Mia Nielsen ~ Director of Art Toronto 2020

Interview by Keith Veira


Keith Veira: Please share with us the programming diversity offered at Art Toronto 2020?

Mia Nielsen: This is an exciting year to discover work by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis artists at the fair. There is an incredible range of work from Cape Dorset prints to sculptures, paintings to installations. Some galleries like Fazakas, Fehely Fine Arts, and Donald Ellis focus exclusively on art by First Nations artists, but many more galleries have diverse rosters, which is interesting because it creates a contemporary context.

Also look out for programming from the National Gallery of Canada, AGO, McMichael and more who are all presenting events with First Nations, Inuit and Métis curators and artists.

KV: What are several of your top must-see pieces at the show this year, and why?

MN: Ha! That’s a tough question, like asking someone to pick a favourite child! To get a quick view of some of the best in show from different perspectives, I encourage people to check out our Curated Collections, this is a section of the fair where curators, culture leaders and other interesting personalities have selected a shortlist of their favourite works.

KV- You and your team are breaking new ground in the production of Art Fairs, combining virtual and in-person experiences, as well as national and international galleries. What are some of the expectations in-person and/or telepresence attendees to realize?

MN: There are so many ways to engage with the fair this year and discover new art and artists. The ArtTO website will have roughly 100 exhibitors showing works in all media, as well as artist studio visits and speaker program. We collaborated with Collecting App, so you can virtually place works in your home to test out what it would be like to live with them. Another way to explore new media is with an AR artwork we commissioned by Jenn E Norton, you can search for it on Facebook and Instagram and see the digital sculpture where ever you are. 

Seeing art in digital space is wonderful, the diversity is incredible. But nothing beats seeing a painting or sculpture in person – the way it can change how we perceive space, the details and the way a work can change in different lights or circumstances – it can change you! In Canada we’re so lucky to have such a dynamic art scene, right across the country.

Most are free of charge to visit and the best part is that art viewing conditions haven’t really changed with the pandemic, spaces are large with few visitors at a time, it’s such a pleasure to return to those spaces and have IRL experiences.

Nicolas Grenier, Bradley Ertaskiran Gallery, Montreal

Nicolas Grenier, Bradley Ertaskiran Gallery, Montreal

KV: Artists have had to deal with a new level of uncertainty. From your awareness, how has this affected their practices, and have you seen a notable difference in their art?

MN: Some artists are using technology in new ways, as we’ll see with Brendan Fernandes choreographing a performance in several locations over several locations. This piece, commissioned by the AGO will be performed in October and on the 28th, he’ll be talking about the process with Devyani Saltzman. Or Adad Hannah who has been doing socially distanced portraits of strangers on the street (Often posted to Instagram). But naturally, the pandemic affects people in different ways, some artists have been in the studio daily for months, others were kept out of their workplaces due to restrictions, so I’m sure we’ll see the results of this come through artists’ work for years to come.

KV: Do you have a special message you would like to share with our readers?

MN: No matter your interests or taste, there are artists making work (or have made work) that will speak to you. Expression is one of the cornerstones of the human experience and it’s incredibly exciting and enriching to connect to an idea that communicates through an image rather than words. And in this time of Zoom meetings and home schooling, it can be so inspiring to look away from the screen, stare at an artwork and set your mind free.

KV: Thank You Mia!

Sondra Meszaros-Corkin Gallery

Sondra Meszaros ~ Corkin Gallery ~ Distillery Historic District