The Gardiner Museum, Bata Shoe Museum and MOCA Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

I got a chance to go to Toronto right before the Coronavirus outbreak, so I now feel especially fortunate to have been able to see so much. I had never been to Toronto before but, having enjoyed everywhere else I’d been to in Canada, I was excited to explore. I got an old fashioned paper map from the hotel and plotted out the two and a half days that I would have exploring on my own. With some excellent suggestions from my Canadian artist friend Mariko, who visits Toronto regularly, I plotted out my days carefully. The city is very spread out and I had a lot of ground to cover while maneuvering museum hours. Mondays and Tuesdays are usually tricky and of course those were the two days I had. Fortunately, in Toronto, Ubers are like ants. They are abundant and arrived usually within a minute. I love taking Ubers in new cities, and the drivers in Toronto were super friendly. The conversations were always interesting and I learned a lot about Ontario’s politics. I also like talking to strangers.

My first stop was the Gardiner Museum, which I have been wanting to visit seemingly forever. The Gardiner was founded in 1984 by Helen and George Gardiner. They opened it to house their collection of ancient American artifacts, European pottery and porcelain. In 2004 the museum was closed for two years to undergo an expansion, which included an additional 14,000 square feet. The Gardiner’s “founding collection can be seen in the Museum’s Ancient Americas, Italian Renaissance, English Pottery, and European Porcelain galleries. This highly important collection has been enhanced and expanded through the generosity of many donors, and now includes porcelain from China and Japan, as well as ceramics made by contemporary Canadian and international artists. The Gardiner continues to collect specific areas of excellence in great depth, as well as enrich its research library and archives”. (Gardiner Museum) The museum is home to approximately 4,000 objects.

David Gilhooly, Mao Tse Toad, 1976
Low-fired white earthenware
Left: Hans Coper, 1969
Stoneware, 7 5/16″ x 4 3/4″ x 2 3/8 in

Right: Ruth Duckworth, 1994
Unglazed porcelain, 11 5/8″ x 3 3/4″ x 4 3/4 in

The museum entrance had some beautiful ceramic pieces on display.

Nurielle Stern’s pieces spanned all three levels of the museum‘s staircase.

Off to the right of the main lobby is the Diana Reitberger Collection of Modern and Contemporary Ceramics. “Diana Reitberger, a lifelong Torontonian, has focused her collection on emerging and Canadian ceramists. She has also acquired artworks by numerous international artists, connecting Canada to the broader world. A long-time advocate for the Gardiner, Reitberger’s generous gift to the Museum enriches our capacity to share the depth, diversity, and dynamism of recent ceramic art.” (Gardiner Museum)

Peter Pincus, Trio of Vessels V, 2017
Colored, wheel-thrown and slip-cast porcelain
The Diana Reitberger Collection

Peter Pincus lives in Rochester, New York. I was thrilled to see his work as I walked into the Reitberger Gallery. I’m lucky to call Peter a friend, and I will ask him to let me feature him in an artist studio visit post. His ceramic work is incredible, and his studio is fantastic.

Sergei Isupov, Lady Cat, 2012
Porcelain with slip and glaze
The Diana Reitberger Collection
Brendan Tang, Manga Ormolu ver. 4.0-o, 2012
Earthenware and mixed media
The Diana Reitberger Collection
Left: Edouard Jasmin, Magasin General (General Store), 1982
Red earthenware with glaze
The Diana Reitberger Collection

Left: Edouard Jasmin, Magasin General (General Store), 1982
Red earthenware with glaze
The Diana Reitberger Collection
Annie Turner, Oyster Net, 2013
Hand-built stoneware
The Diana Reitberger Collection
Steven Heinemann, Event Horizon, 2009
Multi-fired slip-cast earthenware
45.4″ x 81.3″ x 20.3 in
The Diana Reitberger Collection

“English ‘fuddling cups’ or ‘jolly boys’ feature three or more joined, vase-shaped containers with a hole pierced at each intersection, so as to allow liquor to flow between each part. Fuddling cups were shared communally and likely formed as part of drinking games in which drinkers attempted to consume the full contents of the multi-part cup.” (Gardiner Museum)

Standing Salt, England, possibly London, 1630-60
Tin-glazed earthenware (delftware)
Gift of Helen and George Gardiner
Hand warmer in the shape of a book
England, probably London, dated 1659
Tin-glazed earthenware (delftware)
Gift of Helen and George Gardiner
Monteith
England, Stoke-on-Trent, Wedgwood, 1770-1780
Glazed earthenware (creamware)

“Monteiths were used to chill wine glasses. They were usually placed on the buffet and filled with chipped ice and water. Rinsed glasses would be suspend upside-down and chilled between servings of wine.” (Gardiner Museum)

Left: Rabbit Tureen, Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory, c. 1755-56
Glassy (frit) soft-paste porcelain with overglaze enamels

Right: Cos Lettuce Tureen, Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory, 1755
Glassy (fit) soft-past porcelain with overglaze enamels
Nautilus Cup
England, Stoke-on-Trent, Minton, 1865
Earthenware with majolica glazes
Snuffbox with a Portrait of Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland
Germany, Meissen, c. 1745-55
Hard-paste porcelain with overglaze enamels, gilding;later silver-gilt mounts
Gift of Helen and George Gardiner
Tea and Chocolate Service with it’s Presentation Case
Germany, Meissen, c. 1740-45
Hard-paste porcelain with overglaze enamels, gilding; velvet-lined, tooled leather case
Gift of Helen and George Gardiner
Left: Edouard Jasmin, The Annunciation, 1980
Red Earthenware with glaze

