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Why We Can’t Wait for MOCA’s Opening Weekend (Psst: Admission is Free)

The Museum of Contemporary Art is offering free admission to visitors for its opening weekend (September 22 – 23). Here’s why we’re already in love with its unique mix of artwork, design and heritage architecture

By Sara Cunningham

When it comes to the Museum of Contemporary Art’s (MOCA) new home, you really want to get in on the ground floor. Although visitors are invited to explore all five levels of the refurbished Tower Automotive Building starting this Saturday, September 22, the first floor will always be free to the public — and there are lots of reasons you should go.

Take Andreas Angelidakis‘ seventy-four interactive foam modules, commissioned by MOCA for a year-long takeover, that can be recomposed by visitors into all kinds of new formations from seating to thresholds, platforms to columns. “This engaging, hands-on installation will straddle disciplines and invite visitors of all ages to reimagine their museum space,” says Executive Director and CEO Heidi Reitmaier.

Photo by Arash Moallemi.

For food and design buffs, there’s also a new cafe by local Italian bakery Forno Cultura as well as the relocated home of the artist run centre and bookshop Art Metropole. Don’t overlook the reception desk designed by Toronto’s MSDS (the studio behind the floral boutique Flur on Bathurst Street) either, as it hold many clues to the site’s past.

The design firm wrapped the desk in hefty 1/4″ plate of aluminum to honour the Tower Automotive Building’s history as an aluminum casting an manufacturing plant. “We then machined flutes into it — a motif we derived from the unfluted, elegant concrete columns that are the space’s most striking feature,” they told us. “The elements we added are all intended to contrast but still honour the, in many cases, untouched industrial envelope.”

On Sterling Road, visitors enter the museum through what was once the factory loading bay, further recalling the past. Minimal interventions throughout the interior similarly spotlight the building’s industrial character. During the renovation, graffiti was sandblasted from the concrete monolithic mushroom columns and walls (which for a long time sheltered much of the city’s pigeon population, we’re told), giving the gallery an unmistakable Junction aesthetic.

Photo by Ben Rahm.

Venture upstairs to see the museum’s inaugural group exhibition, Believe, featuring 16 artists working in diverse media. The exhibit responds to explores themes of personal and collective belief structures that couldn’t feel more pertinent as populism and social media restructure political and social norms. No matter the exhibition, however, there’s hardly a better location as the 55,000 square-foot gallery to celebrate Toronto’s gritty, working class past — as well as its future as a destination for contemporary art and ideas.

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