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Marilyn Monroe 1961, Douglas Kirkland | Copyright Douglas Kirkland, Courtesy of Izzy Gallery
Marilyn Monroe 1961, Douglas Kirkland | Copyright Douglas Kirkland, Courtesy of Izzy Gallery

10 Art Shows To See In Toronto: Summer 2016

Picture of Lynn Burshtein
Updated: 17 October 2016
With winter safely behind us, it’s time to focus on what Toronto’s best season has to offer. So forget about the action blockbuster movies and mindless beach reads this summer. Keep your mind sharp and your senses alive with this diverse list of eye-catching and thought-provoking art exhibits during the summer of 2016.

The Brain Project

If you can only explore one exhibition in Toronto this summer, perhaps it should be The Brain Project, particularly with its laudable goal of raising funds and awareness for brain health through unique brain sculptures in a public exhibition across the city. Proceeds will go toward Baycrest Health Sciences, a globally recognized organization that provides support to brain health issues related to aging, trauma and disease. There are approximately 100 sculptures on display throughout the city, all of which have been created by visual artists, architects and celebrity guest contributors (from Muse front man, Matthew Bellamy, to Kim Kardashian). The brain sculpture rendering are diverse and presented in a provocative manner. Mind-enhancing indeed.

The Brain Project – Joseph Drapell
The Brain Project – Joseph Drapell| Courtesy of The Brain Project


If you have ever been to the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, the colourful glass garden installation in the lobby ceiling will leave a lasting impact – and this in a city of sensory overload. Torontonians can experience the unique installations of Seattle-based artist Dale Chihuly at the ROM this summer. Chihuly has been credited with elevating the blown-glass medium to a form of high art, particularly with large scale installations that use fragile glass materials in unique formations. His exhibits have been featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, and exhibits in Jerusalem and Venice. Fans will no doubt be curious to see check out what the Toronto installation looks like.

The Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON, Canada + 1 416 586 8000

Persian Ceiling, Chihuly | Courtesy of the ROM

Persian Ceiling, Chihuly | Courtesy of the ROM

Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival

2016 marks the 20th Anniversary of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, and while the core festival officially ended in May, many of the photographic works and exhibits will continue to be on view throughout the summer across the GTA, including at the city’s museums, galleries and public spaces such as libraries and subway platforms. It’s hard to cull a ‘best of’ list from the festival, but one that warrants special attention is The Cutline: The Photography Archives of The Globe and Mail. The Old Press Hall, The Globe and Mail showcases historical photos from Canada’s ‘national paper of record,’ when print media was in its heyday.

Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, 80 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada +1 416 539 9595

Hurvin Anderson: Backdrop

Organized by the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis, Hurvin Anderson: Backdrop focuses on British-Jamaican artist Hurvin Anderson. This must-see AGO exhibition touches on themes relating to memory, place, social histories and cultural identity. Anderson is an internationally acclaimed artist known for his colourful paintings of urban barbershops along with vibrant Caribbean landscapes. Having been featured at the Tate Modern Gallery in London and at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, among other notable galleries, Backdrop is Anderson’s first major Canadian solo exhibition. It features new, large-scale paintings and previously unreleased sculptures and photographs.

Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON, Canada +1 416 979 6648

Future 33

Millennials often get a bad rap: lazy, self-absorbed and entitled, are just a few of the labels ascribed to the generation. Well, 20- and early 30-somethings can stick to it their elders with YTB, the “Younger than Beyonce” Gallery – a collection of works by artists of this generation. Located in Regent Park, FUTURE 33 gives a voice to 33 young Toronto artists of various disciplines who are making names for themselves. But hurry and catch this exhibit before it ends on June 11, otherwise you will experience major #FOMO (oh, that expression is so over, already).

Younger than Beyonce Gallery, 563 Dundas Street East, Suite 201, Toronto, ON, Canada +1 416 910 5213

Indian Giver: An Exhibition of Fashion, Textiles and Wearable Art

Issues surrounding cultural appropriation and racism have been widely debated in recent years – consider the discussions that have emerged over the use of the ‘Washington Redskins’ logo or Coachella’s love of ‘tribal’ wear. A much needed discourse has emerged regarding cultural exploitation in advertising and the fashion world with those who try to speak on behalf of such cultures. So, to address these issues head on, the Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator, in partnership Craft Ontario and Culture Storm, is reclaiming ownership of its heritage, cultural expressions and intellectual property with Indian Giver, an exhibition of fashion, textiles, wearable art and other commissioned works created by indigenous people at Gallery 1313.

Gallery 1313, Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, Canada +1 416 536 6778

Untitled, Jeneen Frei Njootli, RodrigoHernandez-Gomez | Courtesy of Indian Giver Exhibition, Gallery 1313

Untitled, Jeneen Frei Njootli, RodrigoHernandez-Gomez | Courtesy of Indian Giver Exhibition, Gallery 1313

Douglas Kirkland: A Life in Pictures

Works from Fort Erie-born Doug Kirkland, the man behind some of Hollywood’s most iconic celebrity images, are being shown at Izzy Gallery. This is the first Canadian exhibit for the famed photographer. His photographic works – including Marilyn Monroe lying on silk sheets, an uncharacteristically mischievous Audrey Hepburn grinning ear-to-ear, a pensive JFK sitting in his office, to latter-day starlets like Nicole Kidman and Andy Garcia – are instantly recognizable. The large format prints from the exhibit will appeal to those who want to get up close and personal with their favourite Hollywood stars of yesterday and today.

Izzy Gallery, 106 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada +1 416 922 1666

Audrey Hepburn Classic 1965, Douglas Kirkland | Copyright Douglas Kirkland, Courtesy of Izzy Gallery

Audrey Hepburn Classic 1965, Douglas Kirkland | Copyright Douglas Kirkland, Courtesy of Izzy Gallery

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition

Each year in front of Toronto’s City Hall, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition showcases a juried exhibition of contemporary art. The pedestrian-friendly set-up is the largest outdoor art exhibition in Canada, and for the past 55 years it has promoted Canadian artists working in traditional and experimental art forms – everything from oil and photography to ceramics and wearable art. This summer, over 300 artists will present their works and introduce themselves to local gallery owners and an art-loving public.

Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, Canada + 1 416 203 2600

Kensington Market Art Fair

If you are entertaining out-of-town guests who want to get a sense of “local Toronto flavor,” Kensington Market is the place to go. Decades ago, this district was the epitome of the Canadian immigrant experience, with many populations settling here. The market has also long been the home of artists (it has served as the inspiration for architect Frank Gehry and urban historian Jane Jacob). Kensington has succumbed to gentrification over the past decade or so, but there is a still an artisanal feel to the area. During the summer, KMAF offers a curated outdoor art fair on its car-free, Pedestrian Sundays.

Kensington Market, 77 Nassau Street, Kensington Market, Toronto, ON, Canada

Kensington Market Art Fair | Courtesy of Keep 6 Toronto / Kensington Market Art Fair

Kensington Market Art Fair | Courtesy of Keep 6 Toronto / Kensington Market Art Fair

Standing Tall: Curious History of Men in Heels

Standing Tall chronicles the popularity of men donning high-heeled shoes over several points in history: from rulers in England’s privileged class in the 1600s, all the way to cowboy boots worn by rugged American men in the 1930s. And of course, who can forget the platform shoes worn by Elton John and other glam rockstars of the 1970s? This exhibit kicks off (no pun intended) the 20th Anniversary of Bata Shoe Museum, one of the only museums of its kind in the world.

Bata Shoe Museum, 327 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON, Canada +1 416 979 7799