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Best of Toronto

The Best Contemporary Art Galleries in Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / October 7, 2012

Contemporary Art Galleries TorontoThe best contemporary art galleries in Toronto offer proof that the city's visual arts scene is anything but stagnant. Gone are the days when a precious few galleries carried the burden of showing important work over and above the big names typically featured at the AGO. MOCCA has become one the city's most important art spaces since it opened in 2005, and artist-run centres like the Mercer Union continue to show exciting work from homegrown artists and those from abroad. While any comparison to a city like New York would be silly, the independent gallery is also a viable proposition for the talented and business-savvy art dealer in Toronto, and we should be thankful for that.

Small galleries are often the most exciting places to see and buy art in Toronto. Not only do they do significant work to foster the growth of up and coming artists, but as many of the galleries on this list have become more established over the years, so too have the artists who they represent and host. Once found mostly in and around West Queen West, these galleries now show more geographic range, with areas like Dundas West and Blansdowne hotbeds of new gallery activity.

Before presenting the list, I'd be remiss not to mention a few notable absences. Galleries like Olga Korper, Georgia Scherman Projects, Diaz Contemporary, and Cooper Cole are all crucial to the Toronto arts scene, and that's something that should be acknowledged here.

Here are the best contemporary art galleries in Toronto.

See also:

The Best Photography Galleries in Toronto

Stephen Bulger Gallery

Stephen Bulger Gallery

Hands down the best gallery for photography in Toronto. The focus may be on contemporary images, but you'll also find wonderful historical exhibitions from time to time (the Toronto-themed shows, for instance, are always a hit). A co-founder of the CONTACT Photography Festival, Bulger is one of the most experienced and decorated curators in the city, and it shows in the top shelf talent that his gallery consistently attracts. More »

MOCCA

MOCCA

What would the city's contemporary art scene be without MOCCA? It's hard to believe that the gallery has only occupied its spot on West Queen West since 2005 (after a relocation from North York). Under the careful guidance of Artistic Director David Liss, the gallery has become the city's preeminent destination for contemporary art from both Canadian and international artists. A move away from Queen Street appears on the horizon, but one thinks that only brighter things are on the horizon for this most important gallery. More »

LE Gallery

LE Gallery

LE Gallery was one of the early ones to set up shop on Dundas West, and a whole lot have followed in the years since. You're not likely to meet a gallerist more enthusiastic and dedicated to his profession than Wil Kucey. For my money, he's got the best eye for up and coming artists in the city. See (and buy!) the work here before it gets a whole lot more attention and a whole lot more expensive. More »

Mercer Union

Mercer Union

Formerly located on Lisgar Street in the heart of the so-called Art and Design District, the Mercer moved north to Bloor and Lansdowne a few years ago and hasn't looked back since. Now housed in a beautiful building designed by Casa Loma architect, E.J. Lennox, the gallery continues to pursue some of the most ambitious programming in the city, with what appears to be greater emphasis on video and site-specific installations. An artist-run centre, the Mercer has an ongoing open call for submissions. More »

Don't Tell Mama Gallery

Don't Tell Mama Gallery

A relative newcomer, Don't Tell Mama Gallery has already made a name for itself by bringing the work of some of Toronto's most prominent graffiti writers off the street and into the gallery. But don't expect the upstairs space on Lower Ossington to cater exclusively to the work of street artists. While Director Paolo Dalla Rosa has obvious curatorial predilection towards lowbrow work, you can expect to see a wider variety of exhibitions as the gallery establishes itself. More »

Narwhal Art Projects

Narwhal Art Projects

Originally located on Queen West, a move to the Junction hasn't diminished the popularity of this gallery space, which tends to highlight work that explores the crossover between art, craft and design. Often home to quirky and experimental shows, it's tough to pin down exactly what makes the roster here unique, but the group of local and international artists all seem to share a certain sensibility that makes for a consistent vision from the gallery. More »

Angell Gallery

Angell Gallery

Angell Gallery moved from its small, 750 sq. ft. space on Queen near Crawford in the winter of 2010. Since setting up at the foot of Ossington in the old home of Lennox Contemporary (which has reopened a little up the street), the size, number and variety of of shows held at the gallery have grown in proportion to the increase in space. A fierce supporter of the Toronto arts scene, Jamie Angell represents both up and coming artists as well as those whose careers have already blossomed. More »

Corkin Gallery

Corkin Gallery

Located in a former tank house in the Distillery District, with roots that go back to 1978, Corkin Gallery is one of the city's most established art spaces. And it shows in the 10,000 ft exhibition space, which often plays host to multiple exhibitions at once. The roster is as impressive as they come in Toronto and represents artists working in a variety of media to probe the conditions of late capitalist culture in the West. More »

