Artist First is Mercer Union’s new commissioning platform and the first of its kind amongst artist-run centres in Canada. Rooted in Mercer Union’s organizational history, Artist First emerges from our identity as a space that is uniquely positioned to support the production of new and experimental work.
We invest in the lifecycle of a project from conception to realization with curatorial vision and rigour, establishing Mercer Union as a space where artists can present ambitious new artworks. We have accomplished this as only Mercer Union could: through a commitment to artists at the heart of our operations, and an ethos of collaboration that sustains discovery, risk-taking, and artistic development through long-term support and dialogue.
Artist First emerges from this long-held commitment to building an intimate and supportive space for artists. The platform formalizes our commitment to the commissioning process and sets out to create milestone opportunities for artists to bring their visions to fruition in Toronto.
|Support Commissioning at Mercer Union
Commissioning at Mercer Union has always been sustained by a community of generous supporters who share our dedication to putting artists first.
Artist First commissions are made possible with the generous support of
Kaye & Paul Beeston
To learn more, contact Julia Paoli, Director & Curator at email@example.com
Current and Recent Commissions
With a number of exciting new commissions soon to be announced, get to know the artists, projects, partners, and accomplishments making up Mercer Union’s history of commissioning.
2023—Lydia Ourahmane: Tassili
Co-commission with SculptureCenter, New York; rhizome, Algiers; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Kamel Lazaar Foundation, Tunis; and Nottingham Contemporary.
2022—Aimée Zito Lema: Scryer in the Archive
Developed in collaboration with Grazer Kunstverein and If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution, Amsterdam.
2022—Lawrence Abu Hamdan: 45th Parallel
Developed in collaboration with the Toronto Biennial of Art. Commissioned with the Toronto Biennial of Art; Spike Island, Bristol; and Western Front, Vancouver.
2021—Onyeka Igwe: THE REAL STORY IS WHAT’S IN THAT ROOM
Co-commission with Plug In ICA, Winnipeg; and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin. Commission exhibited at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2020.
2020—Erdem Taşdelen: A Minaret for the General’s Wife
Co-commission with SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre), Toronto. Commission exhibited at Richmond Art Gallery, 2022.
2020—Native Art Department International: Bureau of Aesthetics
Commission exhibited at Kadist, San Francisco, 2019, and Crisp-Ellert Art Museum, St. Augustine, 2021.
2019—Laure Prouvost & Jonas Staal: Obscure Union
Commission expanded upon and exhibited at the Nam June Paik Art Center, South Korea, 2021.
2019—Bambitchell: Bugs and Beasts Before the Law
Commission expanded upon and exhibited at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, 2021. Artists among 25 awardees of the 2020 Sobey Art Award.
2019—Beatrice Gibson: Plural Dreams of Social Life
Co-commission with KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Camden Arts Centre, London; and Bergen Kunsthall. Premiered at the Director’s Fortnight screening at Cannes Film Festival, 2019. Artist shortlisted for the 2019 Film London Jarman Award.
2019—Nep Sidhu: Medicine for a Nightmare (they called, we responded)
Co-commission with Esker Foundation, Calgary. Commission exhibited at SFU Galleries, Vancouver, 2019; Esker Foundation, Calgary, 2019; and the 2021 Glasgow International Festival.
2018—Anne Low & Evan Calder Williams: The Fine Thread of Deviation
Presented at the 49th Berlinale Forum Expanded, 2019.
On Trial The Long Doorway
Commission expanded upon and exhibited at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, 2019. Artist awarded the Governor General’s Award in Visual & Media Arts, 2020.
2016—Duane Linklater: From Our Hands
Commission exhibited at 80WSE Gallery, New York, 2016-17.
2015—Abbas Akhavan: variations on a garden
Study for a Monument acquired by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Artist awarded the 2015 Sobey Art Award.
2013—Geoffrey Farmer: A Light In The Moon
Artist awarded the 2013 Gershon Iskowitz Prize. Represented Canada at the 57th Venice Biennale, 2017.
2011—Aleksandra Mir: The Seduction of Galileo Galilei
Commission exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2011-12