Arsenal is more than just a contemporary gallery, it also functions as a beautiful space for private, corporate + charitable events. Located in the Junction, Arsenal is a great addition to the neighbourhood that some consider responsible for saving Toronto's art scene. We sat down with the Associate Director, Rosie Prata, to talk about what Arsenal has planned for the year and who she'd enjoy a Drake burger with.
Shannon Elizabeth Murphy: What is Arsenal’s origin?
Rosie Prata: Arsenal was founded in Montreal by two prominent art enthusiasts and collectors, Pierre and Anne-Marie Trahan. Arsenal Montreal occupies 80,000 square feet of a converted shipyard from the 1850s in Griffintown. For scale, this is twice the size of Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in London. In Toronto, we occupy a still impressive 7,000 square feet in the Junction Triangle, on Ernest Avenue. The mission of the venture is to encourage public knowledge of and appreciation for contemporary art.
SEM: How does Arsenal differ from other Toronto galleries?
RP: Arsenal is unique in that it exists as a hybrid space, exhibiting museum-caliber artwork from private collections alongside work by burgeoning local and international talent. It also functions as a highly versatile space for private, corporate and philanthropic events. The well-established Division Gallery shares the building and operates as a commercial gallery within Arsenal.
SEM: Congrats on your new role at Arsenal as their Associate Director! What’s a typical day like for you?
RP: I am in charge of all operations at Arsenal Toronto. On a day-to-day basis, this means leading site visits for clients interested in renting the space for events and making sure that everything is in place for these events to run smoothly. On a longer term basis, I am working with the director of Arsenal in Montreal and the directors of Division Gallery to curate some very exciting exhibitions.
SEM: How does existing in an emerging Toronto creative neighbourhood impact Arsenal?
RP: The Junction is home to so many wonderful galleries, restaurants, design stores and artistic spaces already, and we are proud to be contributing to the community's creative scene. What is happening in this neighbourhood is akin to what happened in New York in the late nineties with the shift of the city's contemporary art hub from SoHo to the industrial spaces in Chelsea. The vast size of the commercial space here allows galleries to exhibit more ambitious shows, and provides greater breathing room for the appreciation of artworks.
SEM: What shows and events are you most excited about bringing to Arsenal?
RP: I am very excited about our Wanda Koop exhibition, which opens on May 2nd. Following this, we will be holding an exhibition called “Like Thunder Out of China,” a group show of contemporary Chinese artists curated by Paris-based specialist Pia Camilla Copper and Montreal-based art consultant Margot Ross.
SEM: Had you always known that you wanted to work in the gallery world?
RP: At first I thought that I would build my career in major museums in more of a research capacity. I started off working at the Royal Ontario Museum, first with dinosaur fossils and then Greek and Roman artefacts. While I was at university studying art history, I curated some exhibitions and worked at an auction house, and quickly realized that I had a mind for business and sales, so I continued on in that track. I have developed a strong interest in the economy of the art market and love the dynamic pace of working with contemporary art.
SEM: What would be your dream show to curate or event to throw at Arsenal?
RP: I would love to take advantage of the size and versatility of the gallery space and exhibit some conceptual, large scale installation work. One show I am really excited about is James Turrell at the Guggenheim in New York, which opens in June. It would be an amazing experience to curate an exhibition like that. As for events, I'm looking forward to the gallery hosting contemporary art auctions, fashion shows, classical concerts and any other inventive and creative use of the space that people can come up with.
SEM: If you could have dinner at Drake with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why?
RP: There are so many incredible women that I look up to in the arts who I would love to get into some deep conversations with over a burger and fries, but in all honesty, Bill Murray would probably be the ultimate dinner date.