Upon entering Art Toronto this year, visitors ascend an escalator and encounter a wall of one thousand faces. The faces belong to all (or most) of the artists being represented at the fair this year and form ALL THE ARTISTS ARE HERE, an installation by Canadian artist Thom Sokoloski. Sokoloski says of the work, “It’s not new, people have hung pictures before. But it’s a nice tool to have at the art fair, where you celebrate the artist.” As much a tool as an art installation, each face has a corresponding QR code that visitors can scan with a smartphone to immediately access the artist’s bio, website, and the booth where their work will be located in the fair. Scan the codes and you’ll likely find Marman and Borins from Georgia Scherman’s booth, David Urban at Corkin Gallery, or Rodney Graham from Caviar 20.
Art Toronto director Linel Rebenchuk approached Sokoloski to create a work for the fair’s entrance due to his successful Interactive 05 at the 2005 fair and the large-scale participatory art he has created since then. Sokoloski immediately thought to make a large visual impact and to focus on celebrating the artists, in part because he felt many visitors weren’t even aware of the vast number of artists represented at the fair. The idea came together visually, a grid-like network of faces that visitors would encounter and pass through before entering the fair. He described the work as “somewhat practical and a bit of a logistical nightmare.”
One major challenge was gathering artists’ images through the exhibiting galleries, who according to Sokoloski were very enthusiastic about the installation. Even so, some artists asked that a picture of their work be included instead of their face, a request Sokoloski denied, fixed on only representing faces. Sokoloski purports that “sometimes people are drawn to people just by the way they look.” He also emphasizes that visitors will be able to take the artists home with them, via their smartphones.
The project includes an educational outreach program entailing workshops and involvement with the installation of the work, focusing on thinking big and how to execute ideas on a large scale, instilling a sense of ambition in youth participants.
In speaking about limits imposed on his works, Sokoloski says, “Constraints for me are not negative, they’re positive because by knowing your constraints you actually know what your freedom is.” This way of thinking comes from his years of directing and producing in theater and opera, experiences that inform all of his visual works. As ALL THE ARTISTS ARE HERE lends itself perfectly to most art fairs, Sokoloski says he would be happy to recreate the project for future fairs, allowing it to evolve and become a unique entity on each occasion. When asked if he included himself on the wall, Sokoloski frankly admitted that the idea hadn’t even occurred to him.
Visit Thom Sokoloski’s ALL THE ARTISTS ARE HERE at Art Toronto 2013, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, October 25-28, 2013.