Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Harbourfront Centre and the Distillery District, Toronto, Ontario (day three)

My last day in Toronto was a short one as I had a late afternoon flight to catch. I still had places I wanted to see on my list, and unfortunately had to postpone a few artist studio visits until my next trip. The day was grey and blustery, and a snowstorm was expected to hit the city pretty hard. First thing I headed over to Harbourfront Centre, on the waterfront, which was close to where I was staying downtown. An older couple were just stepping onto the ice skating rink, and otherwise the area was empty.

I went to The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery to be there right as they opened.

American artist Rashid Johnson’s first solo show in Canada was site specific. There were two large tiled panels facing each other. Thick black surfaces were scratched into the tiles, revealing faces.

Directly across from the Gardiner Museum (shown above as the snow was starting to fall), is the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). The Gardiner is open on Monday, while the ROM is closed, and vice versa. Not great coordination, but I was lucky to fit them both in.

ROM is the largest museum in Canada, and one of the largest in North America. The museum has 13 million cultural objects, natural history specimens and artworks. The museum has 40 exhibition spaces. The Futalognkosaurus, as you entered the museum, was striking. I only had two hours to spend there, so I hightailed it to the decorative objects floor, happily avoiding all the taxidermy on the way. The museum itself had a musty smell, and most of the galleries were empty, with no guards to be seen. As wonderful as the collection is, I kind of felt like I was in a Night at the Museum movie the entire time I was at ROM.

“The iridescent surface of ancient glass is the result of decay. Humidity fluctuations and acidic soil conditions cause a gradual eating-away of the surface as the glass breaks down into its natural components. A refractive film of decay builds up, producing the rainbow color.” (ROM) These glass pieces were my favorite, and worth the price of admission.

I spent more than half of my time in the galleries on the third floor, learning about Gnathia ware (300-270BC), Apulia ware (350-330 BC), Hellenistic pottery, and more ware than I knew existed. If I lived in Toronto I’d get a museum membership and be there constantly. There were many varieties of funerary vessels, my favorite being the Etruscan, which I had seen an incredible collection of in Volterra, Italy at the Etruscan Museum this past May. “The Etruscans began to cremate their dead during the 8th century BC. Clay jars, used as burial urns, were placed in single pits in the ground with accompanying offerings. By 600 BC, under Eastern influence, inhumation became the standard in most of Etruria.” “Many tombs of the wealthy were stocked with grave goods such as jewelry and pottery imported from Greece. In fact, many of the Greek vases displayed in museums today were found in Etruscan tombs.” (ROM)

Later, “chests in stone or terra-cotta came into fashion- sometimes depicting the deceased reclining on the lid.” (ROM) On my trip to Volterra, I learned that the chests were representations of the person’s life. Items were often carved on the chests to depict the deceased’s interests. To them, the more ornate the better in order to show their wealth and status.

Vairocana Buddha, North China, 16th-17th century, Ming Dynasty
Bronze, partially gilded
Cizhou ware pillow with underglaze painted decoration, c. 1150-1234, JIn Dynasty
Slipped stoneware
Vase with cloisonné decoration, 16th century, Ming dynasty
Porcelain with alkaline glaze

The Bishop White Gallery of Chinese Temple Art and the Gallery of Chinese Architecture was vast and impressive. I definitely needed more time.

The Distillery District was my last stop before I had to leave Toronto. The Distillery District is a pedestrian only area with cobblestone streets, restaurants, galleries and shops. The 19th century buildings used to house a large whiskey distillery.

Artist Julie Moon was gracious enough to let me visit her ceramics studio, which was in one of the buildings in the Distillery District. Take a look at Julie’s instagram @juliemoooon to get an idea of her beautiful work. You can also see a piece of hers I showed a photo of in my day two Toronto post at Samara Gallery. Julie and I had a great conversation about her ceramics education, the ceramics community, craft versus art, and life as a working artist. I liked her and her work a great deal. Lucky for her I had a plane to catch as I could have easily overstayed my welcome. Thanks, Mariko for yet another great introduction.

With the borders closed right now, it will be awhile before I get back to Canada, but it was interesting to go through U.S. Customs when leaving Toronto. Luckily we gave ourselves enough time at the airport. I loved Toronto, and the people, and look forward to being able to visit again.

Leave a Reply