Feature On: Matter Gallery

Feature On: Matter Gallery

Matter: A contemporary art gallery with a global mandate
. We had the pleasure of shooting our Spring 18’ Collection in the space, and we decided we had to share the unique work that Matter is contributing at an international level. 

Matter Gallery collaborates with a community of international art world influencers to deliver a collection of expertly curated contemporary art from Africa, Middle East, Asia and Latin America. Read along to learn more about art, sustainability and thinking globally.

L: That’s a good place to begin. Let's start with the concept. Matter Gallery was born of the idea that Toronto, identifying as a globally-minded city, has some holes in the arts market. Yes, we are the most diverse city in the world, but our art market is really focused on Canadian artists- which is great!- but I could see a need for access to the vibrancy and excitement of the global markets I was exposed to in my travels and while living abroad.

I lived in Singapore for 6 years and got involved in collecting art and exploring Asia-based art fairs.  I spent time doing the same in South America, and this exploration became a passion of mine wherever I landed. I really enjoyed learning about the world through the work of exceptionally talented artists throughout the global contemporary art market.

When I arrived back in Toronto from Asia, I was completing a Master’s Degree in Sustainability with a program requirement of building a sustainable business plan.  This came at a time when I was contemplating my next career steps, and was considering what it was that I really loved to do, and from where I drew most inspiration.  Art, sustainability and thinking globally were at the forefront. The combination of these three elements started to shape the plan.

Before long, the gallery plan I had on paper was proving viable, which was really exciting! I began to build associations with art world experts at home and abroad. This includes the core group of collaborators that Matter depends on today, including our Toronto based Program Director, and a global network of industry leaders comprised of faculty from art schools, dealers, gallerists and artists.  After a great deal of travel and relationship building, the gallery doors opened at last! We now represent a roster of seven internationally diverse artists, each recognized as leading voices in the contemporary arts of their respective regions.

L: We are global: We work with artists from around the world, with a regional focus on Africa, Middle East, Asia and Latin America; we work closely with an internationally diverse network of collaborators; and our service offering extends to a global audience.

We are accessible: We cultivate inclusivity over exclusivity.  We are launching a membership program this year that is financially accessible and open to all those wanting to get involved in the Matter community; the gallery space itself is designed to be inviting with street access from our open garage door, with a clear view to welcoming staff who are ready to greet and provide you with information about what we do, the artists on the walls, and the global contemporary art market overall.    

 We are sustainable: This is seen in our everyday operations.  Examples include carbon accounting to help bench mark the gallery’s environmental impact, while providing insight on how we can improve year over year; and the Matter reserve fund, which is derived from a percentage of gallery revenue and held for donation to a local arts-based charitable organization.

L: Well, there’s a very literal definition: making decisions that will affect the future positively, and having a long-term view in mind at all times.  This definition in a business context often means the organization as a whole uses a “triple bottom line” approach, where measuring environmental, social and financial performance is a means of profit maximization and creating shared value.  To us, the practice of sustainability means taking care of the global community that we’re a part of, building local social capital for the long-term, and making environmentally sound decisions.

These practices take many forms and don’t exist in their own distinct vacuums.  The Matter reserve fund that is held for a local arts organization has opened up important relationships with industry experts, and the addition of a donor matching program for the fund has helped introduce new gallery clientele to organizations in need.  This is a great example of creating shared value across multiple actors.  

Building local social capital has also taken on a global context at Matter - by chance!  Establishing connections with industry peers in other countries led to inquiries about Canadian artists seeking exposure outside of Canada.  To me, this opportunity for exchange is further evidence of the vital importance of cross-cultural dialogue in the arts, and a tribute to the benefits of sustainable gallery practices. 

This year, we are writing our first sustainability report.  This will help us monitor and measure how we are performing across that triple bottom line, and provide indication of where changes need to be made in the future. Our efforts in carbon accounting will be particularly useful here, as we want to ensure cost and environmental efficiency.  I expect we will need to examine our shipping logistics since this is a major contributor to the gallery’s footprint.  

I’ve talked here about the intersection of the art gallery and sustainability, but the relationship between art and sustainability is a fascinating one for sure.  It is difficult to talk about contemporary art without recognition of the principles of sustainability being present as subject matter. Contemporary topics today include pressing issues surrounding social justice, environmental concerns, and political challenges - each of these categories forms a pillar of sustainability.  In my opinion, this is one of the most vital reasons for exploring the arts with a global perspective. We learn how the world around us is facing the challenges and threats to sustainability, and visual language has a unique power to elevate our thinking on a certain topic to a place where words can’t take us.


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