Photo Credit: Daily Hive

As a phrase, “the art world” presents a daunting amalgamation of names, movements and concepts, which, for most passive observers, seem impenetrable. Moreover, the subsection of contemporary art is even more difficult to tackle. Its vague name and current livelihood seems to leave most in the cold. Instead of interacting with the art and risking looking stupid, people choose not even to enter through the doors. With the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) reopening in its new location on September 22nd, now is a better time than ever to consider stepping into what may be unfamiliar territory, especially with some support from the museum itself.

Throughout my childhood, I was taken to many gallery openings and I’ve seen my fair share of art, both contemporary and otherwise, as well as listened to endless “art connoisseurs” expunge meaning and symbolism from the pieces before them. So, MOCA wasn’t necessarily a foreign entity to me, and yet I found myself feeling nervous before going. Would I seem like I knew what I was talking about? Would I understand what the pieces were trying to tell me? Would I be smart enough for contemporary art?

 

 Here’s the answer: that doesn’t matter.

After walking through all five floors of the new MOCA, located on Sterling road in the old industrial Tower Automotive Building, what struck me most was how open the space felt to any visitor. There are currently three expositions spread throughout the floors, but in no way does it seem like wading through endless canvases. There are opportunities to physically interact with the art and sculptures, work lying on the floor and large coloured glass panes hanging from the ceiling. In many ways, the presentation of the pieces and their sheer diversity makes the MOCA feel more like a large gallery than what we’ve come to expect from museums. If you’re a first timer to the museum experience, MOCA’s exhibition guide lists “10 ways to play with art”. Perhaps a little childish, these steps can start to steer you in the right direction when looking at the works. They encourage visitors who choose to follow the list to interact with the art, to look at it actively and to consider their own relationship to what stands in front of them.

The concept of interaction is at the very heart of this new MOCA. During the ribbon cutting ceremony I felt as though one central thesis emerged: you are here to engage with the museum and the museum is here to engage with you. This philosophy is present not only in the exhibitions, but in the physical architecture of the building and its location. The small information cards near the pieces often elaborate on the intended meaning of the artist, or that which seems most prevalent, which are helpful if you’re having a little trouble wrapping your head around what you’re seeing. But, you can always choose to ignore this interpretation and favour your own. They offer an explanatory interpretation of the art, but essentially a viewer can take it or leave it. The building itself does not hold the haughty air that many museums present, and the aesthetic of a repurposed industrial building is important in creating the atmosphere in which the art is displayed. Lastly, unlike many other new additions to the area, MOCA seems genuinely honest about its need to respond to the community, to learn and to grow with it. And the museum's strategic geographic location makes its venues even more accessible. Adjacent to the Dundas West Railpath, right beside the Drake Commons and Henderson Brewery (not to mention the junction triangle near which it is located), the museum allows visitors the freedom to reflect on what they have just seen. Crucially, it seems that MOCA understands the need for this repose following the experience they present. Or, at the very least, they got lucky with the property.

 

Whether you’re a first-timer or an art museum connoisseur, the MOCA offers an open, welcoming experience to view contemporary art. Your reaction to what is presented is your own, but if you’re interested in dabbling in the art world, MOCA will not leave you in the lurch.  


Article Photo Credit: Toronto Star

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