Art Toronto Opening Night 2019

A Benefit for the AGO

Art Toronto is Canada’s leading international contemporary and modern art fair and one of the most important annual art events in the country. Art Toronto Opening Night is the not-to-be-missed kick-off benefit for the AGO.

On Thursday, October 24, 2019, we welcomed more than 2300 guests and raised over $600,000 in support of AGO exhibitions, programming and artwork acquisitions. The funds raised strengthen our collections and exhibitions, grow audiences through engaging public programs, and increase access to welcome more curious minds at the AGO.

Art Toronto Opening Night offers guests exclusive access to view and purchase works at the fair before it opens to the public. Alongside leading dealers and artists, guests toast the launch of the fair with delectable drinks, gourmet hors d'oeuvres and an artist project commissioned specifically for the evening.




Jen Lee Koss, Liza Mauer, Daniel Rechtshaffen

Committee Members

Emily-Jean Alexander, David Angelo, Jeanne Banka, Emily Ben-Haim, Simon Bentley, Simon Clements, Angelica Demetriou, Tamara Fine, Karen Gruson, Taiga Lipson, Kelly McCray, Judith McKay, Deanne Moser, Mia Nielsen, Heather Partridge, Natasha Peterson, Nikola Rukaj, Lauren Charyk Silverberg, Susan Wortzman, Juliana Zalucky, Brendan Farrow, Jennifer Tanenbaum, Nicola Spunt, Jessica Yakubowicz Herzig

Birds eye view of the Art Toronto booths

AGO’S 20 FOR 20

To celebrate the 20th edition of Art Toronto Opening Night, we asked 20 of the country's most devoted and influential ambassadors of art to share their love for the fair. This group of artists, collectors and advocates recall their favourite and most memorable experiences from the past two decades. Click on the images below to read more.

Robin T. Anthony

Art Advisor, former RBC Art Curator

“Reflecting back on the 20 years of Art Toronto I have observed the evolution of the Fair. There have been many highlights over the years including the 2011 presentation by Kent Monkman. Art Toronto has provided the platform for many artists to experiment and engage with new audiences. The Verge Section featuring emerging Galleries and artists has always been a favourite for me. I have discovered several artists from across the country because of the engaging gallerists who take risks and have presented the work by exciting artists. This exposure for the artists contributes to the success of their careers and the ongoing dialogues between artists, gallerists, curators and collectors.”

Cathy Bisset Parkes

Visual Arts Enthusiast, Collector and Art Ambassador

“Congratulations to Art Toronto as they celebrate 20 Years! What a milestone!

I have participated in 19 out of 20 editions of the Fair and have witnessed its growth into a first class, sophisticated international Fair. It is an important cultural event in our city and truly my favourite weekend of the year. Starting with the greatest party in the city, Opening Night, a major benefit for the AGO, followed by amazing programming, lectures, VIP tours and the reconnecting with artists, gallerists and out of town visitors. Many friendships have grown out of the Fair.

What a wonderful opportunity to see contemporary and modern art from all over the world and witness the strong cultural partnerships with Art Toronto.

With my fond remembrance of Linel Ribenchuk, founder of Art Toronto, and the many wild golf cart rides we shared during set-up.”

Cathy Bisset Parkes is a visual arts enthusiast, collector, and energetic ambassador to the visual arts community at large. She has served on numerous committees at the AGO over the past 18 years. Currently she sits on the Curators Circle Committee where she continues to make strong philanthropic contributions to the museum. Cathy has been on, chaired and co-chaired the Art Toronto Opening Night committee for years.

In addition to her roles at the AGO, Cathy is a long-term member of Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts  (TFVA), an independent non-profit group giving financial support to the visual arts community in the GTA. She is presently with the Project Support group. Cathy has been Past President, Board Chair, and is a current Patron of a USA based Art Alliance.

Presently, Cathy is a proud Board member of the inaugural Toronto Biennial of Art (TBA) opening September 2019. Also, Cathy will be joining the newly formed Advisory Council for Art Toronto.

