The founder of the Toronto Biennial previews this year’s art

Oh Italy.

Speaking of the five years she worked in Italy, in and around the art world, Patrizia Libralato pauses, painting a picture of Venice: “Perfection whether foggy, rainy or sunny, endless spritzes and cicchetti at Tintoretto’s in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Piazza San Marco, le Zattere at sunset”.

Though he spent a lot of time in the floating city, helping with shows and festivals, he technically lived about 25 miles to the west, near “Prosecco country,” he says, “where I always say it almost came out of the kitchen tap.” . If you know, you just know.”

Something else you just know… if you know? That the second installment of the Toronto Art Biennial, a festival that Libralato launched in 2019, is already underway (until June 5). For 72 days, more than 70 artists, both Canadian and international, will perform at nine different GTA locations, in public spaces, galleries, and historic buildings, among others.

“We thought our second edition was going to be easy,” says Libralato. “But three months after closing our inaugural biennial, COVID hit.” But the show is back. And there’s no doubt that Libralato, with her trademark cloud of curls, is still one of the best Energizer bunnies in town.

A first-generation Downsview girl, now living in Junction Triangle, she was always immersed in the arts. Dad was a carpenter; Mom, chef, who later served lunch at a school.

“If you know my mom’s cooking,” says Libralato, “you would have loved to have gone to that school.” Growing up, he remembers always seeing art on the walls: prints, prints, and framed photographs related to Italy.

Traveling was one of his first passions. “I needed to be in Europe and Italy, look at the art and architecture, understand what it meant to be from that land,” he says. “My parents wanted this for me and they always supported me, even though it wasn’t easy for them. This was all before cell phones and the internet, so once I left with my paper maps and Eurail Pass, they eagerly awaited my collect calls to tell them I was okay.” A big early influence was one of his Italian uncles. “In my teens,” he says, “he took me to museums to see works by artists like Giotto, Canova, and Giorgione. And I visited all of Palladio’s villas in the Veneto with him along with the most modern (architectural) works of Carlo Scarpa”.

Open your eyes

Reviewing some of the highlights of the current Biennale, we stop at one of the pieces that receives a lot of attention: a film work called “45th Parallel”, set in the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which straddles the the border of Canada and the United States. (in Quebec and Vermont). Made by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, it is, Libralato says, “visually powerful and meant to evoke deep contemplation on notions of free movement, immigration, privilege and compassion.”

Another person featured is the late Denyse Thomasos, whose epic, semi-abstract paintings are here and touch on themes of slavery, immigration, and urban life. The Trinidadian Canadian artist, who died a decade ago at the age of 47, was a friend of Libralato. “At the time of his death,” he says, “his career was on an upward trajectory, which made it all the more tragic. I am very honored to have these early and formative works in our Biennale.”

Perhaps the biggest “winner”: famed feminist artist Judy Chicago, who will unveil a smoke sculpture at Sugar Beach on June 4. “This will be Judy Chicago’s first ‘Atmospheres’ work in Toronto,” says Libralato, “and her first on the water: two exciting milestones.”

go viral

Reflecting more broadly on how social media, in particular, has changed the art game, Libralato tells me that although it has made everything more global and can be seen as an equalizer, “it has also fueled a very skewed view of art.” what is good. art and what it is like to be a successful artist. It’s a complicated and layered conversation. I could go on and on.”

As for Toronto’s position in that equation, when Libralato began working in the art world more than three decades ago, he says, “there were very few commercial galleries, fewer university-level art programs, fewer arts institutions and organizations.

“Although there is still work to be done, that is no longer the case,” he adds. “Canadian artists are being recognized for their excellence and contribution to the international conversation. We are beginning to represent in major exhibitions and biennials around the world. We have an exciting and growing art scene, and I’m proud to have contributed my small part over the years.”

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