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Society

In living colour

Sammy Rawal’s 360-degree video portraits at Voyer*ish.

The Gardiner Museum in Toronto celebrates contemporary art and the young patrons who support it with Smash

It may be the new kid on the block, but Voyer*ish, the second instalment of the Gardiner Museum's Smash, hosted on June 22, drew a scene and left a mark.

With a sea of annual happenings focused on big-givers, it's always refreshing when an institution, especially one with a very specific collection, makes an effort to engage with gen-next culture vultures, and it's especially exciting when an institution gets it right. Hosted by, and for, the Gardiner Museum's Young Patrons Circle, Smash had great installations, music and drinks flowing until midnight, and tickets for the evening were a perfectly priced $125.

The Gardiner Museum itself is a relatively new museum in Toronto. Founded in 1984 by George and Helen Gardiner to house their collection of porcelain and pottery, the museum is now considered an important centre for ceramics in North America with an impressive 4,000 objects in its permanent collection, including Chinese and Japanese porcelain, ceramics from the Ancient Americas and works from contemporary ceramicists. Currently on view though Sept. 10 is a show of contemporary Inuit ceramics, and come October, on display will be the works of Canadian artist Steven Heinemann. But between now and then, the permanent collection, a bevy of clay classes (for kids and former kids) and lecture series keep the museum buzzing.

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The museum has an established and impressive list of long-time top-tier donors, well-known names who make annual contributions, but in 2015, the Gardiner established its Young Patrons Circle in an effort to engage the future: young arts-minded philanthropists and movers. To my eyes, it has thus far been a success and for this latest sold-out Smash, the YPC's premier party, Justin Broadbent, a Toronto-based artist and photographer was enlisted as art director. The result, an evening titled Voyer*ish, explored themes of self reflection and human curiosity through installations by Robin Clason, Tessar Lo, Sammy Rawal and Broadbent himself in the museum's KPMB-designed third floor.

Rawal's nude 360 ̊ video portraits, inspired by the rotation of the pottery wheel, acted as a backdrop for most of the art party; Clason opted for a bedroom-like installation that was furnished for the night with mirrors and household ceramics; Lo worked throughout the evening on a series of sculptural murals in an enclosed hexagonal structure that guests could take a stealthy look into. There was music, too, from DJ Killa Kels, Miracles (Jahmal Padmore), and Rodney Diverlus, who each had their moment to shine. Speaking of shine, the evening was full of bright young things, the installations were amusing and immersive, and most importantly it was an evening that got young people into a museum – just the sort of thing arts institutions across the country should be paying serious attention to.

Among the bright young attendees: co-chairs Paul Tye, principal at Tye Consulting, art consultant Hughene Acheson, and Julie Hicks Riches, principal at Riches Consulting; James Temple, PwC Canada's chief corporate responsibility officer; Michael Liebrock, a founding partner and director at Acasta Capital; Cartier's Justin Harris; St. Joseph Communication's Krista Gagliano; Irie Capital Corporation founder and president Jen McCain; RBC Wealth Management's Sandra Pierce; and Kelvin Browne, the Gardiner Museum's executive director and CEO.

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