Daniel Faria Gallery

Daniel Faria Gallery

One of the most exciting galleries to open in Toronto of late, this warehouse-style space located near Sterling Road has attracted some big-name artists since opening its doors about a year ago. Formerly of Clark and Faria Gallery, gallery owner and director Daniel Faria acquired loads of experience before opening his own space, a fact which is underscored by the talented roster his new gallery already represents. An early show by Douglas Coupland drew much attention to the gallery, and I would expect more of the same in the future. More »

Neubacher Shor

Neubacher Shor

This slick, warehouse space in Parkdale is part art gallery and part event space, complete with a kitchen for catering staff. A hotbed of activity since opening last spring, it's important to note that for all the other events that take place here, the art remains very much at the forefront. The roster shows a strong commitment to mid-career Canadian artists working in photography, sculpture, painting and the digital arts. More »

Christopher Cutts

Christopher Cutts

Located amongst a hub of art galleries that's anchored by Olga Korper on Morrow Avenue near Roncesvalles, Christopher Cutts has been a part of the Toronto arts scene since 1986. Here you'll find the work of a bevy of established Canadian artists, like Michael Snow, Eldon Garnet and Harold Town (to name a few). While there are also some younger artists on the 50-person strong roster, the focus is on those who worked to build the contemporary arts scene into what it is today. More »

Discussion

29 Comments

DAVID PYLYP / October 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm
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Maybe you overlooked or just missed The Phone Booth Gallery in the Junction. They often have photographs on display as well as pottery glass and ceramics.

The curator takes a special and intimate interest in promoting LOCAL artists.

They are located on the Dundas Near St Johns and what appears to be a BRAND New Hortons location. Just in Time!
morgan / October 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm
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Curious as to why Cooper Cole didn't make the list
K. / October 7, 2012 at 01:17 pm
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Also worth noting is Peak Gallery on Morrow Ave. Nothing but Canadian contemporary art.
Scott / October 7, 2012 at 04:29 pm
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@morgan-Re: Cooper Cole- Read paragraph three :)
b.craftie / October 7, 2012 at 05:11 pm
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Bau-Xi Gallery, 340 Dundas West [and Bau-Xi Photo a few doors down].
http://www.bau-xi.com/
Always worth a visit!

Roger Cullman / October 8, 2012 at 01:02 pm
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I'm surprised #Hashtag Gallery (801 Dundas St. W.) didn't make this list.
http://www.hashtaggallery.com/
Julie K / October 10, 2012 at 07:19 pm
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New as it is, The Peach Gallery in little Italy is already making waves. The work is mostly local, they have a very unique approach in working with artists, and their opening nights are spectacular..
L. / October 10, 2012 at 07:31 pm
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I vote for Peak Gallery! amazing work! plus they have been putting together some pretty impressive videos of studio visits with their artists. check it out on youtube!
Jen / October 10, 2012 at 07:33 pm
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Telephone Booth Gallery is amazing! not only does she focus on painting and photography, but she also represents some really strong work by contemporary craft artists too!
d.christopher / November 6, 2012 at 12:52 am
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hmmm...anyone heard of Gallery Creatures Creating? They've been putting on amazing exhibits and events for 2 years. They've got a new spot on Dundas by Bathurst now, but use to be on Queen. Love those guys, great studio space too.
darren / November 6, 2012 at 12:54 am
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Ya Creatures Creating is a gallery/studio space at 822 Dundas St West. Maybe 2013 we can see them on this list?
Tara Greene / November 14, 2012 at 05:13 am
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check out the new Robert Kananaj Gallery http://robertkananajgallery.com/ across the street from Mercer Union at Bloor and Lansdowne, only 1 year old. They shows some very young and innovative artists and an eclectic mix of established artists whose works are very exciting.
Napoleon Brousseau's new paintings Le Fantome de la Memoire open Nov 10- Dec 8 2012 it has some of the best paintings ever seen in Toronto, a phenomenal show.
Tara Greene / November 20, 2012 at 05:21 am
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thanks for the great article, Toronto has some wonderful art galleries and fantastic artists.
Katrine / November 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm
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Who ever wrote this review is obviously not an insider in the art community/didn't do their homework. MOCCA is a MUSEUM and not a commercial gallery. There are much more established contemporary galleries that are missing from this list. Go check out the Toronto Art Fair.
Tanwir Murshad / January 18, 2013 at 08:57 am
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View my latest artworks, you might like what you see:

http://tanwirmurshad.wordpress.com/paintings/
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Mary / June 6, 2013 at 03:09 pm
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atelier rzlbd is also a great location for contemporary art at the Bayview Village mall!!!
janet lilethia harvey / November 2, 2013 at 10:09 am
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self tough artist since 2010 please check out me work
Me replying to a comment from janet lilethia harvey / November 2, 2013 at 11:01 am
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If it's as bad as your writing.....
sheree rasmussen / November 21, 2013 at 12:54 pm
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You should check out Spazio Dell'Arte, 400 Eastern Ave. One of the best new spaces in Toronto to see contemporary art.
You're invited to my show- Absract Fusion, which is opening tonight- 6-9 pm.
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