There are countless things to say, and discuss, about the Mirvish+Gehry proposal for King Street West in Downtown Toronto. The condo and cultural centre development has been presented for discussion at two public consultations now, and a third will be help on Monday, April 29. Our earlier reports on other aspects of the proposal are linked at the end of this page. Today we simply let David Mirvish talk about his vision for the Mirvish Collection Gallery he is planning for the display of his outstanding collection of art.
"I’m sure that many people are curious about the collection. I began collecting 50 years ago, so it’s been a lifetime activity. I had never thought that I’d be able to put it in the public realm, not the core of it, because most people can never afford to have a gallery; that’s why you give to public museums.
The problem with giving to public museums is they show the pictures when they receive them, and then they put them in the basement. And the basement that they usually put them in, because they’re government funded and usually inadequate, is a basement that is inaccessible. So a scholar that wishes to write about the pictures sends a request, and they’re given an appointment in three months, and then if they’re lucky, they’re in a small room pressed up against the picture, not really able to appreciate it.
When this project came along, I recognized that we would never be able to show everything at one time, but that this gallery could do something that other galleries have not been able to do.
I believe that Impressionism and Post Impressionism in the mid-19th Century has a parallel with Abstract Expressionism and Colour Field painting from the mid-20th Century. After Abstract Expressionism, three major movements emerge. Minimalism, Pop Art, and Colour Field. If you wish to see Pop Art, it unifies itself by subject matter, so you can see a couple of rooms in most museums and although they’re diverse artists, they don’t create an abstract language of their own; they’re unified by the subject matter and therefore have the impact of a single artist. If you’re interested in Minimalism, you can go to Marfa, Texas, where they have barracks that used to belong to the army and have been abandoned and refitted individually for individual artists. You can see an enormous barrack full of Donald Judd, one for Carl Andre, one for Dan Flavin, etc. There are a number of people represented there and also in Dia:Beacon.
However you can’t see Colour Field anywhere, because it came out of an age of optimism in the 60s and those pictures are 8 by 8 or 8 by 16 feet. If you want to see 80 pictures that size, you can’t see them anywhere. Also, because abstraction creates a language that’s individual to each artist, you can understand why Clyfford Still wanted his own museum, which now exists in Denver, where nothing else has intruded into it. There are times when you wish you could put some of those pictures with a Barnett Newman of 1951, when you could see they were friends and there was a dialogue between them. But those opportunities are now lost.
So I’m looking for a museum that can give 3 or 4 rooms to Robert Motherwell and 3 or 4 rooms to Helen Frankenthaler and 3 or 4 rooms to [Canadian] Jack Bush. I believe we’re a small country, but we had a great artist who speaks to the future, and that we can have other great artists, that we can have recognized internationally… but if we don’t take care of our heritage, then that will not happen.
And as a small country, I look at Denmark and Vilhelm Hammershøi, an artist I suspect few of you are familiar with, but who was a great artist—he died in 1916—and the Danes began to export him in 1983, and there was just a big show in Munich. On the other hand, Norway, another small country, has Edvard Munch. I believe Jack Bush will fall someplace between Vilhelm Hammershøi and Edvard Munch, depending on how we take care of him.
So I believe that we need this context, and we need the opportunity to look at Jack in context, and see how he stands up next to his peers in other parts of the world. I believe because the centre of that group of artists emanated mostly from America—there were practitioners in western Canada, and in Italy, and in France, and in England—that we will actually have people coming from all over the world to see 80 to 100 pictures at the core of the museum, and always up at any one time. And I believe it will change the way we see the world. I also think it will change the way the world sees Canada.
So that’s the goal of the museum, and I have found the perfect partner in OCAD, because when I hire an external curator, they’ll turn to the curatorial studies department and take two masters students out of OCAD and will work with them, and eventually we’ll export curators out of this country to work in museums around the world. So there’s great possibilities. If we’re a failed museum, we’ll get 250,000 visitors a year. If we’re successful, we’ll get a million. And we’ll learn a lot about ourselves and a lot about the rest of the world."
David Mirvish's remarks, above, were delivered at the second public consultation held at Metro Hall about the three-tower project he is pursuing. The images come from a recent Curators' Circle talk that Mr. Mirvish gave at the Art Gallery of Ontario entitled David Mirvish on Collecting, and they represent eight of the many works which will be on display in the Mirvish Collection Gallery.
Questions followed the remarks at the second consultation and one which is appropriate for this article was this:
“From what I’ve heard, the gallery space is supposed to be open to the public. I’m curious as to how that is funded. Will the condo residents who purchase in the tower be the ones who are paying for the operating?”
Peter Kofman, President of Projectcore, the developer David Mirvish is working with, answered the question. “It’s not our intention to make the funding of the gallery space part of the condominium fee or anything of that nature. It may be in fact that some of the commercial spaces and retail spaces in the podium of the building would participate in assisting the funding the gallery spaces. That’s entirely possible. The people who live in these spaces may have all kinds of opportunities to participate in the cultural activities.” Mr. Kofman added afterwards that the funding plan is still a work in progress.
UrbanToronto will have more in coming days on the Mirvish+Gehry project. In the meantime, you can read earlier articles touching on other aspects of the projects through the links below, or choose the dataBase link to see images and reads facts concerning the proposal. If you would like to get involved in the discussion, choose one of the associated Forum thread links below, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.