Gallery House Rises From the Ashes of Commercial Cleaners

Belinda Chun Gallery House, Toronto, Canada

The general public usually see just the glitz and glam of the fine-art world, but those who inhabit the Art World know it also includes tons of grunt work, schlepping and detailed coordination.

Belinda Chun — along with husband Ian McFadyen — is doing a lot of that schlepping lately. After intense labors completed on a shoe-string budget, the 12-year art world veteran is opening Gallery House at 2068 Dundas St. W., Toronto, Canada, in a historic building that once housed commercial cleaners. The formal grand opening is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sept. 28.  Patrons are encouraged to make appointments throughout the year or visit by chance.

Chun was taking some time out in Asia to decide between the path of law school or going back to the fine arts when surrounded by the rice fields of Thailand; the idea of carving out a future in gallery ownership became the clear choice. She saw it as a place to manage artists she believed in and distributing their works worldwide through other Dealers, so Chun headed back to Toronto and began planning her dream.

Before long, they were digging into the back-breaking work of turning a 90-year-old building into Chun’s dream art gallery. The eight-month timeline turned into a grueling 24-month project, but it was a labor of love.

Newly restored and renovated Belinda Chun Gallery House, Toronto

The pair maintained some of the buildings historical exterior and “blew out” the top to create a third level. Architects Cathy Garrido and Joe Knight of Altius (Joe is now a partner at Blacklabs Architect, designed a space for the gallery, an outdoor area, and an expansive residential suite the pair now call home.)

While contractors handled the heavy lifting, Chun and McFadyen managed all the finishing touches, including installing hardwood floors, painting, framing, insulating and drywall.

“The idea was to create a business that truly protected the needs of the artists,” said Chun.  “Having worked in commercial galleries and institutions I was familiar with the viewpoints of all involved. I knew artists only truly blossom when they have peace of mind, long-term relationships with dealers, and full creative energy they can entirely devote to their work. The goal is to make the dreams of all involved come true.”

Chun notes Gallery House is different from commercial galleries in that, while it sells artwork to the public, it primarily manages high-end senior artists in museums by managing their inventory worldwide, including hard-to-find and non-released works. This allows the public access to important contemporary work before it’s rapidly purchased and stowed away in private collections.

Gallery House is located in the Du West/Roncessvalle neighborhood, long hailed as an enclave of proper and famous Canadian and International commercial galleries. The space is presently showing the works of celebrated Ray Caesar — grandfather of the digital art world whose work is owned by the Hearst Family; Gottfried Helnwein who recently held a solo show at San Francisco MOMA and the celebrated Anita Kunz whose works has been published internationally for three decades.

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