Metamorphosis: a transformation from an immature to an adult form. If you will allow us to speak about the University of Toronto Art Centre in zoological terms for the moment, what was once a tadpole of a gallery has emerged as a full-fledged frog, and one that is already making noise on the Toronto art scene.
The centre, which opened in November 1996, closed last year after receiving an anonymous gift of $2 million, which allowed it to double its size and create climate-controlled exhibit and storage space. It reopened in April with four exhibits: two that suggest the quality and range of the 4,000 works in the centre’s permanent collections and two that exercise its new ability to stage significant travelling exhibits.
With 8,000 square feet of display space, the centre is now one of the biggest public galleries in Toronto after the Art Gallery of Ontario. Its goals are to establish acquisition and operating endowments and to have a $1-million operating budget within five years. As large as those ambitions may seem, they were not conceived just to display art. The real purpose of the gallery, according to director David Silcox, is to support scholarship. The centre will create or host exhibitions in the fine arts, decorative arts, architecture and photography, and will sponsor related talks, conferences, films and concerts.
All of these goals represent a modest pond when compared with the art centres of McGill or Queen’s, or the galleries of Harvard, Yale or Stanford. Still, the exhibits that herald this new stage in the centre’s development are impressive, indeed. There is an exhibit of 100 vintage photos by the American photographer Lee Miller and works by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood from the Dennis Lanigan collection. From the centre’s permanent collections, there are masterworks by the Group of Seven and a selection of Byzantine icons from the Lillian Malcove Collection.
The frog, it is clear, is on its way to becoming a prince. In the following pages, we invite you to accompany the curators on a tour of major pieces from the four exhibits now on display.
The University of Toronto Art Centre is open Tuesday to Friday, noon to 5 p.m., and Saturdays noon to 4 p.m. For ongoing and current exhibits visit: www.utac.utoronto.ca