Museum of Contemporary Art rises from old Toronto factory building

Museum of Contemporary Art rises from old Toronto factory building
Inside the Junctions new Museum of Contemporary Art
An art museum that opened at a new location on Saturday in an old factory building aims to put Toronto on the map of global contemporary art.

"We're changing the landscape of the city and the province," Heidi Reitmaier, CEO and executive director of MOCA, said at its official opening on Saturday.

Torontos Museum of Contemporary Art officially opens this weekend

"We want to be an active agent here in the community and elsewhere and open to listening and learning from our visitors, artists and our community."

Reitmaier said the museum is pleased to contribute the social infrastructure in a part of the city that is "booming" with residential and commercial development. She said the museum is about "great art and ideas" but also about people and community.

Half of the first floor will be dedicated to Art in Use, a projected created with celebrated Cuban American artist and activist Tania Bruguera and the Association of Useful Art.

MOCA, formerly known as MOCCA, or the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art, had to leave its former location on Queen Street W. three years ago because of condo development. It had no home for three years. Staff members said they decided on the current building because it is iconic, historic and a heritage building.

On the fifth floor, Andy Holden presents Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape, an exhibition that examines some of the most well-known characters in cartoon history.

Mayor John Tory told the crowd at the opening ceremony that the museum is a "wonderful, new" addition to the neighbourhood.

The remainder of the first floor will be a space for the Akin Studio Program, which will provide space to 32 local artists on a one-year studio residency

Tory said arts and culture are important to Toronto, not only as an industry, but also because they enrich the city and provide a common language for its people. 

On Friday, MOCA held a preview for its members. And in May during Doors Open, it held a kind of preview of its open spaces for the public. Thousands attended.

MOCA Toronto will span over 55,000-sq-ft of space between five floors encompassing two main exhibition floors as well as smaller program spaces.

Rachel Hilton, director of communications and visitor engagement for MOCA, said the museum has gone from 10,000 square feet to 55,000 square feet over five floors. The building has 10 floors altogether.

The grand opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada (MOCA) will officially take place on September 22.

"It's a much larger, more significant space in which to showcase the work of Canadian and international artists than we had on Queen Street," she said.

In a statement, Finn said, Cleveland shaped my formative belief in the power of art and fostered my commitment to being an active and engaged advocate for artists. I am looking forward to immersing myself in Clevelands vibrant, rich, and culturally diverse communities, and actively participating in a larger dialogue about the role that artists and MOCA can play within the city.

The first floor contains a bookstore, cafe, space for the community and an exhibition by Greek artist Andreas Angelidakis called Demos — A Reconstruction, consisting of 74 modules that can be moved and recomposed. Its inaugural exhibition, Believe, is located on the second and third floors. which are the main exhibition floors. Floors four and five are devoted to programming.

Half of floor four is devoted to Art in Use, a project designed with by Cuban American artist Tania Bruguera and the Association of Useful Art. The rest of floor four is devoted to the Akin Studio Program, which provides spaces to 32 local artists on a one-year studio residency. The fifth floor contains Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape by Andy Holden. It's an exhibition of moving image works.

Unlike the Art Gallery of Ontario, it does not have a permanent collection, Hilton said. It will be commissioning and borrowing work.

Reitmaier told CBC Radio's q that the building is nearly 100 years old. It was owned by Alcan for much of its life, and during the First and Second World Wars, it produced ammunition.

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According to MOCA's website, the building was considered "innovative" when it opened in 1919 because it did not employ beams for support, using what is called "concrete flat slab architecture." 

"Each floor is a slab of reinforced concrete and is supported by concrete columns — the 'mushrooms' you see on each floor, which distribute the weight to the floor below," it reads. 

At one point, after it was no longer used as a factory, Reitmaier said it was used by graffiti artists, and raves were held there. The building was bought and has been refurbished, she added.

"For MOCA, it differentiates us in a way. How many museums do you know that re-purpose industrial buildings and create a kind of sense of aesthetics but also a kind of necessary architecture? For us, it's an amazing opportunity to be kind of different," Reitmaier said. 

"We're really, really committed to the idea that this is the people's museum. This is the listening museum, and we're here for the community in Toronto and beyond."

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.

icon-facebook What: Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada (MOCA) Where: 158 Sterling Rd. Size: 55,000 square feet over five floors

For 10 years, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art occupied an old textile factory on Queen West, but was forced to close its doors in 2015 to make way for condos. Now, after three years, it’s found a new home in the Junction’s historic Tower Automotive Building, with an impressive 55,000 square feet of space distributed over the first five floors of the building.

In addition to expanding its square footage, MOCA has also broadened its focus. Its inaugural exhibition, BELIEVE, features sixteen local and international artists (including Awol Erizku, the photographer responsible for Beyonce’s viral pregnancy portrait) and uses a range of media to explore the intersection of personal and collective beliefs. Here’s a look inside the new space: 

Built nearly 100 years ago, the Tower Automotive Building was originally home to an aluminum manufacturing company that made military supplies for both world wars and later, bottle caps and piston and cylinder heads for the Ford Motor Company. It’s an early example of flat slab architecture. The architects who worked on the renovation kept the existing foundation intact, retrofitting it with technology that regulates the temperature of the interior so the art can be housed safely:

The building’s commercial operations ceased in 2006 and it remained vacant until MOCA began refurbishing it in 2015. The former loading bay has been converted into the main museum entrance, which features the original wooden doors from the factory:

The ground floor (free to the public) will house the Invitation Project—a year-long guest exhibit that explores social space. For the grand opening, Greek artist Andreas Angeladakis created 74 modular foam blocks that can be reconfigured by visitors. To build a more versatile space, nearly everything that was added to the building—including the welcome desk, benches, and lockers on the ground floor, designed by local firm MSDS—is removable. The ground floor will also house a book store run by Art Metropole and a café operated by King West’s Forno Cultura:

The main gallery spaces are housed on the second and third floors and include a mix of new commissions and works loaned to the gallery for the inaugural exhibition. This is the second floor gallery, which sprawls out over 10,000 square feet:

One floor up, visitors are greeted by a giant mural created by American conceptual artist and collagist Barbara Kruger. There’s also a freight elevator designated for transporting works between floors:

Part programming space, part artist studios, the fourth floor is the most functional of the five. One half of the space houses Art in Use, a collaboration with Cuban artist Tania Bruguera and the Association of Arte Util that includes workshops centred around the question, How can art and museums be useful?:

The other half of MOCAs fourth floor is a partnership with Akin Collective and the Akin Studio Program, which offers integrated, affordable studio space to local photographers, painters, sculptors, weavers and other artists. The layout was designed to facilitate community and collaboration—some work spaces are communal and artists share a kitchen and common area. Each in-house artist has access to all of MOCA’s annual programming, and some will be featured in public studio events throughout the year:

The fifth floor will function as an office and rental space, but for the opening there will be a pop-up exhibit of Andy Holdens Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape, a series of animated images featuring popular cartoon characters, like Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote, to explain the laws of physics: 

MOCA will have its grand opening on Saturday, September 22. Admissions to the museum are free all weekend between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.