Valérie Blass


Valérie Blass was born in 1967 in Montréal, where she lives and works. The works of Blass are filled with a dual tension that contrasts the notions of visibility and invisibility, as well as the boundaries between volume and surface. Her sculptures, whose anthropomorphic postures tend toward abstraction, arise out of deliberately unstable representations.

Blass studied at the Université du Québec à Montréal, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1998, and a Master of Fine Arts in 2006. She has presented notable solo exhibitions at Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2019); Oakville Galleries, Oakville (2019); Jack Shainman, The school, Kinderhook (2018); Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver (2015); Artspeak, Vancouver (2015); Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto (2015); Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montréal (2012); The Hole, New York (2013); and Galeri Manâ, Istanbul (2013). In 2013, she presented a new commission for the Public Art Fund in New York. Blass was the recipient of the Prix Ozias-Leduc from the

Fondation Émile-Nelligan in 2016 and the recipient of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize, presented with the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2017.

Jessica Bradley

Art Advocate

One year a well-intentioned volunteer assistant disappeared on opening night returning minutes later with catering staff bearing loaded trays. A crowd followed as he commandeered them into our booth. Soon more onlookers gathered, no doubt imagining an artwork had created the apparent buzz.  Meanwhile the art in our tiny space was obscured in the crush and the aisle was clogged. Our neighbouring colleagues were not amused. Disaster was averted as the canapes disappeared and several art enthusiasts remained.

When I think about Art Toronto today the words transformative and transformed come to mind. Annually a sea of galleries from across the country and beyond rises miraculously out of the din of fork lifts and power drills, camaraderie flourishes among gallerists and visitors alike, and the discoveries, exchanges and acquisitions made over four intense days dedicated to art engender conversations that continue long after the fair is over. 

Jessica Bradley is an independent curator and consultant. She was curator of contemporary art at the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario before creating her own gallery in Toronto featuring an emerging generation of artists from 2005 to 2015.

Beverly Creed

Art Lover & Collector

“My husband and I started going to art fairs 30 years ago. They gave us the opportunity to see art that was being sold internationally, which at that time was difficult to see in Toronto.  Today we only go to a few fairs and of course Art Toronto is close to our heart. We love to support our own galleries and we enjoy all the festivities that the art fair fosters during that week. We also love the FOCUS around other countries and cities each year and it has been wonderful to meet the dealers and artist from those places. It’s an exciting time to be in Toronto during Art Toronto. We are fortunate to have been asked to host some events at our home and have met curators and critics from around the world. The opportunities for knowledge, meeting artists, dealers, and collectors is an opportunity not to be missed.

Last year we introduced friends to the fair and they acquired a piece. That was exciting! We are grateful to Art Toronto.”

Sarah Keenlyside

Artist and Creative Director/Co-Owner CXBO Chocolates, Restaurant La Banane, Man Ray bar à vin

“Art/TO is by far my favourite fall event – every year I look forward to seeing my many industry friends – artists, gallerists and collectors – all gathered in one space, bound by our shared love of creation and art. In terms of a great Art/TO memory, it came in the form of an announcement when the wonderful Mia Nielsen was appointed the new director – I’ve long admired her work for the Drake Properties and I can’t wait to see how Art/TO evolves under her leadership. I think the best is yet to come!”

My relationship with art began at birth. My paternal grandmother was a talented painter and my mother was a gallerist. I grew up in my mother’s Vancouver gallery surrounded by dozens of Emily Carr and Group of Seven paintings. In a little room in the basement of the gallery, I made my own sculptural “art” with the leftover Styrofoam and bubble wrap from shipping paintings. As an adult, I worked for many years as a documentary filmmaker, primarily making films about public art and artists and occasionally creating my own installations for events such as Nuit Blanche, DX Intersection and the Gladstone’s Come Up To My Room. Today, I direct my artistic passions toward my work as the creative director/co-owner of a chocolate business and two restaurants – CXBO Chocolates, Restaurant La Banane and Man Ray bar à vin. As lovers and patrons of the arts, we are proud to contribute to the cultural life of the city, both within our businesses and out in the community.

