Strides toward building a new home for contemporary art in Calgary continue. A recent event, LOOK2015, was held on November 7 inside the soon-to-be-transformed Centennial Planetarium, Contemporary Calgary’s new home, set to open in 2018. Contemporary Calgary is the collaborative effort of three institutions joining forces: the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Art, the Art Gallery of Calgary and the Museum of Contemporary Art Calgary. Thanks to a recent commitment by the City of Calgary, it will retrofit an existing structure, the city’s circa-1967 planetarium, designed by Calgary architectural firm McMillan Long and Associates (a work of art in its own right), and create five new exhibition galleries, as well as studio and retail spaces. Funds raised from the second annual LOOK event, which totalled an impressive $1-million (doubling the sum raised at last year’s inaugural LOOK), will be used to establish Temporary Contemporary, an envisioned 7,000-square-foot pop-up space within the Centennial Planetarium, slated to open in late 2016 before construction commences on Phase One of the aforementioned full renovation.
Though pop-ups have become commonplace in the world of fashion, a pop-up preview for a museum is an exciting change of pace. Changing perhaps – at least in the realm of contemporary art – is the importance being placed on permanent museum spaces. These see-them-while-you-can exhibitions are an extension of this new mood and are exposing new eyes to new forms of art. Removed are the imposing marble façades and stuffy environments that seem to deter a new generation of visitors; at a pop-up, gallery attendants are eager to lend an explanation of contemporary works, in spaces that encourage inclusion and dialogue. On a trip to Calgary in late June, I witnessed a Calgary Contemporary pop-up concept in the flesh: Montreal-based artist Dominique Pétrin’s site-specific installation titled Three Withdrawal Movements for an ATM was displayed on the ground floor of Calgary City Hall, viewable even after hours through expansive street-level windows.
Shaking things up – and in an effort to keep this latest event contemporary – the seated dinner commonplace at fundraisers (especially ones that hope to break the $1-million mark) was replaced with drinks, discussion and an auction. Helping to amp up the buzz factor was a pair of imports for the evening: The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik (who, although born stateside, was raised in Montreal) gave a lively lecture, and television personality and producer Dan Levy was on emcee duty. Post-talk and a Stephen Ranger-led live auction, which saw works by Kim Dorland, Erik Olson and Evan Penny head to new homes, it was time to party. Lecture ticket holders joined a larger crowd and things got going. There were performances galore, including one by Vancouver-based electronic pop duo Humans, and throughout the space were interactive art installations aplenty from artists including Randy Niessen, Noel Bégin and Tia Halliday.
Among those out and about in Calgary: Shaw’s executive vice-president & chief operating officer and Contemporary Calgary acting board chair Jay Mehr and his wife, Viviane, managing director of the Calgary wing of Barbara Edwards Contemporary; members of Contemporary Calgary’s board of directors including philanthropist Elizabeth Carson, energy consultant Dr. John Lacey, and arts and culture cheerleader Carol Ryder; Calgary city councillor Evan Woolley; philanthropists Morris and Ann Dancyger; Holt Renfrew’s divisional vice-president Debra Kerr; contributing artists including Fiona Ackerman, Ryan Sluggett and Shawn Evans; and co-founder and director of Calgary’s Trépanier Baer gallery Yves Trépanier.
DX Intersection, Toronto
Happening on the same evening further east was the annual DX Intersection, a key fundraising event in support of the Design Exchange in Toronto (a museum familiar with the power of a pop-up exhibition, having hosted satellite shows across Toronto that focused on sports fashion and 3-D printing). The sold-out do, DX Kismet, celebrated George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg, founders of Yabu Pushelberg, arguably this country’s greatest design export and one of the top design firms internationally. The two, who met in Toronto, have worked on projects together since the mid 1980s. Local clients include Club Monaco, and internationally, they created spaces for Bergdorf Goodman, Louis Vuitton, the Four Seasons Hotels in Tokyo and Toronto and recently, the Miami Beach Edition hotel.
DX president Shauna Levy, hair piled high in a gravity-defying mid-century-Maria Callas-meets Indian wedding up-do, greeted guests in the museum’s main-floor lobby, where speeches ensued, before bestowing George and Glenn with their awards. After, VIP ticket holders like Elie Saab-clad socialite Simona Shnaider and The Room buyer Nicholas Mellamphy; DX board members including Dream’s Krystal Koo-Cooper and Urban Capital partner David Wex; and early Yabu Pushelberg supporters like Michelle Lloyd– Bermann headed upstairs for a standing dinner in a gallery space turned dimly lit tropical dream, where belly dancers and gold-dusted models with palm leaf fans milled about a series of VIP booths.
Noticeably lacking was a major exhibition, though nobody seemed to mind; libations were aplenty, the decor wonderful and a well-turned-out crowd came dressed in their versions of the evening’s kismet theme, donning elaborate headdresses and embroidered sherwanis and kurtas. Among them: Avenue Road’s president and DXI committee chair Stephan Weishaupt; lawyer and committee member Anjli Patel and physician Parambir Keila; legendary modern furniture purveyor Klaus Nienkamper and his wife Beatrix; dermatologist Dr. Sandy Skotnicki; CanDeal executive vicepresident Tristan Michela; Hill & Gertner CEO Lorne Gertner; Saks Fifth Avenue’s regional vice-president Stephane Ledoux; and honorary chair Bonnie Brooks.