Festival 2019


Robert Leslie

CONTACT is the largest annual photography festival globally, and a major cultural experience in Canada, with over 200 exhibitions and happenings from May 1-31 in the greater Toronto area. CONTACT 2019 will showcase an outstanding selection of Canadian and international lens-based artists. The Festival’s core programming comprises collaborations with major museums, galleries, and artist-run centres as well as site-specific public art projects. These are cultivated through partnerships and commissions, and frame the cultural, social, and political events of our times.The Festival is free and open to the public, with some exceptions at major museums.

The CONTACT 2019 launch party is on Wednesday, May 1, 7-11pm at Ryerson Image Centre, 33 Gould St. Free and open to the public!

The 23rd edition of the CONTACT website launches April 1, with complete information on all exhibitions and related events, and public programming. Preliminary list of artists and programming can be found below.

Public Installations

NEWCarrieMaeWeems_Anointed_460King_v2_smallRGBCarrie Mae Weems, Anointed, 2017. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.


Toronto’s celebrated month-long Festival in May engages established and emerging Canadian, American, and international artists to activate urban spaces across the city

TORONTO, Canada, March 13, 2019 – Today, the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival announced their public installation program for the 23rd edition of the city-wide event spanning the month of May 2019. Renowned American artist Carrie Mae Weems will create three separate site-specific installations at outdoor venues downtown, representing the first time she has shown her work at this scale in Canada. These installations are presented in conjunction with exhibitions at the CONTACT Gallery and the Art Museum at the University of Toronto.

In addition to Weems, a selection of North American and international lens-based artists will present a diverse array of installations to activate public spaces throughout Toronto and in eight cities across Canada. The list of artists includes Susan Dobson, Peter Funch, Esther Hovers, Sanaz Mazinani, Zinnia Naqvi, Mario Pfeifer, Bianca Salvo, Sputnik Photos, Nadine Stijns, Carmen Winant, and Elizabeth Zvonar. Venues will include a subway station, storefronts, corporate lobbies, outdoor recreation areas, shipping containers, and billboards.

The Festival’s Artistic Director Bonnie Rubenstein said, “Carrie Mae Weems’ dynamic images will be shown at high-profile locations including the street level windows of the TIFF Bell Lightbox, home of the Toronto International Film Festival. Weems joins a legion of internationally celebrated artists who have participated in our public installations program. These include Ilit Azoulay, Rebecca Belmore, Douglas Coupland, Awol Erizku, Barbara Kruger, Robert Longo, Kent Monkman, Martin Parr, and Mickalene Thomas to name a few.”

CONTACT Executive Director Darcy Killeen said, “CONTACT’s public installation program began in 2003 with four venues in the city and has grown to now include 15 venues, plus a series of billboard installations across the country supported by Scotiabank, Pattison Outdoor Advertising and Nikon Canada. CONTACT’s public installations are one of our signature programs and highly anticipated by the international photography community and residents of and visitors to Toronto. The CONTACT team gratefully acknowledges the support of our partners who make it possible for us to connect the viewing public with the work of so many outstanding artists.”

Preview of Scotiabank CONTACT 2019 Public Installation Artists

Carrie Mae Weems

At Metro Hall, Weems’ examination of power and cultural identity is highlighted in this unique installation comprising a selection of images from her series Slow Fade to Black (2010). Weems reclaims images of historically significant black women singers of the last century whose legacies appear to fade as time elapses. To reflect these artists’ “slow fade to black,” the reclaimed images have been obscured through blurring and the application of a tinted hue. The almost cinematic push and pull of fervent faces—many open with longing and passion—activates the site, at the heart of Toronto’s entertainment district, and takes the viewer on a theatrical passage through its history.

Two works from Weems’ 2016 series Scenes and Takes form a dramatic installation at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on King Street West that underscore the emergence of a shift in the cultural landscape. Presented at street level, life-sized scenes bring viewers into the cinematic world Weems explores, where her “muse” character inhabits the sets of contemporary television shows featuring black female leads and black writers and producers.

