Jean-Michel Basquiat at the AGO

This year, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s blockbuster exhibition is Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time. I braved the cold and saw it last weekend. It was worth the trip.



ABOVE: Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Death of Michael Stewart, 1983, acrylic and marker on wood,  25 x 30.5 inches, Collection of Nina Clemente.

BELOW: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Obnoxious Liberals, 1982, acrylic, oil stick and spray paint on canvas, 68 x 102 inches, The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection

Last Saturday was a typical winter’s day in Toronto; the weather was total shit. To escape the February blahs, I decided to take in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s (AGO) latest show Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time. As it turned out, half the city was of the same mindset; the place was packed. Over-crowding aside, I’m glad I went.

A great deal of effort went into this exhibition (the AGO consulted with several members from Toronto’s black community) and it shows. The curation is informative but subtle, and it adds to the overall experience without detracting from the art on display.

As for the art, it is often confrontational, and it addresses key issues such as racism, authority and class struggle. Basquiat’s works are political, emotional and experiential, and there’s a ton of integrity within them. I say this because, even if his style isn’t to your taste, there is a lot to take away from this show. If his style is to your taste (it is to mine), then you’ll take away even more.

Basquiat: Now’s the Time is at the AGO until May 10, 2015. I suggest you go.

Douglas Does Toronto

I recently visited the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art and the Royal Ontario Museum to see their Douglas Coupland exhibitions. Here is a quick review.


ABOVE: Douglas Coupland, Permanent Press Landscape, 2011, acrylic on canvas, collection of Miriam Shiell Fine Art, as seen at the Museum on Contemporary Canadian Art

BELOW: Douglas Coupland, Slogans for the 21st Century, 2011-2014, prints on watercolour paper laminated onto aluminum, Courtesy of the Artist and Daniel Faria Gallery, as seen at the Royal Ontario Museum

If you live in Toronto, chances are you’ve come across the name Douglas Coupland in your travels. That’s because his art is everywhere this winter. Over the past two weekends, I took in two of his shows, one at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, the other at the Royal Ontario Museum. Here’s what I thought:

Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art – price $0 (I made a $5 donation)

Make no mistake, this is a distinctly Canadian show. Even more so, it’s distinctly rural. That’s okay. In fact, it’s pretty cool. From modern takes on old Canadian masters, to large scale installations, this was by far my favorite of the two venues.

Royal Ontario Museum – price $16 (I paid an extra $7 to see the Wildlife Photography Exhibition)

Unlike its sister show, the art here is more international – and urban – in scope. I liked a lot of what I saw, but I liked it more as a complement to the MOCCA show than I did as a stand alone exhibition.


Owing to a drastic shift in themes, it actually makes sense to put the work in two venues. Just make sure you visit both. To see only one, is to miss out on the bigger picture.

Links for Artists

Ah, the internet. It can be a time suck, but if used properly, it can be really informative too. For all you artists out there, here are some useful links.


I found these useful. Hopefully, you will too:

Advice for Artists Seeking Representation

Top 10 Reasons Why Artists Fail with Social Media

Dos and Don’ts for Artist Websites

Five Tips for Getting into Juried Art Shows

How to Sell Your Art

33 Artists in 3 Acts (a review)

I love art, and I try to read every book I can find about it. A few year’s ago, I read 7 Days in the Art World. This past weekend, I finished 33 Artists in 3 Acts. Here is a short review.


Sarah Thornton obviously has many connections in the art world, and owing to this, her latest offering 33 Artists in 3 Acts contains a who’s who of contemporary art – this is a very good thing.

As the title suggests, the book is broken into three cinematic acts: politics, kinship and craft. Throughout these acts, Thornton spends time with some of the planet’s most important living artists, and along the way, provides an inside glimpse into the artistic mind as it grapples with, and attempts to find its way in an extremely fickle art world.

Irrespective of fame, the time the author spends with each artist is recounted in a very casual and humanistic manner. No where is this more apparent than in the kinship section where Thornton hangs out with the family of artist couple Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons. Few art books address the family dynamic.

Make no mistake, Thornton is by no means a push over. Although most of the artists come across as likable, at times they seem overly full of themselves, or even arrogant. Be that as it may, this writer doesn’t lead by the hand, and the reader is left to formulate their own opinions.

If you liked 7 Days in the Art World, you’re gonna love 33 Artists in 3 Acts. If you’ve yet to read either, I highly suggest that you do.

