TORONTO ALTERNATIVE ART FAIR INTERNATIONAL at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West) and the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen West), November 4-7, Friday to Sunday noon to 8 pm, Monday noon to 5 pm. $6. www.taafi.org, 416-846 -6230.
TORONTO INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (255 Front West), November 4-7, Friday and Saturday noon to 8 pm, Sunday and Monday noon to 7 pm. $16, stu/srs $12. www.tiafair.com, 1 -800-663-4173. Rating: NNNNN
You know you have a successful art fair when it includes a friendly queer artist dressed up in a homemade fun fur baby sasquatch outfit to broaden our appreciation of female beauty. That would be Allyson Mitchell in room 207 at the Gladstone Hotel, part of the Toronto Alternative Art Fair International (TAAFI). The alternative fair's second annual romp coincides again with the larger, more established Toronto International Art Fair (TIAF), now in its sixth year. Combined, they promise an excruciatingly good four days, starting tonight.
TIAF, where "art" is too often a modifier for "market," hasn't exactly been known for showing groundbreaking work. This year, however, it stretches a compelling canvas of contemporary programs over its conservative frame.
Canadian Art editor Richard Rhodes is mounting his popular News At Five, an exhibition that changes daily. On Saturday, sculptor John Dickson takes over the space to build a scale model of an entire imaginary metropolis.
Free and open to the public, Interactive 2005 is the brainchild of Thom Sokoloski , a master at blending theatre, architecture and multimedia into a singular experience. Installed in the Convention Centre with the help of an impressive array of galleries and organizations, it features contemporary interactive art and "sensory interventions." Friday night, Interactive gets social, spilling into participating galleries on Queen West.
Best of all, TIAF this year fosters an unprecedented exchange with contemporary Chinese artists through Art Rising, with the help of Shengtian Zheng , co-curator of the 2004 Shanghai Biennale. See the vividly colourful photography of noted performance artist Zhang Huan , and greet real live people in the Duolun Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai, courtesy of Jin Jiangbo 's The Third Eye.
Their installation comprises two specially built ancient-looking stone wells, one here and one in the Duolun, both with video teleconferencing equipment hidden inside that connects via the Internet.
Over in the hotels, TAAFI artists and organizers Pamila Matharu , Andrew Harwood and Barr Gilmore have expanded on last year's unabashed success, extending invitations to 35 artists and hosting 25 exhibitors.
The little fair that does this year sponsors a room in the Drake for the FameFame collective. Witness the entrenched hostility and inverted hope in their apocalyptic audio and visual works.
On the subtler side, the South Asian Visual Art Collective (SAVAC) presents Brendan Fernandes , who fills a room at the Gladstone with cardboard boxes and white ceramic deer, raising the question of which is out of place.
And don't forget to call in on the Art Gallery of York University's Queen Street residence, courtesy of the Drake, where Matthew Brannon and artist, designer, critic and curator Liam Gillick will, among other things, continue their project to build a working telephone from bits and pieces of other phones. They may need your help. This collaborative experiment, undertaken with Philip Monk , will be captured in a book available sometime next year through the AGYU.
Aside from all the visual art, not to mention excellent lectures and panels hosted by both fairs, TAAFI also puts on two raucous nights dispelling any lingering myths about art people gathering demurely over bon mots, Cabernet Sauvignon and toothpicked cubes of cheese.
Tonight (Thursday, November 3) at the Gladstone, TAAFI's gala reception, Back To The Rack, will feature a genre-bending performance by Vancouver's Stink Mitt along with Leslie and the Ly's and DJs Will Munro and DMT . Saturday sees homecoming electro queen Peaches take on the Drake Hotel with MC Texass and Big Primpin' .
Don't forget about the art.