Library & Research

← Back to gallery home

Art Metropole

Search the Art Metropole Collection catalogue

See a timeline of Art Metropole publications and events

See a list of artists represented in the Art Metropole collection by works in these formats:

Established in Toronto, Ontario in 1974 by the three artists of the group General Idea (AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal), Art Metropole was one of the first artist-run centres in Canada; it became, and continues to be, part of the international network of parallel galleries committed to conceptual art.

Art Metropole's early commitment to collecting, cataloguing and preserving the artistic production and documentary evidence of the conceptual art movement was unique in the alternative gallery community which developed in Canada in the 1970s. Material was received by exchange, donation and purchase, in non-traditional, multi-media formats (artists' books, multiples, video and audio works, mail art, posters, postcards and stamps ), through the new lines of communication established outside the standard commercial and institutional vehicles of exhibition and distribution. The collection includes, as well, exhibition catalogues and periodicals (from both mainstream and alternative sources), printed ephemera and archival materials, and trade publications on the avant-garde. From its inception Art Metropole viewed as central to its activities this role as collector and custodian.

The strength of the collections begins, chronologically, with the 1960s, although earlier materials were acquired, such as key works by the Dadaists, Surrealists, Russian Constructivists, Futurists and Vorticists. The geographical scope of the collection is international, with an understandably fuller representation of Canadian material. Emphasis was placed on Fluxus and conceptual art, with particular interest in the work of such artists as Joseph Beuys, Barbara Bloom, General Idea, Rodney Graham, Jenny Holzer, Image Bank, Garry Neill Kennedy, Martin Kippenberger, Sol Lewitt, Lise Melhorne-Boe, Maurizio Nannucci and Lawrence Weiner. The collection was greatly enriched by the international activities and associations of General Idea itself.

In 1996, Art Metropole ceased its collecting activities in order to focus on its exhibition, publication and distribution programmes. The remarkable collection assembled by Art Metropole over two decades was donated in 1999 by Jay Smith, Toronto, to the National Gallery of Canada, where its custodianship is shared by the Library and Archives, and the curatorial staff of Contemporary Art and Media Arts.

The Art Metropole Collection database contains 12,611 records for individual items, such as artists' books, multiples and posters, exhibition catalogues, etc., as well as analytics for individual artists represented in group exhibitions, and index entries for anthologies and artists' periodicals. The database, however, does not account for, at the item level, a significant body of material in archival fonds (e.g. the General Idea fonds, David Buchan fonds, Ray Johnson mail art, and Art Metropole fonds, although finding aids have been prepared for this material), and in documentation files (on, for example, Canadian artist-run centres).

In light of the importance of this donation to the National Gallery a new collection development policy has been developed by Library and curatorial staff for the acquisition of Canadian and international artists' books and multiples. Emphasis will be placed upon work which reflects the strengths of the Art Metropole Collection, work by Canadian artists, and work by international artists of interest to the collecting of contemporary and media arts at the National Gallery of Canada.

Loans: please note that material in the Art Metropole Collection may not be borrowed through inter-library loan. Inquiries regarding loans for exhibition purposes should be addressed to the Chief, Library and Archives.