As a native of the Toronto art scene, coming home is always a pleasure. This is especially the case when a visit involves an event of top caliber as the Power Ball – the annual gala held last Thursday at the Powerplant – Canada’s leading contemporary art museum.
The Powerplant, a converted industrial building wedged directly between the city and Lake Ontario, is an internationally renowned institution and recently wrapped up a show of Thomas Hirschhorn days before his Venice debut. Akin to the New Museum in New York, the Powerplant has no permanent collection, which allows it the flexibility to respond to shifting currents and engage in a curatorially provocative program. They have been responsible for fostering much of the Toronto contemporary art scene and their recent shows include Ryan Trecartin, Elmgreen and Dragset’s Welfare Show, On Kawara and Toronto’s own Michael Snow.
The Power Ball, in its thirteenth year has become a highlight of the city’s social season and an over-the-top extravaganza of sorts. Aptly themed “Thirteenth Floor” it brought together over 1,700 partygoers to partake in the ever-trendy spectacle of contemporary art.
It seems that ever since James Franco and Kanye West have been pushing their cultural agenda and defining the new cool – every celebrity is rushing to endorse the ‘art craze’. Even Justin Timberlake, while trolling though LACMA recently , said that he wants to focus on “his collecting” singlehandedly. No longer is it simply chic to sit front row at Fashion Week or have a side-gig as a DJ – one now requires a deeper pretense of cultural intelligence to exude real clout. (For further proof – recall the media storm of Lady Gaga’s visit to the Abramovic show last year). Art is the new power. Reality shows are not far behind with both Bravo and PBS launching documentaries of the art world.
I am not condemning the trend nor making an original observation – but when art event guest lists gets more hits on IMDb than Artnet, a threshold has been crossed. It is apparent that the Power Ball last week brought together both – the art folk and those for whom art was the latest fancy. A friend remarked that it looked like guests were “stepping out of the Vanity Fair spreads,” many of them dragging the plumes and props along.
However this lavishness is much of the Power Ball’s appeal. The party took over the entire museum to facilitate the sold-out capacity and create individual spaces for the guests to wander though and experience. The teasing slogan of “untouched by time, an enigmatic environment” was evoked throughout by extensive light effects and engagement with all the senses. My favourite microcosm was a room with several dozen household refrigerators around its perimeter, whose contents were a mystery until the viewer opened each one to reveal the surprise within. Some fridges housed conceptual sculpture while others overflowed with food and drink – in both cases, the outcome was brilliant and provided plenty of entertainment.
While several other-worldly spaces were housed inside the museum, the outdoor patio took advantage of the fleetingly good weather with a spit-fire roast and bars on the waterfront. Before the main party, a selected VIP dinner was hosted by the celebrity chef Marc Thuet who prepared a spread in theme of the night, while New York-based artist Karen Azoulay treated the guests to an original sculptural performance of entitled The Paper Moons of Jupiter.
Co-chaired by fashion designer Jeremy Laing along with Gabe Gonda, Trinity Jackman and Jessica Rose the ball was a very imaginative event and affirmed the Powerplant as the must-see art venue of Toronto for anyone visiting the city.