Weems’ third installation Anointed (2018), a banner at 460 King Street, features an image of Mary J. Blige, who Weems photographed for W’s Art Issue shortly after the singer’s breakout performance in the film Mudbound. The artists teamed up in a landmark 1920s-era bank building in Brooklyn, NY, making pictures that reference Weems’ The Kitchen Table Series (1990) and Slow Fade to Black series, and Blige’s reign as a masterful storyteller and Grammy award-winner.

SusanDobson_UofTDanielsSusan Dobson, Leslie Street Spit (detail), 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Susan Dobson, Back/Fill (2019), Daniels Building, University of Toronto

Featuring a cross section of the earth’s strata, Susan Dobson’s photographic mural reveals layers of buried construction debris. Derived from photographs captured at the Leslie Street Spit, a manufactured peninsula and wilderness reserve built entirely from Toronto’s clean construction waste, a mural on the outside of the Daniels Building is complemented by a number of Dobson’s photographs being shown inside the building. These studio shots of artifacts retrieved from the Spit, mounted on custom-built supports, are positioned in public space in dialogue with the surrounding architecture and community. Invoking memories of the building's history and recent renovation, Back/Fill invites conversations about the demolition, preservation, and construction of the built environment.

vanderbiltPeter Funch, 42nd and Vanderbilt (2012.06.27 | 09:07:28, 2012.07.17 | 09:17:44), 2017. Courtesy of the artist and V1 Gallery.

Peter Funch, 42nd and Vanderbilt (2009–16), two billboards on Church and McGill Streets; two billboards on Victoria and Dundas Streets; two billboards on Church and Lombard Streets

Over a nine-year period, Danish photographer Peter Funch created a typological photographic study of pedestrians in New York City at the intersection of East 42 Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. The series of uncanny diptychs confront viewers with environmental portraits of anonymous commuters, frozen in place and isolated from the bustling crowd. Although each pair of images appears to have been captured only moments apart, in reality they may have been taken weeks, months, or even years apart. Presented on street-level billboards in Toronto’s downtown core, Funch’s seminal project addresses the daily loop in which pedestrians inadvertently find themselves while commenting on the unsettling politics of bodies in public space.

Esther Hovers, False Positives (2017), parking kiosk mural at Harbourfront Centre

Dutch artist Esther Hovers’ investigates cutting-edge intelligent surveillance systems that claim to detect deviant behaviour within public spaces. False Positives depicts graphic cityscapes created through digital collage, using photographs captured in Brussels’ business district. The perspective in each image references the high vantage point of the surveillance camera that has become increasingly ubiquitous in modernized cities.

Sanaz Mazinani, Forever in the Sky (2019), Aga Khan Museum

Sanaz Mazinani, an Iranian-Canadian artist based in San Francisco and Toronto, presents a new site-specific installation at the Aga Khan Museum. Working primarily in photography and large-scale public art and installations, her research focuses on the study of digital image propagation and its impact on representation and perception. For this project suspended from the ceiling in the Museum’s atrium, Mazinani has downloaded images from the Internet and digitally mirrored them into elaborate patterns that reference Islamic ornamentation. Careful examination reveals a sky adorned with clouds dotted with warplanes.

Zinnia Naqvi, Yours to Discover (2019), Peel Art Gallery Museum + Archives (PAMA)

Yours to Discover is a new site-specific installation by Toronto/Montreal based artist Zinnia Naqvi, presented on the façade of the PAMA in Brampton, Ontario. Historical photographs mined from Naqvi’s family archive, along with personal objects and ephemera quotidian in nature, have been assembled and photographed by the artist in her studio. These tableaux vivant (living pictures) query the intersection of national and newcomer experiences and identities within post-colonial paradigms.

MarioPfeifer-TPPMario Pfeifer, If you end up with the story you started with, then you’re not listening along the way, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Mario Pfeifer, If you end up with the story you started with, then you’re not listening along the way (2019), south façade of The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

Born in Dresden, Germany and based in Berlin and New York, Mario Pfeifer’s work explores conventions of film and media. The text in Pfeifer’s newly commissioned banner at The Power Plant speaks to an important thread in his practice, about looking and seeing the familiar differently and opening up to the unfamiliar. His large-scale banner mirrors the environment in which it is presented, evoking questions about the Canadian landscape while also questioning the politics of land and territory.

