348 spadina toronto

Toronto protests art exhibit they say is just a real estate ad

More than 200 local artists, many of them quite acclaimed, have penned an open letter to the people behind what they're calling an "ugly" and "reckless" art exhibit in downtown Toronto.

The Invitational, which ran from October 25 - 28, was billed as a brand new contemporary art exhibition revolving around the human figure and how we make sense of the world today.

Hosted at the newly- (and kind of hideously-) remodeled 346 Spadina Avenue, home of what used to be the Bright Pearl dim sum restaurant, The Invitational brought together works from roughly 25 internationally recognized artists (with a special spotlight on those from New York and Toronto).

The event was free and open to the public, but a coalition of local artists and organizations say that something sneaky was going on in terms of how the project was staged.

"The Invitational has branded itself as an 'international art exhibition' but is in fact a poorly disguised real estate ad," reads an open letter published this weekend.

"This historic building used to house the Bright Pearl, a Chinese restaurant, and other Chinese businesses, as well as the Labour Lyceum, a centre for political activism for the Jewish community and its unions."

The group goes on to allege that the event's organizersDavid Moos Art Advisory and Metropolitan Commercial, were simply "puppeting this history [of the building] for their own gain" by staging the exhibition.

Metropolitan Commercial does indeed own the building and, after giving it a significant makeover, is currently seeking tenants who are looking for office space.

It's not the advertising aspect, per se, that riled up Toronto's art community, but the fact that organizers appear to be using Toronto's Chinatown neighbourhood and its "histories of migration" as a trendy selling point.

"Chinatown has one of the highest concentrations of rooming houses in the city, and developments like this one drive the housing crisis that leaves people in precarity," reads the letter. 

"Racism forced Chinese people to create their own neighbourhoods to live in, and now the people who built these vibrant places are being pushed out," it continues. "This exhibition is an ugly attempt to use art as decoy for destructive, capitalist wealth accumulation."

The group doesn't ask for anything in its letter so much as it states that it stands against the organizers and their use of "the aesthetics of diversity" to cash in.

"The living cultures of our communities and struggles will not be used as advertising, it states."

Metropolitan Commercial has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Lead photo by

Brady Baker

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