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An All-Night Art Festival Is About to Take Over Toronto

By Sarah Buder

Aug 21, 2018

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“Ocean” by Philip Beesley. Nuit Blanche Toronto 2017.

Courtesy of The City of Toronto

“Ocean” by Philip Beesley. Nuit Blanche Toronto 2017.

The celebration of Nuit Blanche Toronto sees a curated selection of exhibitions, installations, and live performances pop up across the city overnight.

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From dusk until dawn on September 29, the streets of Toronto will transform into an art-filled playground of sorts, with more than 75 contemporary installations lighting up the city’s public spaces for “one sleepless night of art.”

The all-night art crawl is known as Nuit Blanche, a modern arts festival that takes place during the wee hours once each year in cities from Paris to Melbourne. (If you can’t make the trip across the pond, Toronto’s upcoming festival is a manageable flight from most U.S. cities.)

Nuit Blanche Toronto has previously featured the politically aware work of world-famous artists like JR and Ai Weiwei, and the 13th edition of the citywide celebration will continue in that same vein. This year, curated exhibitions by more than 300 local, national, and international artists will highlight the contributions of Toronto’s immigrant communities under the official theme, “You Are Here.”

In addition to ephemeral artworks scattered across the city—extending beyond downtown for the first time—12 major Toronto arts institutions, including Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto (MOCA) and Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), will feature exhibitions free of charge throughout the night of Nuit Blanche. 

Take a peak at past Nuit Blanche Toronto installations, then read up on the exhibitions not to miss this year.

“Death of the Sun” by Director X. Nuit Blanche Toronto 2016.
“Literature vs. Traffic” by Luzinterruptus. Nuit Blanche Toronto 2016.
“The Eyes of the Bridge” by JR. Nuit Blanche Toronto 2015.
“Forever Bicycles” by Ai Weiwei. Nuit Blanche Toronto 2013.
“The Apology” by Maria Legault. Nuit Blanche Toronto 2009.
“Black Cloud” by Carlos Amorales. Nuit Blanche Toronto 2015.
“Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change” by Zacharias Kunuk. Nuit Blanche Toronto 2016.
“The Cleaving” by Heather and Ivan Morrison. Nuit Blanche Toronto 2015.
“Garden Tower” by Tadashi Kawamata. Nuit Blanche Toronto 2013.
What to see at Nuit Blanche 2018

  • Dream Time: We All Have Stories: Curated by Karen Alexander, this exhibition will feature eight projects—among them photography installations and video projections—that explore communal memories of Toronto’s history. The exhibition, which is set to explore themes of immigration, gay rights, housing, economic development, race relations, and more, will be on display in downtown Toronto.

  • The Things They Carried: This eight-project exhibit will focus on the often overlooked stories of immigrant communities in Toronto, inviting viewers to explore the city’s cultural enclaves. Curated by Tairone Bastien, the exhibition will feature a public street food court, International Dumpling Festival, serving a variety of dumplings and other fare (including Jamaican patties and Tibetan momos) intended to represent Toronto’s diverse food scene. In addition, two multi-part installations by famed French-Tunisian artist eL Seed will decorate downtown’s Yonge-Dundas Square, and five well-known Toronto graffiti artists will create site-specific works inspired by eL Seed’s installations in metro stations along Toronto’s Line 3.

  • Styll: This exhibition curated by Alyssa Fearon features 10 projects, including light projections, live performances, video installations, and sculptures, all of which pose the question: How do we create borders—both real and imagined?

How to get around

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From 7 p.m. on September 29 to 7 a.m. on September 30, more than 30 temporary installations will be concentrated in and around Toronto City Hall, the Church of the Holy Trinity, and Nathan Phillips Square downtown. But numerous installations will be found scattered throughout the city in neighborhoods within walking distance of downtown, such as West Queen West and Don Mills. In addition, city-produced exhibits will be on display in Toronto’s Scarborough district, just a short subway ride from downtown. 

During the event, a streamlined version of the Nuit Blanche Toronto website will allow users to easily locate all art projects via mobile device. Throughout the night, the Toronto Transit Commission will offer service on Line 1 Yonge-University, Line 2 Bloor-Danforthon, and Line 3 Scarsborough, with free entrance granted at six stations. (Learn more here.) 

>>Next: “Immigration Is Beautiful”: 32 Kids Celebrated as U.S. Citizens, Future National Parks Visitors

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