wide, leaving a mark throughout the Mediterranean, Europe, and the Middle East.

The World of the Fatimids exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum is a testimony to and an exploration of a great dynasty. This is the first time such a curated collection of masterpieces from this era has made its way to North America, including some rare items from the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo that have never been shipped abroad. The exhibition also features drone videography and 360-degree virtual reality films of Cairo, the Fatimids’ thriving capital, allowing visitors to get a glimpse of what this enchanting city was like centuries ago.

Tiraz Textile, Egypt, 11th-12th-century linen
© The Aga Khan Museum

Nadia Belerique: The Weather Channel

Sunday, April 8–Sunday, June 3

Toronto-based artist Nadia Belerique often pushes the real and imagined boundaries of photographs. Combining photography and sculptural installation, she creates situations that confuse or conflate figure and ground, image and object, signifier and signified. The Weather Channel exhibit at Oakville Galleries is a series of new works by Belerique that explore the home as a site of both intimacy and concealment. By considering situations, relationships, and emotions that occur in everyday domestic life, the concept of home “becomes an allegory for human consciousness and the mutually dependent architectures of the mind and body.”

Nadia Belerique, Bed Island (Don’t Sleep) (detail), 2016
Courtesy of the artist and Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto. Photo: Guy L’Heureux.

Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival

Tuesday, May 1–Wednesday, May 31

CONTACT is the world’s largest photography festival and one of Toronto’s most happening cultural events. Throughout May, a wide range of international programming takes place in the city. What makes these exhibitions so exciting is that they are shown in many different venues, from major museums and public spaces like subway stations and pathways to private galleries, billboards, and even on the exteriors of selected cultural buildings.

You can find information about the exhibits on the festival website, but here are a handful of 2018 public installations to look out for:

  • Marleen Sleeuwit’s exhibit Not the Actual Site, which explores non-spaces, will take over the stunning atrium at Brookfield Place.
  • Osgoode Subway Station will showcase works by Chinese photographer, Wang Yishu.
  • The Bentway (an outdoor public space below the Gardiner Expressway) will feature an installation called A Forest of Canoes by Vancouver-based artist Dana Claxton (Lakota Sioux), which explores the iconic canoe and its symbolism in Canadian, Metis and Indigenous history and culture.
  • Richard Mosse’s politically charged Heat Maps.
  • Felicity Hammond’s immersive photo-sculptural installations.
  • Brooklyn-based artist Charlie Engman’s MOM exhibit.

Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes

Wednesday, May 16–Sunday, January 6 2019

The highly anticipated travelling exhibition, Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes will make its final and only North American stop this year at Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum. Almost 200 shoes and 80 original illustrations will show, handpicked by Blahnik himself and guest curator Dr Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz. The selected works reflect a journey that spans over four decades: the artisanship, personal triumphs and inspirations of a living legend and footwear icon.

Faustina – SS17
© Manolo Blahnik

Visitors will discover the ways in which architecture, art, botany, literature, cinema and different countries have influenced Blahnik’s designs. After showcasing in Milan, Russia, Prague and Madrid, Blahnik is thrilled that the tour is coming to Toronto, as he finds the city fantastic and full of culture. In addition to the exhibition, further programming will be offered, including exclusive tours, workshops, a film series and a screening of Blahnik’s documentary The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards.

Tradi – AW15
© Manolo Blahnik

Anthropocene Project

September 2018 to early 2019

The AGO and the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada will co-present a major exhibition this fall called Anthropocene. The project is an exploration of mankind’s impact on the earth. This incredible exhibition encompasses video installations, photographs illustrating themes of the human footprint, and large-scale murals. It will unveil new contemporary work by Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, in co-production with the MAST Foundation of Bologna, Italy.

Edward Burtynsky: Phosphor Tailings Pond #4, Polk County, Florida, USA, 2012
Courtesy of the artist and Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto © Edward Burtynsky, 2017.

The Anthropocene Project is based on the research of an international group of scientists making the case to formally change the name of the present geological epoch from Holocene to Anthropocene – the Human Epoch. This name change is controversial, and currently under vigorous debate. The exhibition will run at both galleries at the same time, from September 2018 through early 2019. Further details on specific dates will be released later this year.

Nuit Blanche

Saturday, September 29

For one sleepless night every year, from dusk till dawn, the city of Toronto is transformed into a wonderland of immersive and experiential contemporary art in select buildings and the most unexpected public spaces. Nuit Blanche, a free annual event, is an exuberant celebration of local, national and international artists. The streets are packed with people trying to see as many of the incredible installations as possible, put on by the City of Toronto in collaboration with Toronto’s arts community. This year for the first time, visitors will find works in Scarborough as well as downtown.

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