Toronto’s Lesser-Known Art Havens

Whether you are an art enthusiast or appreciator, or simply someone seeking boredom relief on a Sunday afternoon, one of the best ways to spend time in the city is to gallery hop. With Toronto’s array of unique neighbourhoods, great art is to be found everywhere. If you don’t want to pass the whole day in a huge gallery like the AGO, then don’t. Here’s a list of lesser-known independent art galleries, one per suggested neighbourhood (though clearly many others abound and this list is by no means exclusive) that feature unique Canadian and international art in a variety of media. Entrance in most cases is free.

Queen Street West
Nadia Kakridonis, a young graduate from Humber’s advertising and graphic design program, opened Twist Gallery in 2010 and has since seen her loft-style space turn into one of Queen Street West’s most sought-after gallery and event spaces. The 5,000 square foot loft is a piece of art in itself, featuring skylights, French arch windows, and long wooden beams playing up the high ceilings. Unlike many of her pretentious neighbors, Kakridonis ensures art lovers of all sorts feel welcome at Twist, and takes time to engage with every guest that walks through her doors. For the remainder of this month, catch Harry Enchin’s Toronto Transformed, a collection of film photographs from the City of Toronto archives that have been juxtaposed with an array of digital photographs. 1100 Queen Street West 416-588-2222

Toronto’s east neighbourhood, Leslieville, has seen one-of-a-kind galleries popping up at almost every corner. Pentimento Fine Art Gallery opened in the summer of 2006, soon after the New York Times named Leslieville Toronto’s hippest place to live. Pentimento displays and sells art in a variety of media, from contemporary Canadian artists in all stages of their careers. Right now, check out Salon Solstice, a contemporary collection from a variety of artists that includes paintings, drawings and abstract installation pieces. Owner John Rait welcomes all guests with free admission — but be prepared to fork out a pretty penny if you want to purchase a piece. 1164 Queen Street East 416-406-6772

The Olga Korper Gallery has come a long way from its home beginnings in the Korper’s basement. The growing success of the gallery saw it move to 80 Spadina, then eventually to a former mattress factory in Roncesvalles Village. This industrial space-turned-gallery makes Olga Korper different from many other start-up galleries, as it boasts a huge space with high ceilings able to fit installations of any size. The gallery focuses on contemporary art in all major media and has built up an impressive roster of artists including Paterson Ewen, Will Alsop, Hamish Fulton and Roland Brenner. Until January 23 2012, catch Barbara Steinman’s Reconfigurations, featuring the strand series that the artist calls “The Seven Seas.” 17 Morrow Avenue 416-538-8220

Distillery District
One of my favourite places in the city to check out unique photography exhibitions is a small photo store in the Distillery District called Pikto [pictured]. Every month, the store chooses one artists from an array of submissions and displays that artist’s work on the store’s walls. Until December 31, Pikto features Maynard Switzer’s Speaking a Thousand Words, an inspiring collection of international photographs of people living in harsh conditions. If the art on the walls gets you inspired, Pikto offers photography classes and workshops as well as high quality print services. (Irresistible bonus, despite our stating we would plug only one gallery per district: While in the Distillery, head over to Cube Works Studio, a fun and impressive gallery of gargantuan portraits made with Rubik’s-style cubes, in addition to creations sculpted from dice, crayons, thread, broken records and more.) 55 Mill Street 416-203-3443

Image courtesy of Ken Nickerson.

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