Toronto’s Show & Tell Gallery just celebrated their one year anniversary in their space in little Portugal. Starting the gallery from his apartment, it has made its mark in a short time, showing artists such as Logan Hicks, Greg LaMarche, Anthony Lister and ESPO. Simon Cole, the gallery’s remarkably ambitious (and remarkably young, he’s only almost 28) owner and director let me pester him with some questions about how he has stirred up Toronto’s art scene and managed to sign some high profile names in record time.
Simon Cole:Drug Money or A lot of hard work and genuine interest. I have been collecting art for years before I started the gallery, it has always been something I have been passionate about. The gallery started as an online venture out of my apartment and grew in to something much larger with the support of friends and great artists, plus the fact that I was sort of tapping in on a niche market in toronto I feel helped.
LZ: Do you think it is easier or more difficult to have a gallery in Toronto (versus NYC)? Would you move if you had the money to?
SC: Probably, the art I tend to show is very specific and is much more recognized in places like London, NYC, and California. That being said with the internet I can access collectors all over the world. I have sold art to London, Australia, Norway, South America and all over the states. Rent is cheaper in Toronto than Chelsea, so that’s a plus, but the collectors aren’t here… Well at least not on the same scale. I feel like many people in Toronto treat art shows like a movie, it’s something to go see but they dont want to take anything home with them… Like the true collector mentality isn’t here. That being said I do have some solid clients locally that I am very grateful for and am encouraged because that the local market is growing. I love to introduce people to new artists, and its great when they get it (and buy it). I feel like a lot of my job at this point consists on educating people.
LZ: I’m used to the New York art scene, which is vast and lively. What is the Toronto art scene like?
SC: The young art scene here is very cliquey. I kind of find it bizarre. I feel like there is strength in numbers so hating on local people doing positive work in the right way seems counter intuitive. I feel like a lot of the established art market here is controlled by blue haired old ladies. I’m happy that I get a lot of support from my peers in the states and overseas. There are good shows going on here though and some great people, so it’s not all bad. Some seriously talented local artists here that are starting to be recognized in the US, artists like Brian Donnelly, Alena Skarina, Niall McClelland, Tristram Landsdowne, and Vlad Kato are some of my favorites.
LZ: How would you describe your program? Do you want to be known as a “street art” gallery.
SC: This is something I struggle with as I really hate labels. My background is in graffiti, it is a scene I have been following since I was a youth and a lot of my friends are still actively involved. When I started the gallery I wanted to put my friends on so naturally a lot of my artists come from that background. It’s funny though, I have been referred to as a lowbrow/pop surrealism gallery as well, which I dont get. I think the term lowbrow is totally dated and I dont understand that correlation with my artists. I show contemporary art. Many of the artists I work for come from unconventional backgrounds, but a lot of them have formal training too. Its an eclectic mix. As I mature so does my program, keep in mind the gallery is only 2 years old.
LZ: What are some of your favorite artists that you don’t represent?
SC: Shit, there are so many. Off the top of my head, Swoon, Aurel Schmidt, Taylor McKimens, Allison Schulnik, Doze Green, James Marshall, David Choe, BAST, Nick DiGenova, Twist, Reas… There are a ton, this list could literally go on for days. I am happy that I do represent some of my favorites though like Steve Powers and Greg Lamarche. Hopefully I can add some of the others to my list in the coming years.
LZ: Canada outlaws art galleries. What would you be doing instead?