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A Design Lover’s Guide to Spring in Toronto

exhibitions and workshops happening spring 2018 in Toronto

Here is our big-fat calendar of events, exhibitions and workshops happening this spring in the city

By Sara Cunningham


Toronto Revealed - Exhibit

Toronto Revealed
To April 22
Free, TD Gallery, Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St.

While you’re returning overdue books, check out this charming love letter to the city at the Toronto Reference Library. A selection of prints, drawings and paintings curated from TPL’s documentary art collection captures transformations from the mid-20th century to today. A 1938 aquatint shows St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica against a once-sparse skyline, while Rebecca Ott’s Cranes painting depicts hoarding around yet another condo construction site. As you tour the exhibition, the city’s evolution – from industrialization to gentrification – comes into focus.


Artistry in Silk: The Kimono of Itchiku Kubota

Artistry in Silk: The Kimono of Itchiku Kubota
To May 13
$15, Textile Museum of Canada, 55 Centre Ave.

Japan’s most iconic garment gets the star treatment thanks to artist Itchiku Kubota. Acclaimed for reviving a long-lost 16th-century dyeing and drawing technique called tsujigahana, Kubota imprints 43 flowing robes with dreamy landscapes and motifs. Symphony of Light, a meditation on Fall and Winter, comprises a series of kimono embellished with a cloudy mountain range. To represent the waning sunlight, Kubota imbues the fabric with a sensational gradient that goes from flushed red to the palest winter shades.


Yoko Ono: The Riverbed

Yoko Ono: The Riverbed
To Jun 3
$15, Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Pk.

Leave it to Yoko Ono to find Zen in broken coffee cups. Mend Piece, first created in 1966, asks visitors to reassemble porcelain pieces with tape, string and glue while sipping freshly brewed coffee in an all-white room. Two concurrent installations, Stone Piece and Line Piece, expand on the theme of inner calm and togetherness. As all are interactive exhibitions, hold a smooth river stone inscribed with words such as “wish” and “remember,” or hang lengths of twine around a gallery room. Find out more in our DL Dispatch coverage.

Black Friday - Exhibit

Black Friday
Apr 13 – Jun 2
Free, Mercer Union, 1286 Bloor St W. 

Fans of George A. Romero’s zombie flicks will appreciate Sophia Al-Maria’s anti-capitalist video installation, Black Friday. Borrowing effects from the post-apocalyptic genre, the artist presents hypnotic images of Qatari shopping malls accompanied by eerie voiceovers and a booming soundtrack. She likens shopping centres to sacred temples, where the push and pull of American-style consumerism in the Gulf is played out.

Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion

Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion
Jun 2 – Oct 8
Price TBA, Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen’s Pk

Superstar fashion designer Iris van Herpen specializes in optical illusions. In her hands, a dress has the translucency and texture of a jellyfish, or else mimics the movement of flowing water. Chemical Crows, a sinuous uniform fit for a warrior queen, is constructed from children’s umbrellas and cowhide. On display alongside van Herpen’s couture is an installation from architect Philip Beesley, whose sculptural examples of responsive architecture move just as hypnotically. Read more in our Fashion File coverage.

Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak

Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak
Jun 16 – Aug 12
$19.50, Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St W.

Kenojuak Ashevak shot to fame when Canada Post put The Enchanted Owl, a print of a black and red plumed nocturnal bird, on a postage stamp in 1970. Other animal prints by the magic marker-wielding “grandmother of Inuit art” are exhibited alongside work by her nephew, Tim Pitsiulak. The enchanting menagerie includes Pitsiulak’s Swimming Bear, a polar bear whose white limbs shine through a pool of India ink, and Ashevak’s Bountiful Bird, a fowl with  a fan of Medusa-like heads.

168:01 - A Library Rising From the Ashes, Wafaa Bilal

168:01 – A Library Rising From the Ashes, Wafaa Bilal
Jul 14 – Aug 19
$20, Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr.

Artist Wafaa Bilal’s library of empty white books is a wordless memorial to two lost literary collections, and a call-to-action. In 2003, the University of Baghdad’s College of Fine Arts collection was destroyed in a fire set by looters during the invasion of Iraq; in 1258, soldiers dumped books from Baghdad’s House of Wisdom into the Tigris River. But all is not lost: the books will be shipped back to Baghdad to replenish the library. Donate a volume to the exhibition from a list compiled by the university, and take home a blank book, waiting to be written.


Architecture and Design Workshop

Architecture and DesignApr 21 – Jun 16 
$130, Living Arts Centre, Mississauga, 4141 Living Arts Dr.

Kids from Saug City dive into the world of architecture in this crash course on everything from city planning to industrial design. Young creatives ages 10 to 12 dream up facades, greenspaces, parks and floor plans for tomorrow’s structures. For those in need of new swag, there’s also a strong design component. Past participants have made their own chess sets, clocks, tic-tac-toe boards and mobiles. The Living Arts Centre, designed by Zeidler Partnership Architects, features sweeping glass frontage and stunning performance spaces, the ideal venue to inspire next-gen city-builders.


Jane's Walks - Festival

Jane’s Walks
May 4 – 6
Free, Citywide.

The great observer of cities, Jane Jacobs, was also a prodigious walker. She wrote disparagingly about non-pedestrian traffic in The Death and Life of Great American Cities: “When distance and convenience sets in; the small, the various and the personal wither away.” Jane’s Walk was founded in Toronto as a way to activate Jacobs’s get-out-and-go attitude, inviting strangers on citizen-led expeditions of their neighbourhoods. Past walks included unusual tours of local convenience stores, the Leslie Street Spit and urban garden walls.


What is a School?
Apr 27 & 28
Free, Principal Hall, 1 Spadina Cres.

Class is in session at the new home of U of T’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design – the perfect stage for a symposium on the design of learning spaces. Hear from architectural historians and pioneering video artists as you take in the building’s restored neo-gothic turrets and arches, plus a novel three-storey addition. Revisit the commanding space during Doors Open Toronto.


  • Hot Docs International Documentary Festival (Apr 26 – May 6)  Featuring compelling docs from the series Made in Mexico and The Changing Face of Europe, this fest is the reel deal  

  • Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival (May 1-31) – Billboards by Beyoncé’s pregnancy announcement photographer, Awol Erizku, plaster the city. On display indoors: the work of 1200+ shutterbugs

  • OCAD Graduate Exhibition (May 3-6)  Some 900-plus promising designers and artists exhibit their thesis projects in several campus buildings, including the Sharp Centre for Design

  • Doors Open Toronto (May 26 27)  Keep your eyes wide open as you explore Toronto’s many iconic and historic buildings, from Knox College to Campbell House

  • Luminato (Jun 6-24)  Take in one of 3000 unique performances, such as All Strings Attached, a synth, strings and piano concert by Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds

Categories: Design Lover's Guide

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