Canada has always been a place with very strong aboriginal traditions, and Toronto is no exception. The first galleries selling Inuit and First Nations art opened around 30 to 40 years ago, when having a Native sculpture or painting was fashionable. Many art collectors are very keen on the contemporary interpretations of aboriginal art, as well as traditional sculptures that simply belong among the Canadian lifestyle. Many young artists who focus on Native art got the chance to show that Inuit and First Nations sculpture, prints, and crafts are far from extinction and have a lot to offer even in the contemporary competition. Let's see what Toronto galleries have to offer.
The Eskimo Art Gallery (Map)
This gallery specializes in Inuit art, forms of art that have been on Canadian soil for centuries. The Eskimo Art Gallery was established in 1981 and has been bringing the finest of Northern Canadian art to Toronto ever since. The Eskimo Gallery also supports young artists specializing in Inuit art, giving them an opportunity to exhibit their works and keep the tradition of Inuit art alive.
If you're searching for a unique, original gift that no one else will bring, you should consider finding one in the Eskimo Art Gallery. They offer professional advice and services. Their prices start from $33.00 for smaller pieces and go up for more unique pieces. The gallery offers a wide range of sculptures, prints (mainly from Cape Dorset and Holman communities), and crafts (tapestry, jewellery, dolls, postcards, and more). I particularly adore the collage by Pudlalik Shaa. I find the work of this artist very soothing, and although he's using strong traditional Inuit motives, his art feels very contemporary. The Collage sculpture from the Cape Dorset community made of serpentine lines holds the kind of elegance a lot of contemporary works are missing.
Bay of Spirits Gallery (Map)
Bay of Spirits Gallery has specialized in contemporary First Nations art for over 20 years now. Bay of Spirits Gallery currently represents a diverse portfolio of artists such as Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Carl Ray, James Simon, Leland Bell, Randy Trudeau, and other great native artists. The gallery's Pacific Northwest collection that's promoted as the gallery's strength has some real potential. It includes masks and plaques from the Haida and Kwakiutl. You have the unique opportunity to appreciate the works of Carl Ray, from the Salter collection.
The paintings in the gallery can be divided into three categories" Woodland (Carl, Snake, Bedwash), Inuit (Memogana, Roberta), and International (Richards). The gallery holds a very impressive Eagle and Raven Transformation mask from Pacific Northwest region, by Kurtis Anton. Moreover, the statues in their collection are very high quality. Especially the Inuit part of the exhibition is quite impressive. Particularly the works of Morris Alorut caught my eye.
La Parete Gallery (Map)
La Parete has certainly gained a place among the best established galleries in Toronto. Since 1975, it has been offering a selection of unique fine art originated both in Canada and worldwide. La Parete also serves as a venue for a yearly art auction organized by the Creative Spirit Arts Centre. The gallery is placed in the very heart of Seaton Village — in my opinion, the best place it could be. The space feels very relaxed and casual, yet very artistic and professional.
Apart from Rene Marcil, whose works I just don't seem to get a grasp on, they have a very nice collection of artwork, including Jack Reppen, William Ronald, Arthur Shilling, Philip Surrey, Ruben Zellermayer, and my personal favourite, Hiroshi Yamamoto, a painter who's pursuing traditional Japanese painting in the Nihonga and sumi-e style.
Faheley Fine Arts Gallery (Map)
Feheley Fine Arts has been a key player on the Toronto Inuit art scene for over fifty years now. Feheley Fine Arts is a member of the Art Dealers Association of Canada (ADAC). The gallery offers a range of consultation and curatorial services including art appraisal, collection management, and display and exhibition advice, and I speak from my own experience when I say that the first impression you get is that these people know what they are doing. The professional approach is clear every step of the way. The location of the gallery is very impressive too; the historic St. Lawrence Market area of downtown speaks for itself.
In Fall 2012, we can look forward to several intriguing exhibitions that are going to take place in Faheley. Shuvinai's World(s) will focus on her exploration of time, space, and global issues as presented in these recent drawings. Ohotaq Mikkigak: Imaginary Landscape – this senior Cape Dorset artist's exhibition will range from landscape to mythology. The Inuit Print will focus on exploration of techniques, media, and styles from the various studios across the Canadian Arctic. The Inuit print will be the first in a series of exhibitions that will focus on specific areas of interest in Northern printmaking. I'm definitely looking forward to more of these series.
Armen Art Gallery-Raven Spirit (Map)
From West Coast to Woodland, First Nations and Inuit nations: that's the Raven Spirit in a nutshell. However, if you look closely, it's so much more. They offer very high-quality traditional art forms to wide pallet of collectors. From ceremonial headdresses, transformation masks, potlatch bowls, sculptures, and talking sticks to soapstone carvings, silkscreens, and serigraphes, everything in very high quality craftsmanship. The originals are not very cheap, but I wouldn't say that prices are unreasonable. However, prints are very high-quality and for very reasonable prices. The biggest critique I have for this gallery is their webpage. I wanted to check their collection from home, but their support is terrible, so unless you're from Toronto, you're out of luck because everything you'll see is a bunch of small pictures that are by far not a complete collection, and one commentary and price would show up for all of the listings.
Kinsman Robinson Galleries (Map)
The Kinsman Robinson Galleries started in 1980 as a family business and has kept that feeling until now. When I'm writing that Kinsman Robinson feels familial, I don't mean it in a bad way — quite the opposite. The owners have quite a history. In 1975, while still living in Montreal, Kinsman and Robinson founded a quarterly newsletter, The Canadian Art Investors Guide. In two years, they developed it into a magazine with nationwide subscription sales. With twenty-five years of experience in the art business, their son carries the family's involvement in the visual arts into the second generation with over 25 years of experience in the art business.
Artists that are acquainted with this gallery have done some really impressive work. I was very impressed mainly by Tom and William Forrestall, especially by Tom's Shaped Paintings, Dangerous Ideas. Another artist that caught my eye was Pat Clemens. I think that the commentary provided by the gallery sums her up very nicely: "She paints her landscape and floral compositions in watercolour with an immediacy and an exuberance that can only be garnered from painting on location—drinking in the beauty of the land and transferring it to paper with each brushstroke. She has been described as a traditionalist with an approach to painting as pure in intent as Turner's."