Mr. Turner (a review)

Like many an art fiend, I am a huge fan of J.M.W. Turner. I recently had the pleasure of watching Mike Leigh’s biopic of the artist, and I was impressed.


While J.M.W. Turner would never, and I mean NEVER, win the British art prize awarded in his name, he is still as popular today as he was in his lifetime – maybe more so – and given this, it was about time somebody made a film about him. Enter Mike Leigh.

Mr. Turner, although lengthy, is not a full accounting of the the artists life, but rather, an examination of the last 25 years of his career. Owing to the scope of the project, and the fact that many of his best works were produced later in life, this was probably a wise decision.

This film certainly doesn’t flatter Turner, but to be fair, it doesn’t really flatter anyone else either. The aristocracy, the Royal Academy, and most of all, the critic John Ruskin are all portrayed in a negative light. Not to worry, Turner’s likability, or that of his supporting cast, shouldn’t deter the viewer – many a genius was also a cad.

At times quite beautiful, the Oscar nod for best cinematography is well deserved, as are the nods for costume design and music (original score). That said, of all the films best qualities, the performance of Timothy Spall is by far the greatest. Sadly, he did not receive a nomination.

There isn’t much to complain about here. If you’re a fan of Turner, or just great film making, you’ll want to see this.

Goals for 2015

It’s that time of year again. Time to regroup. Time to reflect. And most importantly, time to set goals. Here then, are my plans for the upcoming year.


ABOVE: David McDonough, Untitled, mixed media, 17 x 21 x 3 inches

Every artist should have a list of goals. Here are some of mine:

  • Start new projects
  • Explore new subjects
  • Reduce production costs
  • Raise money for my art business
  • Pay off debt
  • Create and monitor a budget
  • Expand the type of distribution channels where my art is available
  • Develop my brand and increase brand awareness
  • Get new clients
  • Spend more time networking
  • Learn more business skills

Influences: Joseph Cornell

Of all my influences (and there are many), Joseph Cornell is by far the biggest. Here then is a short bio of the man and his work.


ABOVE: Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Medici Princess), c. 1948, construction, 17.63 x 11.13 x 4.38 inches, private collection

Joseph Cornell was born in Nyack, New York on December 24, 1903 to Joseph, a textile merchant, and Helen, a kindergarten teacher.

The eldest of four siblings, he was a shy child who played in isolation, and was wary of strangers. The Death of his father in 1917 (when he was 14) amplified his shyness.

It also brought hard times upon the family, and they were forced to move to a smaller house in Queens. With the exception of 2 years away at school (he didn’t graduate), Cornell spent almost his entire life in that house.

A deeply religious man, he was either incapable, or unwilling to enter into a romantic relationship, so instead, he spent his adult days in the company of his mother, and brother Robert (who had cerebral palsy). He did sometimes enjoy the friendship of women, but they found him far too weird to date.

Cornell is best known for his boxed assemblages, which he created using found objects. These works have several themes, chiefly among them: Medici children, birds, ballet dancers, and female film-stars.

While he never pledged allegiance to any one ‘ism’, he is most often considered a surrealist, and owing to that, he became friends with some of the movements biggest players. Later in life, his influence could be seen in other movements, such as Pop.

Joseph Cornell died of a heart attack in New York City on December 29, 1972. He was 69.

Must See Art Shows in Toronto this Winter

One of the best things about living in a big city is the art. With that said, if you’re in Toronto this month (and next), the following shows will likely be stellar.


ABOVE: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1981, acrylic, oilstick, paper collage and spray paint on canvas, 96.25 x 72 inches, The Broad Foundation, © Licensed by Artestar, New York

The Bad News: If you’ve ever been to Toronto, you know it can get really, really cold in January/February.

The Good News: There is a lot of great art to look at.

Stay warm, and go to the following shows:

Douglas Coupland

Daniel Faria Gallery (January 22 – March 21), Royal Ontario Museum & Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art (January 31 – April 18)

Seems like Coupland will be all over the city this winter. Maybe I’ll read another one of his books before I go.

Kent Monkman

Pierre-Francois Ouellette Art Contemporian (January 30 – February 28)

This guy can paint, and his piece in the Art Gallery of Ontario is outstanding. Here’s hoping he brings his ‘A’ game.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Art Gallery of Ontario (February 7 – May 16)

Probably the biggest exhibition to hit the city this year. Of all the shows in 2015, I’m looking forward to this one the most.