Meryl McMaster


“Art Toronto has always been an exciting event where you can see what the leading Canadian and international galleries are featuring and the artists they represent. I always look forward to sitting in on the fair’s lectures and panel discussion which happen throughout the weekend as you never know who you might or run into! I have a very fond memory of spotting Spring Hurlbut one year. She was showing her work at the fair, wandering the booths and looking at the art. She is an artist who I had long admired and respected but had never met before. I worked up the courage to go introduce myself and gush over how much of a fan I was of hers! I don’t know if I would have had this memorable experience if not for Art Toronto putting on this event and bringing together the greater community of art patrons and professionals.”

Meryl McMaster is an Ottawa-based artist and holds a BFA in Photography from OCAD University (2010).  McMaster is the recipient of the Scotiabank New Generation Photography Award (2018), REVEAL Indigenous Art Award (2017), Charles Pachter Prize for Emerging Artists (2012), the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship (2013), the Canon Canada Prize (2010), the OCAD U Medal (2010) and was long listed for the 2016 Sobey Art Award. McMaster’s work has been included in solo and group exhibitions throughout Canada and abroad, including the Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto, ON), Australian Centre for Photography (Sydney, AUS), Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Indian (New York, NY), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, ON), Eiteljorg Museum (Indianapolis, IN), Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (Santa Fe, NM), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montreal, QC), and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, ON). Her work has been acquired by various public collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, McMaster Museum of Art, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Eiteljorg Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Ottawa Art Gallery and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Esmaa Mohamoud


“Art Toronto is always an exciting time of year in Toronto. One of my favourite moments was a few years back in the California focus area. Daniel Gaitor-Lomack did a series of performances over the duration of the fair that were very animated and captivated your attention. I would often hear his performances from the other side of the fair. I enjoyed this moment, because it was an usual disruption to the pristine idea of what an art fair is and how to conduct oneself at a fair. The way he occupied space in his performances felt like the perfect interference in art fair programming. The performances were energetic, lively, high spirited, yet soft and vulnerable. I didn’t expect to see that at an art fair.”

Esmaa Mohamoud (b. 1992, London, ON) is an African-Canadian sculptor/installation artist working in Toronto. Her sculptures and installations focus on the navigation of Black bodies in contemporary spaces. Engaged in the politics surrounding Black male bodies in particular, this body of work investigates the (in)tangibility of Blackness through the exploration of athletics—specifically, the sport of basketball. Mohamoud holds a BFA from Western University (2014) and a MFA from OCAD University (2016). Recently, Mohamoud has exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Montreal, and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Kent Monkman


“My best experience at Art Toronto was in 2011 when I was commissioned to create a large scale project - The Art Game. I chose to create a life-sized maze that spoofed the art world as a side show. We had several dozen volunteer performers sit in the four rooms devoted to artist, collector, curator and dealer. The team at Art Toronto was so supportive in helping us to realise this technically and logistically ambitious project in a very short time, and I was super happy with the results. It was very rewarding to watch the Art Toronto audience interact with the piece.”

Kent Monkman, born in Canada in 1965, is a Cree artist who is widely known for his provocative interventions into Western European and American art history. He explores themes of colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience—the complexities of historic and contemporary Indigenous experiences—across a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation. Monkman’s gender-fluid alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle often appears in his work as a time-traveling, shape-shifting, supernatural being who reverses the colonial gaze to challenge received notions of history and Indigenous peoples.

Photo credit: Aaron Wynia

Kenneth Montague

Art Collector, Founder & Director of Wedge Curatorial Projects, Dentist

“At the Opening Night Gala for Art Toronto 2018 I discovered - and acquired - a major work by a Canadian artist. 'Centurion (Self Portrait)', is a seminal work from 1975 by 76 year old Philadelphia-born, Vancouver-based Jim Adams - a largely overlooked, but vitally important artist. Adams grew up directly under a major flight path in Philly, and dreamt of one day flying his own plane. Upon arrival to Canada's west coast while still in his 20s, he immediately got his pilot's license.. and also started painting. With his cool and confident gaze, and by positioning himself as the master of his own destiny, he also creates a powerful statement about freedom. As a collector with a focus on contemporary black artists, I immediately recognized the significance of Adams' creation. This is what makes Art Toronto so special to me: the powerful experience of discovering a major work, and realizing that you can't live without it.”

