art galleries toronto

Art galleries in Toronto are starting to reopen and here's what's different now

After a challenging few months, art galleries in Toronto are beginning to reopen but things may look different. 

Cooper Cole, a favourite for contemporary art on Dupont, just opened and have a number of new visiting guidelines. They now require everyone entering the gallery to  wear masks and they're limiting the number of visitors at a time to four people.

They're also encouraging people to book an appointment and the gallery has ramped up cleaning protocols.

Cooper Cole isn't the only gallery that's opted for this route — both Nicholas Metivier Gallery and Stephen Bulger Gallery are doing something similar.  

To protect our community during the first phases of Toronto's re-opening, we wanted to share with you the procedures we will be putting in place as we navigate this situation together. . . The Nicholas Metivier Gallery will have hand sanitizer available for visitors coming through the space. It will be placed inside the entry so that it is accessible before entering the main gallery. Use of facemasks is encouraged. Additional hand sanitizer will be available throughout the space. . . In accordance with government guidelines, a limited number of visitors will be allowed inside the gallery at a time. The gallery staff will be wiping down high-frequency zones with sanitization products, including door handles, counters and shared spaces, so that areas are disinfected multiple times daily. . . To ensure the safety of our gallery staff we will observe physical distancing guidelines. We will have one person working at each desk station, with staff setting up in additional areas of the gallery to space out. Gallery staff will be responsible for sanitizing phones and workstations daily. In addition, gallery staff will have reusable fabric masks to wear in the event of visitor interaction. This is to ensure comfort and safety to those entering the space. . . We look forward to engaging with everyone in the coming weeks, as we welcome more of you back into our space. Our website,, will continue to host online exhibitions and provide insight into the artists we represent. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email us at . . We hope everyone continues to stay safe. - Nicholas, Sarah, Caroline, Richard, Carly & Bud

A post shared by Nicholas Metivier Gallery (@metiviergallery) on

"We're working by appointment only and only one group at a time, with no more than five people," Stephen Bulger, the owner of his namesake gallery, told blogTO.

Nicholas Metivier Gallery has been open for a month now and staff is pleased to see visitors come out again. 

"It's been good but definitely not as many people walking through as before," said Caroline Pearson, an associate at Nicholas Metivier Gallery. 

And while it might be slow right now, many galleries have spent the last few months changing tracks on how they bring art to the public in order to stay afloat. 

"The biggest tool is the gallery space and not having that made us be creative," explained Pearson. 

The first thing Nicholas Metivier Gallery did was move their exhibitions online.

"It took quite a bit of trial and error and we think artists are pleased with the show," said Pearson.

"We received a nice amount of engagement from our collectors too." 

They also did a series called "In The Windows" where they hung art in the large windows that face Richmond Street so people could "stroll by and see things from a safe distance." They also utilized social media to its full potential. 

"Nicholas came up with this series that you could do on Instagram. We focused on different artists and spoke with them and see what they've been working on during this period of isolation. The results were quite interesting," she said. 

"It was really great to be able to share that with our audience and people that follow the gallery. As Nicholas pointed out, for most people life was very much interrupted  but artists' work is very solitary, so life kind of carried on for them."

Bulger also took advantage of technology — especially for selling art.  

"We put more listings online and noticed there's been a lot more traffic," he said. "To replicate some of the discussion as they walk through the door we've been doing little video tours of the gallery and short videos about individual work. We sold some work as a result of those."  

Both Stephen Bulger Gallery and Nicholas Metivier Gallery have teamed up with Heffel Fine Art Auction House, one of Canada's largest auction houses, to host online auctions of their work. 

"We wanted to see if that was a way to replicate our business online," explained Bulger, who lost out on sales due to the fact they can't travel to the various art shows this year or interact with their clients in the normal way.

"We were happy with how it went," he said. 

Nicholas Metivier Gallery is currently hosting an auction with Heffel to support Canadian food charities. It ends on June 23. 

But even with all the changes, there's a silver lining as now more people are able to appreciate the art. 

"We definitely expanded our customer base," said Bulger.

"We just have to keep moving forward and keep making plans." 

Lead photo by

Nicholas Metivier Gallery

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