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The Power Plant launches major Commissioning Program with Turner Prize winner Simon Starling


TORONTO, September 29, 2006—The Power Plant launched today a key new initiative linked to the realization of its new Strategic Plan adopted earlier this year. The Power Plant Commissioning Program will produce at least one major new art work of international significance per annum, establishing The Power Plant as a lead agent in Canada for commissioning landmark contemporary art projects by Canadian and international artists.

“Following on the success of ALL SUMMER, ALL FREE, and the launch of our fall programs supported by a prestigious Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund grant, we are thrilled to announce the launch of our annual Commissioning Program,” said Gregory Burke, Director of The Power Plant.

“As Canada’s leading non-collecting contemporary art gallery, the commissioning of major new projects is a distinctive and important role for us. The Commissioning Program is a tangible expression of our commitment to strive to foster the conditions for the production as well as the reception of contemporary art and to develop new possibilities for artists within contemporary culture. Realizing at least one major commission per year, the program will incubate major art projects that might not otherwise see the light of day.”
Great projects are often backed by visionary patrons and this is true of the Commissioning Program. A group of prominent Toronto citizens have joined together to enable The Power Plant to realize this new initiative. These Founding Commissioners also have links to four current or past presidents of The Power Plant, evidence of an enduring belief in the need to support the development of The Power Plant as an essential cultural organization in Canada.

The Founding Commissioners are:
Lonti Ebers and Bruce Flatt
Yvonne and David Fleck
The Latner Family
Phil Lind
Garnet and Evan Siddall

“Their commitment to The Power Plant and to the development of contemporary art enables us to realize our goals to offer audiences a chance to engage with the work of some of contemporary art’s most original figures, and to build awareness of its significance as a vital social and cultural force. Their support also helps to cement Toronto’s claim to be a major international art city given that each major commission has the potential to attract enduring international attention.”

“We are therefore delighted to announce that The Power Plant’s inaugural commission is a work by the British artist Simon Starling and that the work has both international significance and local relevance. This work focuses on Toronto’s enduring engagement with art and its histories at an international level,” said Mr. Burke.

The work takes as its starting point the close relationship between English sculptor Henry Moore and the City of Toronto, and the Zebra Mussel that flourishes in Lake Ontario. Outside of the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green, England, Toronto has one of the most significant collections of Moore’s sculptures in the world, a legacy with which Starling is engaging and broadening.

Simon Starling is a member of a young generation of British and Scottish artists who have emerged in the last decade to increasingly popular and international acclaim. In 2005, Starling received the Turner Prize, Britain’s most prestigious and important award for artists under the age of 50. For his recent exhibition, Cuttings, at the Museum fur Gegenwartskunst, Basel, Switzerland, The Power Plant co-published his exhibition catalogue (available at The Power Plant).

The Simon Starling Commission was initiated by Reid Shier, former Curator of The Power Plant. The Power Plant gratefully acknowledges the Art Gallery of Ontario for their assistance in realizing this project. The original Moore sculpture is housed within their collection. Furthermore, The Power Plant would also like to acknowledge the assistance of BMO Financial Group, The Henry Moore Foundation, Casey Kaplan Gallery, Hugh MacIsaac, Professor Gerry Mackie, Jay McLennan (Spire Art & Design), Sherry Phillips, and Dr. W. Gary Sprules.

Simon Starling will give a lecture on Friday September 29, 7PM, at The Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West. Free to Power Plant Members. $15 non-members. To order tickets call Box Office at 416 973 4000.

The Power Plant at Harbourfront Centre is located at 231 Queens Quay West. Gallery Hours are Tuesday to Sunday: 12-6pm, Wednesday: 12-8pm, Closed Monday, open holiday Mondays. Admission is Free to Members, $4 adults, $2 students/seniors.

For gallery information contact 416 973-4949 or or visit


Media Contact:
Linda Liontis, 416 973 4381,

In front of Toronto’s City Hall stands The Archer (1964-65), one of Moore’s most significant public works. Its history is rich with controversy. It was chosen for the city by architect Viljo Revell and Henry Moore but threatened by a public controversy surrounding its commission for Nathan Philips Square. Moore’s impassioned fans in Toronto would save the sculpture for the city by raising private money to purchase it. This coup would help sustain a relationship between Moore and Toronto and would result in the artist awarding a large and significant selection of his plaster originals to the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Prior to this historic acquisition, a small number of Moore’s sculptures entered the Art Gallery of Ontario’s collection at the recommendation of Anthony Blunt, an English art historian and member of the infamous spy ring—along with Kim Philby and Guy Burgess—that betrayed British secrets to the Soviet Union during WWII. Through the 1950s and 60s Blunt acted as advisor to the AGO, and was instrumental in the gallery’s purchase of Warrior with Shield, (1953-54), a bronze sculpture that evolved, in Moore’s words, from “a pebble I found on the seashore in the summer of 1952, and which reminded me of the stump of a leg, amputated at the hip.” Moore’s fascination with the suggestive formal possibilities of natural objects—particularly bones, pebbles, flint stones and shells is of particular interest to Simon Starling, and a jumping off point for the Commissioned work.

While conducting research in Toronto, Starling became fascinated with the recent invasion, throughout the North American Great Lakes, of the Eastern European Zebra Mussel. The Zebra Mussel entered the Great Lakes in 1988, marine biologists speculate, in the ballast water from large ocean going transport vessels. The mussels are native to the Black Sea, and since arriving in North America have proliferated in our fresh water lakes to such a degree that they have become a dominant aquatic species. This has led to profound ecological repercussions, both beneficial and destructive. While their fantastic numbers have helped filter out a great deal of pollutants from the lakes, the Mussel’s fortitude has pushed out many other native species.

Starling is combining his interests in Moore and the Zebra Mussel in an ambitious idea. The artist created a steel rendition of Henry Moore’s bronze sculpture Warrior with Shield, then submerged it into Lake Ontario in spring 2006. The sculpture will remain underwater for an undetermined time until it is colonized by mussels. When extracted the mussels will die while their shells will remain affixed, and the sculpture will then be exhibited at The Power Plant.

Starling’s dialogue with the work of Henry Moore is both an engagement with an artistic legacy and a conduit through which audiences might also understand an artwork’s larger social and cultural context. Moore’s relationship with Toronto has been received with enormous support as well as outright antagonism. Part of the reason The Archer’s acquisition was fought in the 1960s was because Moore wasn’t Canadian, and there were arguments against public support being given to foreign artists.

Nationalist insecurities erupted throughout the early years of Canada’s emerging cultural identification, and it is in his metaphoric employment of the invasive Zebra Mussel that Starling evokes these contested ideas of foreign ‘influence’ and nationalist protectionism.
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