Mercer Union is a non-profit, artist-centred space in Toronto. We have a unique track record of presenting innovative exhibitions by diverse Canadian and international artists in formative and established stages of their careers. We are dedicated to supporting the production of new and experimental work, assisting artists in realizing pivotal projects.
Mercer Union has the will and flexibility to take on ambitious projects. We foster an intimate and supportive space for artists to develop and take risks with their work. In turn, their exhibitions play a role in shaping the cultural landscape of Toronto, Canada and beyond.
Art is crucial to expanding minds and pushing boundaries. Our exhibitions, educational programs, artists’ talks, events and publications, both on and off site, encourage critical inquiry and conversation.
Mercer Union. Cultivating artists and challenging audiences since 1979.
Mercer Union was founded by twelve visionary artists who each contributed $1,500 to buy the lease on an 1800 square foot space on Mercer Street in downtown Toronto in 1979. As they declared, “Toronto does not have, has never had, and desperately needs, an artists’ organization dedicated to the exposition of new work in the most advanced forms of painting and sculpture.” Mercer Union continues to present the expanded spectrum of contemporary art practices and engage with key issues of our time. It moved from its original location at 29 Mercer Street to its current space at 1286 Bloor Street West–a renovated early 20th century cinema space– in 2008, now at the center of a growing and dynamic arts district in downtown Toronto. Our 3300 sq. ft. facility includes two large white cube galleries, workshop, artist cabin, administrative offices and gated outdoor patio including a billboard space at the corner of Bloor West and St Clarens Avenue.
Exhibitions and Programs
Mercer Union presents five exhibitions per year, commissioned solo and group exhibitions with newly produced works. In addition we present a series of commissioned public billboards, fORUM, a critical conversation series, as well as artists’ talks, workshops, seminars and off-site public projects. Our principal objective is to offer artists the opportunity to create new works for exhibition–from conception to realization–that challenges their ambition, and audiences.
We are catalysts for the creation of art by providing comprehensive production and technical support, dedicated curatorial direction and critical frameworks. Throughout our thirty-eight year history, we have realized ambitious programming, presenting important solo exhibitions by emerging and established artists including Sol LeWitt (1981), Charles Ray (1985), Jessica Stockholder (1988), Lorna Simpson (1988), Knut Åsdam (2003), Isabelle Pauwels (2004), Jeremy Deller (2006), Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor (2008), Deborah Stratman (2012), Paul Sietsma (2013), Geoffrey Farmer (2013), Tiziana La Melia (2014), Abbas Akhavan (2015) among many others. In the past five years we have presented the first solo exhibitions in Canada by artists Christopher Kulendran Thomas (Sri Lanka/UK), Sarah Pierce (Dublin/New York), Laurent Montaron (Paris), Tiziana La Melia (Vancouver), Krista Belle Stewart (New York), Liz Magic Laser (New York), Isabel Nolan (Dublin), Carlos Motta (Bogota/New York) and Jason Dodge (Berlin). These exhibitions have engaged with Canada’s cultural genocide and processes of Truth and Reconciliation, the trauma of war, the role of the child within contemporary political discourse, to normative discourses of sexuality and gender among many other issues.
Our record of exhibitions and projects includes an impressive roster of artists who have gone on to achieve prominent positions in the wider sphere of contemporary art practice globally. Artists participating in the program have gone on to win the Sobey Art Award, the Gershon Iskowitz Prize and The Future Generation Art Prize, and participated in major international exhibitions including documenta, the Venice Biennale, the Sydney, Istanbul and Gwanju Biennials.
Education and Networks
Mercer Union actively seeks to foster engagement and develop new audiences for contemporary art. We foster critical discourses in and around art through exhibitions, artists’ talks, workshops, the critical conversation series fORUM, screenings, a commissioned outdoor billboard series, education programs, events, publishing and off-site projects with free admission to all. We partner with educational institutions such as York University, the University of Toronto, The University of Guelph, Humber College, Ontario College of Art and Design (OCADU), and the Etobicoke School of the Visual Arts and run free gallery tours every Saturday afternoon.
We have distinguished ourselves by being engaged with the international exchange of ideas through invitational exhibitions and partnerships with other artists’ spaces across the world – from site-specific drawings by Sol LeWitt in 1981; to our 2013 commission with Geoffrey Farmer who will represent Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2017. We have partnered with organizations and institutions including; SBC Galerie d’art contemporain (Montreal), Images Festival (Toronto), Walter Phillips Gallery (Banff), the Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver), Cinema Politica (Montreal), the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin), The Toronto International Film Festival, and The Mixed Theatre Company (Toronto).
Governance & Funding
Mercer Union is a Canadian charitable not-for-profit organization that is governed by an active 14-member volunteer board (the majority are artists), and led by two Directors (the Director of Exhibitions & Programs and the Director of Operations & Development). Mercer Union’s programming is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Council; through other government funding bodies, sponsors, foundations, private benefactors and earned income streams such as fundraising events, sales of limited edition and a biannual fundraising auction called Stellar Living. Resource sharing is central to all our activities and we continuously seek to develop new networks and reach new audiences through collaborations with partner organizations.
Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art, is a Registered Charity No. 86857 4161 RR0001