Last Saturday’s twilight took Torontonians to the street, stumbling, often literally, on unexpected works of art. For the fifth time, the all-night exhibition aimed to bring art to the Toronto public. Did the annual event succeed in its aim? Or did the unofficial, un-incorporated projects more accurately capture the spirit of the sleepless night?

Raking in more than $38 million for the city over its five-year lifespan, the Scotiabank-sponsored event is not without its financial pros. But at what cost? The long lineups at Yonge and Dundas are enough to drive anyone west.

Then again, an unbearably long line is an indication of something worth waiting for, right? In Huston-Herterich and Tinmouth’s “Wait Until You See This,” you don’t have to wait to enjoy the exhibit - you’re in it. The project consisted of people lining up in front of a curtain-clad door, flanked by bouncers, only to be escorted out the other side. The exhibit forced viewers to imagine the possibilities that lay behind the door – though most were too distracted by the giant, inflated clown heads crammed between two Yonge Street office buildings.

Unfortunately, with thousands of people flooding the streets – including over 100,000 tourists – an all-night TTC pass translates to ten bucks better spent on something to warm the frozen limbs - like a pint or two. In the same camp of many Toronto taxpayers, Alexandra McLaren of the Woodsworth Art Society felt, “Art became an arbitrary necessity to facilitate the night itself.”

For the lucky that manage to squeeze onto a westbound streetcar, the night became a bit brighter as the number of people and the quality of art assumed an inverse relationship. At Bloor and Lansdown, the Holy Oak Café was a work of art in itself. The independently produced installation transformed the café into a storybook cottage scene. Says organizer Sarah D’Angelo, “I wanted people to feel as though they were experiencing what it’s like to be interacting with art rather than merely observing it.”

Are these “off-the-grid” exhibitions accessible to the averagely art-informed citizen? McLaren answers, “Art, and its 'meaning,' isn't always accessible, even to the most pretentious esoteric art snobs.” Still, how can art be brought to the people if the people don’t know where it is? Says D’Angelo, “like anything good you'll have to do some digging to know it's there.”

Though reluctant to use the term, D’Angelo sees Nuit Blanche as bringing art to the “905ers” because the rest of Toronto hardly needs it served to them. “Toronto is full of wonderful, thoughtful creations waiting to be digested. I just don't think Nuit Blanche can facilitate reaching that goal.” We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can consume culture in a span of twelve, often inebriated, hours.

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  • Subtitle: Toronto's fifth annual public art exhibition serves up another helping of met unexpectations
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