Bianca Salvo, The Universe Makers (2016–18), Osgoode Subway Station

Using collected documents and visual records, Italian artist Bianca Salvo explores public beliefs and false perceptions of interstellar exploration 50 years after the first moon landing. Her project The Universe Makers will activate the Osgoode Subway Station with images that confront history and the veracity of photographic realism. Positioned within the framework of ubiquitous subway advertising, the images will underscore the ability of photography to question and examine the truth.

Sputnik Photos, Lost Territories (2017–19), Brookfield Place

Poland-based Sputnik Photos, a collective comprising artists from Central and Eastern Europe, will create a site-specific installation at Brookfield Place. The collective uses the individual experiences of its members as starting points for an analysis of socio-political processes and socio-cultural phenomena. From 2008–16, they surveyed the physical, political, and socio- cultural terrain of the former Soviet Republic. The resulting Lost Territories archive geographically and thematically spans the breadth of the post-Soviet region. The installation at Brookfield Place establishes a poignant contrast between their images capturing the end of “utopia” and the modern architecture of the galleria and highlights the failure of the communist era within the context of Toronto’s financial district.

Lies'Birthday_PartyNadine Stijns, Lies’ Birthday Party, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

Nadine Stijns, A Nation Outside a Nation (2012–14), The Bentway Conservancy

Dutch artist Nadine Stijns attempts to capture the memories, dreams, and flow of capital and possessions throughout the Filipino diaspora. In addition to traditional portraits, landscapes, and still lifes, many of which include meticulous documentation of “balikbayan box” supplies (tax-free goods sent by Filipino migrants back to family in the Philippines), Stijns photographs a variety of visual sources and then layers the images to create a tangible depiction of migrant life. This work performs as documentation of labor migration, but it is also itself a document, an object that unites the individual migrant with their homeland.

Carmen Winant, Four billboards on Lansdowne Avenue at Dundas Street W and College Street

American artist and writer Carmen Winant explores representations of women through collage, mixed media, and installation. Drawing from archival images of feminist protests in the 70’s, Winant has created tightly cropped images of signs, banners and slogans that reflect women’s concerns and issues that continue to resonate today. Subverting notions of the projected male gaze in advertising, this public art project will be presented on billboards in Toronto and across Canada.

Elizabeth Zvonar, Milky Way Smiling (2018), Westin Harbour Castle Conference Centre

Vancouver-based artist Elizabeth Zvonar brings a heightened view of the cosmos to the cityscape in her monumental image Milky Way Smiling. For this project, she culled a photograph from a popular science magazine and transformed it through digital collage and manipulation. With its band of cosmic light gently curved into a smile, Zvonar’s whimsical galaxy of shining stars brings the metaphysical to passersby at street level.

Festival Highlights

CONTACT_CMW_Untitled (Self Consideration)_2Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY.


Toronto’s preeminent month-long festival in May presents an outstanding roster of established and emerging Canadian, American, and international lens-based artists

CONTACT is thrilled to announce that renowned American artist Carrie Mae Weems will headline the 23rd edition of the city-wide event, spanning the month of May 2019.

Weems’ exhibition in five parts, sited at distinct locations across the city, represents the artist’s first solo exhibition in Canada. Her work will be presented in two gallery exhibitions, including a new iteration of her recent project, Heave (2018), at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto. The CONTACT Gallery will display a series of Weems’ photographic works, and present three major public art installations downtown, including on the exterior of the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the headquarters of the Toronto International Film Festival. Weems will be in Toronto for her exhibition openings and a public lecture, with dates to be announced in January.

