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The Gardiner Museum Has a Big Head

Toronto's ceramic-art museum unveiled the first Canadian installation of artist Jun Kaneko's work.

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The Gardiner Museum has developed a big head. A very big head.

It’s so big, it has to sit outside the entrance. Visitors are welcomed by a zebra-striped noggin of glazed ceramic and galvanized steel, created by artist Jun Kaneko in 2002. The untitled piece, unveiled by Kaneko last night, marks the first permanent Canadian installation of the Omaha, Nebraska-based artist’s work.

The piece’s placement feels like a smart move for the Gardiner, in that it brings its collection closer to the sidewalk along Queen’s Park. Illuminated at dusk by the lights on the museum’s grounds, the head makes an impression. It may also become a magnet for goofy tourist photos. We imagine school kids on trips to the Royal Ontario Museum running across the street to snap group shots.

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Artist Jun Kaneko shortly after unveiling the head.

Following the unveiling, Kaneko narrated a dryly humorous slideshow of the half-century career he’s enjoyed since moving from Japan to the United States in 1963. He outlined the challenges he has faced over the year—challenges that range from discovering the fragility of ceramic art to tackling his first opera set design. His works have been shown in public transit stations in Boston and Detroit. Chicago’s Millennium Park is currently hosting a showcase of his giant ceramic tanukis (Japanese raccoon dogs). Toronto’s Kaneko head follows similar works, crafted from ceramic or bronze, shown in New York City and Philadelphia.

The installation of the head also serves as a prelude to the Gardiner’s 30th-anniversary celebrations next year. Plans for 2014 include a lecture series and renovations to the second-floor porcelain galleries.

Photos by Jamie Bradburn/Torontoist.

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