What do the National Ballet of Canada, the TIFF Bell Lightbox and the Art Gallery of Ontario have in common?
Besides making up a veritable trifecta of Toronto cultural institutions, they’re all collaborating with Narwhal Art Projects, the tiny eclectic gallery and publishing house attached to Magic Pony art boutique on Queen Street West.
The gallery and shop have evolved into something of a mini art empire, bringing their offbeat stable of artists to some of Toronto’s most well-respected venues.
Things you’ll find at Magic Pony: a porcelain squirrel candleholder, a rainbow bench decorated with a smiley face, a watercolour painting of a three-headed dog, and hundreds of other multifarious arty items.
“When we opened in 2003, there was a huge trend in Asia of cross-pollination between graphic design, fashion and illustration, and toys were the common canvas,” says Steve Cober, co-owner of the shop and gallery.
He and business partner Kristen Weckworth started Magic Pony as a tiny second-floor design boutique that sold those toys and other Asian inspired art objects.
They’ve since expanded into a larger shop and exhibition space across the street, and will open a Narwhal gallery space in the Junction neighbourhood in April.
The duo also publishes art books and produces prints of works by local and international artists under the Narwhal imprint, and have contributed to the success of some of Canada’s riskier up-and-coming artists.
“Team Macho is a great example of how we’ve developed,” says Weckworth of the five-man Toronto artist collective. “They used to be our customers when they were still art school students. They’d come around and show us the puppets and stuff they were making.”
Weckworth and Cogan decided to show their witty collaborative paintings and drawings at Magic Pony.
Narwhal published their first book, Fancy Action Now, and the quintet currently has a large-scale installation, “Axis Mundi”, showing at the AGO.
Narwhal will release their second book, The Merlin Years, this March 22.
“We always wanted to be a multifaceted art centre that publishes, supports and partners,” says Cober.
With upcoming collaborations with the National Ballet of Canada (their artists will design tutus) and TIFF Bell Lightbox (they’ll co-host a show called Comics vs. Video Games) and half a dozen in-house exhibitions on the horizon, this little art shop can safely say mission accomplished.