Middle: Edouard Jasmin, Tureen, 1985
White earthenware with glaze

Right: Edouard Jasmin, Umbrella Repairer, 1985
Red earthenware with glaze
Left: Andromeda, Italy, Doccia, c. 1780
Hand-paste porcelain with overglaze enamels

Right: Thetis, Germany, Frankenthaler, c. 1780
Hand-paste porcelain with over glaze enamels, gilding
Cup and saucer
France, Sevres, 1787
Decoration by A.-V.Vieillard and P.J>A. Vieillard
Soft-paste porcelain with overglaze enamels, gilding
Gift of Helen and George Gardiner

I cannot say enough good things about the Gardiner Museum. I could have easily stayed more than half a day. Mariko connected me with Sequoia Miller, the Chief Curator, and I was able to spend a little time with him on my way out. His broad and deep knowledge of ceramics, along with his excitement for the museum were infectious. I look forward to returning.

After the Gardiner Museum I stopped by the Bata Shoe Museum. The 4,500 year history of footwear is showcased through their collection of over 13,000 artifacts. It was a lot to take in, and my time was limited. Here are a few photos of the shoes I liked: some I would have worn at some point, given the opportunity, and some I’d still wear.

“The Asante rose to power in the early 18th century and for two hundred years, controlled the gold trade along the Gold Coast. As a symbol of power and vitality, gold became an integral part of royal regalia so that even today the Asanthene, or ruler of the Asante, is adorned with gold ornaments from head to toe.” (Bata)

”The sandals worn by the Asanthene are of particular importance since they ensure the ruler’s feet never directly touch the ground. An Asanthene’s sandals typically feature large gold ornaments that often carry symbolic meaning.” (Bata) I really liked this pair, and they look pretty unisex to me!

“In the 18th century, there was significant gender difference in upper class footwear. Women wore shoes with pointed toes and slender heels, and men wore broader-toed shoes with blocky heels. Shoemakers had difficulty meeting demands for height: before the creation of the reinforced shank, shoes with heels set back from the instep would often collapse.” (Bata)

“The late 18th century saw neoclassical restraint in design, and social unrest foretelling the French Revolution. Encouraged to make more modest fashion statements, the privileged moved away from the colorful and elaborate styles used earlier in the century, and embraced a more subdued palette of plain silks and printed leathers.” (Bata)

“This pair of bar-strap sandals dates from 1920-1925. It is made of deep green and mother-of-pearl coloured leather, and features intricate latticework near the toe. In 2005, footwear designer Christian Louboutin visited the Bata Shoe Museum’s storage vaults and was inspired by this specific pair of shoes.” (Bata)

“One of the most famous shoes of the 1930s was Ferragamo’s iconic Rainbow Platform that he designed for Judy Garland in 1938.” (Bata)

Top right: “Ferragamo designed this black and gold wedge in the late 1930s.” (Bata)

Middle: “Almost immediately after Ferragamo debuted the wedge other shoemakers and manufacturers jumped on the trend.” (Bata) Luigi Bufarini, Italian, 1939-40

Bottom right: “This wedge-heeled boot with it’s flame-like cuff is one of Ferragomo’s most famous designs and remains as strikingly modern today as it did in 1938-1939.” (Bata)

For you men who aren’t liking the sandals, here is a pair of boots. Elton John wore these silver platform boots c. 1974-1976. When asked if he wore them on stage, he said “My dear! I wouldn’t have been seen dead in them onstage, I wore them shopping!” (Bata). These boots are the epitome of glam rock.

I went from Bata to the MOCA Toronto. MOCA, formerly known as MOCCA, moved into its current 55,000 square foot space in late 2018. The museum is in a cool industrial neighborhood of mixed-use spaces. The space itself was well-designed and you could tell that the neighborhood, called Lower Junction, was going to be gentrified in the next few years.

I liked the show on the 2nd floor, by artist Carlos Bunga.

Carlos Bunga, Occupy, 2020
Cardboard boxes, tape, paint

I was one of just a few in the museum that day, and definitely the only visitor on the second floor. The guard told me I could take off my shoes and walk through the boxes. Did I?


“Since the beginning of his career, Bunga has maintained an interest in the emptiness of found household objects.” Here is pair of gilded frames that he sourced locally for the MOCA installation.

I didn’t even notice this flat file cabinet in the corner until the guard pointed me in the direction. I think the guard was happy to have some company. The fun part about going to museums alone is when you find yourself laughing to yourself, and can’t wait to share what you’ve seen. I have this exact flat file in my basement storage closet. I remember the exact day I was given it, and how excited I was. I also remember how hard it has been to move from location to location the past thirty years. I used it back in the day when I was a bookbinder. Now it honestly just takes up a lot of space, but I love it.

The artist labeled each drawer, and I was encouraged by the guard to open every drawer. I opened a couple, and was pleased to see that my drawers aren’t the only ones that are hard to maneuver.

My guess is that you can figure out the labels and the content of the drawers, which were all cardboard.

Can Altay, Filtered Embrace (MOCA stairwell), 2008
Coloured vinyl on window

The windows in the building were fantastic, and I loved how the artist applied a tinted filter. “Can Altay colours both the light filtering into the space and the view from the historic Tower Automotive Building. The cut-out focuses our attention and frames details of the local neighbourhood, the skyline of Toronto, Lake Ontario and beyond.”. (MOCA)

The cafe at MOCA was well designed. I liked the planters outside the museum window as I sat and had a double macchiato before the long rush hour car ride back to my hotel bar to plan out day two.

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