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General Hardware Contemporary

Posted by Elena Potter / Posted on February 9, 2011

General Hardware ContemporaryGeneral Hardware Contemporary really did used to be an old hardware shop, but you'd barely know it from the chic interior. Gallery director Niki Dracos, a 20-year veteran of the advertising and design business, acquired the Parkdale space several years ago, and opened the gallery in October 2010, after three years of overhaul, renovations, and planning. Having often dreamed of running a gallery, the former designer and art director was encouraged by the enthusiasm of her husband and friends, many of whom are artists.

Always drawn to the neighbourhood's eclectic community, Dracos found the old hardware store for sale at 1520 Queen West, and "something just felt right." The entire space was full of old hardware and junk, and though Dracos tidied and polished it up, she was able to preserve the character of the space, even using some of the old drawers and boxes to furnish the gallery: an old safe on the main floor serves as a side table with information about the artists. "The shop had a good story and good bones," says Dracos, and it was successfully converted into a clean, artful space.

General Hardware ContemporaryThe front room is rustic, with exposed brick, wood ceiling beams, and a sunny window seat, while the back room has the austere look of a traditional gallery, featuring two long walls and a sliding glass door to the outdoor patio. Dividing the two rooms is the shop's original exterior wall, which holds a built-in bookcase on its reverse side. A charming basement cubby currently houses small illustrations and a large-scale painting, though eventually Dracos wants to transform it into an intimate screening room, with film and video art playing continuously.

General Hardware ContemporaryThe gallery exhibits work by a mix of established and emerging artists. Dracos says this helps create a supportive environment where the artists can exchange ideas or work together, and it makes her job easier and more fun. "I don't want to pigeonhole myself," she says of the gallery's broad direction. This applies to media too: while Dracos herself is most excited by painting, and that's the focus at General Hardware, it's not limited. "Most of the artists I represent are painters, but they also make video art, installations, drawings, all kinds of other work," she explains, believing it's a reflection of the way many artists are working now, and therefore her gallery follows suit.

Like many gallerists, she's constantly looking at exhibitions in galleries and fairs, and finds most of the work through her own research, word of mouth, and studio visits. "I have to love the artwork, but I also have to connect with the person," she says.

general hardware torontoThough some might find the gallery out of the way, Dracos believes General Hardware is exactly where it needs to be. "Much of the creative community lives here, and everybody drops in. Even in the short time the gallery's been open, I've gotten to meet so many talented people." Also, apart from a few internationally-based artists, most of the artists General Hardware represents, live nearby. "I want the visitors and collectors to experience something new when they come in, and Parkdale offers that."

General Hardware ContemporaryRepresenting about a dozen artists, primarily more established ones, allows Dracos more freedom to focus on scouting for the newer, emerging artists. "Emerging" can be a nebulous term, so she clarifies: "In a way, I could use the word 'emerging' to describe all the artists here-- regardless of where they're at in terms of their career or how long they've been working, they've all got a playful practice, a certain confidence, and experimental spirit. I'm seeing reinvention more and more."



Sean Galbraith / February 10, 2011 at 09:32 am
Looks like a really lovely space.
scottd / February 10, 2011 at 10:06 am
A white square room like every other gallery. Wow. That was an interesting space before.
brian / February 10, 2011 at 11:20 am
I'm hoping someday to buy a retail building on a "feeling" as well (700k?).

Other than that, very nicely gutted and she can consider this internet troll very jealous and will pop by to check it out.
Yeesh / February 10, 2011 at 12:45 pm
Come the hell on - the article says she had dreamt of a gallery for a long time, so finding the property that felt right was just the right moment and opportunity happening at the right time. Clearly she didn't buy the building on some whim.
Melyssa / February 10, 2011 at 02:42 pm
what a beautiful space! i walk past there quite often, i think i'll stop by this weekend and inquire about showing work there.
ed replying to a comment from scottd / February 11, 2011 at 08:44 pm
Yes, let's have pony wallpaper instead, 'cos that won't distract anyone at all.
Elena Potter / February 14, 2011 at 12:06 pm
I had hoped I was very clear about the space's transformation in the piece, but maybe not clear enough: the renovation actually preserves a lot of character in the building. Maybe it's not obvious from my photos, and I regret it if that's the case. But to really grasp this, you'll probably have to visit in person!
Tim Daniels / April 26, 2012 at 07:33 am
It's a beautiful transformation with interesting textures. It also maintains the character of the streetscape. What's really special though, is that the owner is deeply committed to the community and the city.
Thanks for a thoughtful article.

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