Recently chosen by T: The New York Times Style Magazine as one of the “The Greats” in the creative sector in 2018, Weems is among the most acclaimed artists of her generation. Her work explores the human experience by revealing different aspects of society and the role of systemic power, both historically and today. Since Weems began her practice in the 1970’s, she has examined and expanded visual narratives of gender, family, racism, class, and identity, and investigated themes of social inequity and injustice, environmental degradation, conflict, and violence. Although addressing a wide array of issues, her overarching commitment is to help us better understand our present moment by examining our collective past. Weems’ work is exhibited and collected by major museums and galleries around the globe.

Heave1__loResCarrie Mae Weems, Heave installation view at Cornell University, September 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY.

CONTACT 2019 will also showcase an outstanding selection of Canadian and international lens-based artists. The Festival’s core programming comprises collaborations with major museums, galleries, and artist-run centres as well as site-specific public art projects. These are cultivated through partnerships and commissions, and frame the cultural, social, and political events of our times. 

The Festival launches Wednesday, May 1, at Ryerson Image Centre, with Primary Exhibitions by Moyra Davey and Meryl McMaster. Davey is the 2018 Scotiabank Photography Award winner.

Early Festival highlights include: Taysir Batniji, Prefix ICA / Deanna Bowen, Jacqueline Hóang Nguyễn, Morris Lum, Krista Belle Stewart and Hajra Waheed, Gallery 44 / Erika DeFreitas, Gallery TPW / Peter Funch, billboards in Toronto / T.M. Glass, Onsite Gallery/ Mike Hoolboom and Jorge Lozano, A Space Gallery / Ayana V. Jackson, Campbell House Museum / Annette Mangaard, John B. Aird Gallery / Sanaz Mazinani, Aga Khan Museum / Manar Moursi, Trinity Square Video with SAVAC / Nadia Myre, Textile Museum of Canada / Zinnia Naqvi, Peel Art Gallery Museum / Louie Palu, McMichael Canadian Art Collection / Bianca Salvo, Osgoode Station (TTC) / Sputnik Photos, Brookfield Place / Michael Tsegaye, BAND Gallery / Carmen Winant, billboards in Toronto and across Canada / Nevet Yitzhak, Koffler Gallery / Elizabeth Zvonar, Westin Harbour Castle.

Select program highlights include the Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation Photobook Award exhibition and the CONTACT Photobook Fair, which brings together independent publishers and leading contemporary photographers to present newly released publications. Visiting publishers include Self Publish Be Happy, Dewi Lewis Publishing, Archive of Modern Conflict, and Aperture. The CONTACT Photobook Fair and related programmes were conceived with the goal of creating space for practitioners and book enthusiasts to build connections, discover new projects, and exchange ideas on books and photography. Submissions for the CONTACT Book Dummy Reviews are now open.

Full Festival details will be announced in the spring.

Ayana V. JacksonAyana V. Jackson, Saffronia, from the series Intimate Justice in the Stolen Moment, 2017. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Baudoin Lebon.
Moyra Davey, Detail from Subway Writers, 2011/2014. Courtesy of the artist. Collection of Anurag and Payal Khanna.


Meryl McMasterMeryl McMaster, My Destiny is Entwined with Yours, 2019. Courtesy of the artist, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain.


Being: New Photography 2018Carmen Winant, installation view of Being: New Photography 2018 at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 18, 2018–August 19, 2018. © 2018 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Kurt Heumiller

Plan Your Visit


Before your visit we recommend you take the time to explore the catalogue and website to research and discover the many artists presenting in 2019.

Pick up the free CONTACT catalogue at all participating venues throughout the city (while supplies last.) This collectible 200+ page book is an essential guide to the entire Festival. There are always copies of the catalogue at the following locations: CONTACT Gallery, Art Museum at the University of Toronto, The Gladstone Hotel, and Ryerson Image Centre.

Be sure to also get a CONTACT brochure, a handy pocket-sized guide with a map and listings of all venues including artists, addresses, and hours.

Follow us on Instagram to see takeovers by artists and what is happening in the moment throughout May. Use #CONTACT2019 to see what artists and others in the community are posting.

2019 Walking Tours
We have reached out to a number of local arts and cultural professionals who are also regular Festival goers to suggest a one-day walking tour based on their neighbourhood. The 2019 Tours will be available April 1.