Kenneth Montague is a Toronto-based dentist - as well as an art collector and the founder and director of Wedge Curatorial Projects, a non-profit arts organization that helps to promote African Canadian artists. Since 1997 Ken has been exhibiting contemporary art that explores black identity, and showcasing these works in his Wedge Collection.

Montague has been a member of the AGO Board of Trustees since 2015 and he is currently Chair of the Education and Communication Committee.

Previously Montague has served on the Africa Acquisitions Committee at Tate Modern, London (2012-2015) as well as the Advisory Board of the Ryerson Image Centre (2011-2014), the Photography Curatorial Committee of the Art Gallery of Ontario (2009-2012), and he has been invited to lecture on contemporary art at The Studio Museum in Harlem, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, among other institutions. For his ongoing work with emerging artists and young creatives, Montague received an honorary doctorate from OCAD University (2016).

Jeanne Parkin

Art Advocate & Collector

“I happen to love art fairs. But not for the reasons most people do.  Art Toronto is very useful to me in my business as an Art Consultant because I can research material and artists from across the country first hand with out-of-town dealers who are generally inaccessible to me  but are available at Art Toronto to give  very generously of their time., knowledge, and information.  So it's not just what I see, but what I can learn that is important to me personally. The fun part is that Art Toronto provides a peak into what is going on all across the country, from Vancouver to St. John by experiencing the real stuff rather than via the ubiquitous jpg.”

Besides being a passionate advocate of contemporary art and a collector, Jeanne was also a professional art advisor for over 49 years to many corporations helping to build outstanding contemporary collections that enhance the corporate environment.

Partners In Art

Art Advocates

“Art Toronto is such an energizing event for our growing art community and a bookmark in our fall calendar. It’s the one event that brings together people from right across the art spectrum in Canada. The opening party is consistently a fun social night with a great opportunity to catch up with old and new friends, so much, that we need to make return trips to give the art the attention it deserves. We love the geographical focus and thematic of recent years - it has opened our eyes to arts communities across the world and it creates opportunities for interesting dialogue with our Canadian artists, curators and dealers. It’s always exciting to discover the special installations, lectures and events planned during the fair. Of course, we love supporting our artists directly and we come to the fair to buy the art!”

Partners in Art (PIA) is a not-for-profit group of 160 actively engaged volunteers who enthusiastically support and collaborate with Canadian curators, educators, art organizations and museums. Together as partners, we realize dream projects that generate opportunities for the public and PIA members to learn more about contemporary art. We champion contemporary art, artists and organizations to provide thoughtful perspectives on our world.

Anjli Patel

Fashion Lawyer and Art Enthusiast

“Parambir and I were married at the AGO in October 2012, an easy decision after seeing Joe Fafard’s cows “grazing” in Walker Court. Being Hindu, I felt they were a good omen.

After our wedding, Beth Bruno at the AGO connected us with Joe’s son, and we travelled to Regina in May 2015 to meet Joe at his home.

Following our visit we acquired “Dehlia” (2011), a newborn calf that lives under our stairs.

Fast forward to October 2016 at Art Toronto’s opening night — we were walking by Slate Fine Art Gallery and ran into Joe. Lucky for us, an event photographer was nearby and snapped our photo in front of “Mahihkan" (2015).

This is a fond memory considering Joe’s passing earlier this year.”

Photo credit: Steve Blackburn, YYZEvents

Karen & Greg Pedersen

Art Collectors

“Over the years that we have attended Art Toronto a number of highlights come to mind. At the top of this list would be the opportunities we have had to interact with people within the art community including artists and dealers. These opportunities have allowed us to form strong relationships, both personal and business.

