Before 1923, the ground beneath this formerly vacant building did not exist. The land in this area of the city was fashioned from infill that covered over marshland between the Don River and Ashbridges Bay. Since the early 1800s, each time Toronto’s economy has surged, the shoreline has been altered, subjugated to the interests of capital.
The life of this nondescript building reveals the area’s economic history. Its first tenant in 1945, the Standard Chemical Company, produced methanol, formaldehyde, and charcoal. A railway line to the south tethered the site to the movement of goods. By 1954, the building was divided into a warehouse and a showroom, a configuration that remained intact over the course of various leaseholders, including oil and electrical supply companies and a series of car dealerships. (The advertising of its most recent tenant, Volvo, is still visible on the façade.) This building’s fate is indeterminate, as real estate development is increasingly filling the voids left by industrial decline.
Those who study civic ecosystems argue that old buildings are needed to incubate new ideas, which is what artists are offering here, if only temporarily. Artworks gathered at 259 Lake Shore Blvd E. consider different forms of relations in light of the connections and disconnections that characterize the present. Videos prefigure the catastrophic effects of the Anthropocene; clusters of tin monarch butterflies are programmed to respond to seismic data; intricate drawings document Inuit life before forced assimilation. Directly inside the building’s doors, a massive wooden replica of Toronto’s harbour immediately makes apparent the human-made alterations of the land and waterscape, all in the service of industry.
This Biennial site description was generated by the curatorial team, in consultation with our creative partners, to offer lesser-known facts and histories, and explore sites in relation to the changing shoreline.
The festival cafe, “Ciao Ciccio,” is brought to the Toronto Biennial of Art by Ascari Hospitality Group, and offers guests the highest quality coffee beverages, plus a broad array of pastries, daily sandwiches, salad bowls, and much more. Open Thursday-Sunday for the remainder of the Biennial.
PARTISANS is the architectural team and exhibition designers that helped transform the old Volvo dealership into the galleries.
This Biennial site was made possible through a partnership with Waterfront Toronto.
Accessible entrance and washrooms
AODA compliant building
- Getting There
- Coming from the West: Follow Gardiner Expressway E to the Jarvis Street exit. Keep right and follow the signs for Lake Shore Blvd E eastbound. Turn right onto Lower Sherbourne Street, then left onto Queens Quay E, where the destination is on the left.
- Coming from the East:Take Lake Shore Blvd E eastbound towards the downtown core. Turn left onto Parliament St, and continue onto Queens Quay E, where the destination is on the right.