New App: My City Muse

This summer has been ridiculously busy for both Kelly and I.  We capped off the end of the season with an amazing, debaucherous weekend with our friends at Two Islands Weekend (and for future years, this is an event not to be missed!). After a week of TIFF films, things may settle down a little come next week (well.. maybe not for Kelly who’s knee deep in wedding planning). I am excited to start having some downtime in the city again and start exploring and sharing my new-found awesomeness.

My explorations in the art world will start with the help of My City Muse. The newly launched app for your iPhone (coming soon for Androids) is a dream for fine art lovers in Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco and New York, with more cities to be added. The app was created by Sean Green, a University of Toronto Engineering alum and self-professed newbie to the art world.

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Ai Weiwei: According to What?

EVERYTHING IS ART. EVERYTHING IS POLITICS.

Here I go again eagerly and excitedly reporting back from yet another incredible exhibit showing at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Before I booked my ticket to the Ai Weiwei: According to What? exhibit last weekend, I was not particularly familiar with his background or importance in the art world.  To be frank, all I knew was that he is a renowned Chinese contemporary artist who is barred from leaving China, is without a passport, and that there is a documentary about him on Netflix.

I won’t recount all that I learned about Ai Weiwei, nor will I show you all of my pictures from the exhibition; this wouldn’t leave you anything to see for yourself! But this is what you should know. Known as the most famous living artist in the world right now, this exhibit was first curated with Ai Weiwei himself in 2009 for viewing in Tokyo, and this is only the second time it can be seen in North America.

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Ye Need Not Be Afraid of the Opera

We’re all about arts, culture, and new experiences here at For the Love of Awesome. Over the past couple of years, I’ve started seeing opera at the beautiful new Four Seasons Opera House in Toronto, but rarely without the company of my good friend Alia (@aliasaurusrex). Beyond being the best company, she’s also an opera singer, lawyer, and opera agent. Alia patiently explains the story lines, norms and etiquette of the opera to me each time we go so that I don’t feel out of place. She’s written a witty & informative piece to pass on this information so that Ye Need Not Be Afraid of the Opera!

You’re wearing your nicest pair of skinny jeans, your thickest and most ironic glasses, and you just spilled out of the newest head-to-tail pop up restaurant on West Queen West, eager to keep the good times rolling with some live music. Both the Phoenix and Lee’s Palace are hosting acts that you love, and there’s a storied DJ setting up shop for the night at Mod Club. But wait; just wait one second there – might you also consider… the opera?

Happily, you don’t need to be sporting a ball gown or tuxedo, since nowadays, your skinny jeans will take you from offal to opera (that’s right, I just did that). You also don’t need to be fluent in any of the four most common opera languages (English, French, German, Italian) to enjoy it either. Like insulin and stem cell science, Canadians also invented something magical called “surtitles”, which are the translated lyrics that slide across a screen above the stage so that we know what everyone is saying, even when the opera is in English (we owe that one to former Canadian Opera Company General Director, Lotfi Mansouri. But I digress.)

Opera season is presently in full swing across Canada and the rest of the world – travel to any major city between January and May and you will find several options for a night out. In Toronto, we have larger houses like the Canadian Opera Company (aka the COC, the largest in Canada), Opera Atelier (stylized with an emphasis on dance), as well as smaller avant-garde companies such as Tapestry New Opera, Against the Grain Theatre and OperaFive. The best part is, they are all excellent, and they all offer something different.

What is the opera, anyways?

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Patti Smith: Camera Solo

After a couple of years filled with frequent trips to New York City, I developed much love for the Big Apple. A good (and very thoughtful) friend bought me a special present to help deepen my appreciation for the (rock & roll) history of NYC: Patti Smith’s memoir titled Just Kids. Admittedly at the time I didn’t know much about Patti Smith. I knew she was a legendary rock star and that other musicians, old and new, spoke highly of her talent and success. Just Kids was an eye opener.

I learned so much from reading Patti Smith’s self-penned memoir. I learned that Smith’s first artistic expressions came in the form of painting, sculture and poetry. I learned about her intense love affair and friendship with famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and got a glimpse of the struggles of trying to make it in NYC in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. There were also Smith’s interactions with Andy Warhol and the artists associated with his Factory that were fun to hear about. Just Kids ends just as Smith’s music career is being propelled and the rest I had to learn on my own (wikipedia?).

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Beyond my interest in Smith’s rise to fame and learning about NYC’s Lower East Side, I took away a sincere appreciation and respect for Smith as a writer and artist. Her ability to recall the details of her early years evocatively and with beautiful emotion paints a clear picture of a semi-charmed life through rose-coloured glasses.  More than a memoir, Just Kids is poetry highlighting Smith’s intelligence and artsy disposition.

Why blog about Patti Smith now? On February 9th, 2013, the Art Gallery of Ontario will present an exhibition of Patti Smith’s work for the first time ever in Canada. The show, titled Patti Smith: Camera Solo, will feature over 75 pieces of work, including photography, objects and film and will highlight her interest in poetry and literature. There will be free a audio guide to accompany the exhibit, and if that weren’t enough, Smith will perform two live musical performances at March’s AGO 1st Thursday on the 7th. Ticket prices remain $8 for members and $10 for non-members and go on sale on February 8th.

Patti Smith, live in concert for $10. Did you get that?? This is not a small deal, folks!!! Put it in your calendars and tweet it to the world – all those Bonnaroo/Coachella/Lollapalooza/Glastonbury concert-goers everywhere are losing their shit.

AGO’s 1st Thursdays

I have longingly read about cool parties being thrown at famous art galleries like the MOMA (in NYC), the Art Institute of Chicago, and the LACMA (in LA) and truly pined for something similar to take place in Toronto. These events serve to engage a generation of young(ish) adults in art in new ways. Bringing together music, education, and art with themed events, these after hours parties allow the art-minded community to visit the galleries under new and unique parameters.

The ROM began a Friday Night Live event this past spring, but something about just wasn’t quite my cup of tea.  And then in October, the AGO launched its inaugural 1st Thursdays event. I attended the second event in November and you know what? It was THE most amazing night.  I had that incredible feeling of civic pride, mixed with warm fuzzies, splashed with a real sense of community and belonging.  Best yet, I felt this all under the roof of my favorite building in the city.

1st Thursdays is an art party extraordinaire with two installments under its belt, both to sold out crowds. Tickets are a mere $10 ($8 for members) and are available in advance on the AGO website.  Each month’s event has focused on one of the many exhibits on display at the gallery, along with a myriad of other activities and performances to suit any taste.

November’s 1st Thursday showcased contemporary photography and the 2012 Grange Prize winner was publicly announced.  All of the nominees were in attendance and their work was on display to be viewed. I had a great chat with this year’s winner, Jo Longhurst,  about being nominated and her upcoming 2-month stint as artist-in-residence in Toronto. She is quite excited to work in Toronto, a change from her native London, UK.

2012 Grange Prize winner, Jo Longhurst.

Musical guests DIANA, a newly-formed band from Toronto, played in the main atrium below the baroque stairs. Their sound was beautifully amplified in the big space and artwork specially curated for their set adorned the space around the stage. They can absolutely consider me a new fan & supporter.  After DIANA’s set, Katie Stelmanis, lead singer from one of my favorite bands of the moment Austra, took to the decks and DJ’d for the rest of the evening under mellow lighting.

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