The addition of the Solo Booths have also been a high point of our visits with a chance to meet the artists. It also allows us to get a more in-depth view of their practices. A visit to Toronto to attend the Art Toronto has been and will continue to be a high point of our year.”

Susannah Rosenstock

Art Advocate

“Throughout my nine years working at Art Toronto, I always enjoyed working with artists on our special projects.  In my second year at the fair in 2011, I was fortunate to work with Kent Monkman on The Art Game, an ambitious installation featuring vignettes and live performances that made a carnival game of the art world, from Kent's perspective.  It was a very challenging project to mount for such a short period of time, but the results were fantastic and it was such a pleasure working with Kent and his team.”

Susannah Rosenstock is the Deputy Director & Director of Exhibitions at the Toronto Biennial of Art, managing all aspects of the multi-venue exhibitions program. She is a founding member of the Biennial and served as secretary of the Board of Directors from 2014-2019. Susannah has been working in the arts in the US and Canada for more than 20 years as an art advisor, arts administrator, and cultural producer. She holds an MA in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

Prior to joining the Biennial, Susannah worked for Art Toronto (2010-2019), Canada’s only international art fair, serving as Director since 2014. While there she led a major repositioning and rebranding of the fair to raise the level of quality and awareness and place the fair within a significant international context. Previously she worked in New York managing major corporate and private art collections, including those of Goldman Sachs and MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings.

Jeff Stober

Art Advocate, Founder Drake Hotel Properties

“I’ve had the personal joy and professional privilege of attending, sponsoring and partnering with Art Toronto Opening Night for many years.

Regularly travelling to numerous international art fairs, I feel a distinct pride in attending Art Toronto as both a Torontonian and arts patron. Seeing galleries and artists from around the world descend upon our cultured city is always a highlight in my calendar and Art Toronto is the catalyst that makes it all happen. Thank you Art Toronto and congratulations on 20 art-inspired years.”

Jeff Stober spent 20 years as founder and CEO of an international IT outsourcing firm before creating Drake Hotel Properties in 2004, a growing arts and culture-driven hospitality brand that is focused on lifestyle hotels, food and drink, general stores, catering and events. These properties now include The Drake Hotel, the Drake General Store retail brand and locations, Drake One Fifty and Drake Mini Bar restaurants in Toronto’s Financial District, the Drake’s culinary hub Drake Commissary in the Junction Triangle, and the award-winning outposts Drake Devonshire Inn and Drake Motor Inn in Prince Edward County. Jeff is passionate about revitalizing character properties, investing in storied neighbourhoods, fostering community and supporting performance and visual arts-based projects that inspire and educate.

Matthew Teitelbaum

Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Former Director of the AGO, Art Advocate

“I remember the first time Linel came to see me about his dream of an Art Fair for Toronto. He believed in the possibility: that gathering around and within the inspiration of art and artists could be educational, pleasurable and impactful for all who wanted to stretch their arms as collectors. 20 years of bringing people together with purpose, sharing ambition, creating platforms for artists.... he did it, and so have those who have followed.....indelibly part of Toronto, and its endless possibilities.”

I am the Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and with deep pleasure I note that I am also a former director of the Art Gallery of Ontario. That makes me an advocate, and cultural worker, inspired by the power of art. I am also the son of an artist, so believe in the important role art dealers play in the ecology of the art world.

Photo credit: Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Ann & Marshall Webb

Art Collectors

“It has been a great pleasure to have been associated with Art Toronto since its inception.

We have both been involved in various ways. Ann organized a national collectors’ VIP program which brought together collectors from across the country, many of whom still attend annually. Marshall along with Popsy Johnstone organized the speakers’ series for two years.

Amongst the most engaging speakers was the inveterate American collector Marty Margulies who talked-without notes-for an hour about his collection and his passion for contemporary art.

Slowly but surely over two decades, the art fair has helped evolve a vibrant Canadian contemporary art market and community. We congratulate Art Toronto on its 20th anniversary as it continues to bring art interested people together.”



For more information about Art Toronto Opening Night, please contact

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