Updated: AGYU to debut public art series with City of Markham

York University's Accolade Galleria, Keele Campus

Update: New information after publication of this article indicates the Sept. 10 launch event has been cancelled, and the first edition of this program entitled “Bicycle” will not proceed. Continue to read YFile for further updates on this project.

The Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) has partnered with the City of Markham to launch a two-year public art series called Façade, in which four artists will be commissioned by four different curators to each develop a 127- by 32-foot photomural for the west façade of the Markham Pan Am Centre in Markham, Ont.

A 2023 artwork by Julian Yi-Zhong Hou called "Bicycle"
Julian Yi-Zhong Hou, Bicycle, 2023 (detail)

The series invites four artists to explore the performative potential of an architectural element as public space and to contemplate the layered identity of a place through the lens of their artistic and theoretical concerns.

Each of the artworks presented in Façade will bring a distinct perspective to this series, in both artistic approach and content. The projects will be unveiled consecutively, beginning with Bicycle by B.C.-based multidisciplinary artist Julian Yi-Zhong Hou, and be curated by Yan Wu, public art curator for the City of Markham.

The rest of the series will include work by northern Minnesota- and Chicago-based visual artist Andrea Carlson, curated by AGYU assistant curator of exhibitions Clara Halpern; and Berlin-based artist Aleksandra Domanović, curated by AGYU director and curator Jenifer Papararo; with a final project curated by Mariam Zulfiqar, director of British arts organization Artangel.

“This collaboration between the AGYU and the City of Markham’s Public Art Program reflects the essence of the project Façade itself – a liminal space where exterior and interior meet, where rigid dividing lines open and where art becomes a bridge to the public,” said Papararo. “Just as the artworks in this new public art series address complex issues of belonging and identity, the partnership between the AGYU and the City of Markham’s Public Art Program invites us to reimagine the potential of education, culture and its impact in defining communities.”

Chosen as the architectural host of Façade, the Markham Pan Am Centre is a multipurpose community and aquatics centre designed to serve as one of the venues for the 2015 Pan American Games, and is adjacent to where York University is constructing its new Markham Campus, scheduled to open in 2024, which will focus on technology and entrepreneurship, hosting programs in science, engineering, the arts and more.

A family-friendly launch event, free and open to all, will kick off the Façade public art series on Sept. 10, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Markham Pan Am Centre. The event will feature drag performances by Haus of Devereaux, with a special guest appearance by Lady Boi Bangkok; tarot card readings by FASTWÜRMS; I Ching readings by Yam Lau, associate professor in York’s Department of Visual Art and Art History; food trucks; and the big reveal of Yi-Zhong Hou’s new photomural.

“We’re delighted that AMPD Professor Yam Lau will be a part of the AGYU’s exciting series in Markham,” said Sarah Bay-Cheng, dean of York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD), “and we look forward to future collaborations, with the opening of the Creative Technologies program in fall 2024.”

Façade photomural on-view dates:

  • September 2023 to March 2024: Bicycle by Julian Yi-Zhong Hou, curated by Yan Wu, public art curator for the City of Markham.
  • April to September 2024: Project by Andrea Carlson, Curated by Clara Halpern, Assistant Curator, AGYU.
  • September 2024 to April 2025: Project by Aleksandra Domanović, Curated by Jenifer Papararo, Director/Curator, AGYU.
  • April to September 2025: Project curated by Mariam Zulfiqar, Director, Artangel, U.K.

Free bus transportation will be available from downtown Toronto (Spadina Avenue and Bloor Street West) to the launch event, subject to capacity; contact Maria Won at mwon11@yorku.ca to register. For more information about the Façade launch event or the public art series, visit facadepublicart.ca.