Joe and Kim Mimran open the “Cultural Assets” art gallery

From pencil skirts… to pencil drawings.

The thought that crept up when I heard that Kim Newport Mimran was opening an art center this month. Called Cultural Goods Gallery, to be exact — a 2,500 square foot space at The Junction, on Dupont — it’s a business the Pink Tartan designer is starting with her fashion pasha husband, Joe Mimran.

It turns out that it’s not so much an evolution for the Toronto couple as a sort of fashionable deja vu. A throwback to the early days of Joe, who went on to found the famous Club Monaco, and who would, alas, still later become the Joe of Joe Fresh.

“The first gallery Joe got was Starving Artists on Scollard Street (in Yorkville) when he was 19. I guess he never got it out of his system.” Kim reminded me of it this week.

When I asked what name they had chosen and if the idea of ​​just calling it the Mimran Gallery had ever been considered, she dismissed that idea. “It’s not about Mimran, but more about creativity and what’s happening in the world around us.”

“The Cultural Assets Gallery is open to showcasing anything that impacts our culture today,” she said. “That was the inspiration for the name.”

A bang: where they start.

The inaugural exhibition – which is already shaping up to be one of the surprise delights of the fall social calendar – is inspired by legendary New York artist Al Diaz, who rewrote the rules of street art and was the OG partner of Basquiat in crime, so to speak. Entitled FROM SAMO© … TO SAMO© … EVOLUTION OF STREET: ART & TYPE, the show opens at the end of October (from a VIP cocktail party on the 26th). It is curated by Grace Zeppilli and Jason Halter and will include new work by Toronto artists Javid Jah, Danilo Deluxo McCallum, Kismet and Alfalfa.

The show’s DNA is also a nod – inadvertently or not – to the couple’s artistic awakening as they traveled back and forth between Manhattan and here. “During our years in New York, our offices were in Chelsea – my office was at 25th and 11th and Joe was on 26th Street – we had the opportunity to frequent the various galleries in the area regularly,” Kim explained. “We’ve seen so many amazing artists, from up-and-coming, mid-career to blue chip. Always inspiring and a source of great joy. Appreciation of art is a personal experience, but so many pieces towards which we gravitate seem to align.

Certainly, the Mimrans have long collected their downtown rectory — which shares the same stunning Toronto skyline view as neighboring Casa Loma — a cornucopia itself. Favorites include British artist Clare Woods, German painter Jonathan Meese and American neo-realist George Condo. Kim, in particular, has had a long interest in sculptures. A mask by Thomas Houseago, placed on a pedestal, sits in their home, and a painting by Yoshitomo Nara sits on one wall, as featured a few years ago in Insight magazine.

There’s also a long-standing appreciation for classic photography – a nod to the working relationship Joe had with legendary snapper Richard Avedon. His austere black-and-white imagery helped define the Toronto-born Club Monaco in its early years.

Is this a way for the designer son of Moroccan descent to satisfy a more creative desire, since he has moved away from the trenches of fashion, as he did, several years ago? As he told The Star at the time, about his gig as a panelist on CBC’s “Dragon’s Den,” and the new audience that seemed to have found him, “I used to have young, stylish women coming up to me on the street, now it’s middle-aged guys with a business plan who want to take a selfie with me.

Do you have your own gallery? Certainly, a way to inject a new breath of freshness.

Costs. Joe.

Undoubtedly, the symbiosis between the worlds of fashion and art is not new. It’s been going since the days of Christian Dior, who had an art gallery, in Paris in the late 1920s – years before the designer defined the “New Look” in 1947.

It has only deepened lately. On a much larger scale, long-time art lover Miuccia Prada founded the Fondazione Prada in the 1990s and opened a permanent museum in 2015. Ditto: fashion mega-moguls Bernard Arnault and François Pinault, both Of the game. The latter, which already had two museums in Venice, has further expanded its power, in 2021, with a mega-museum in Paris. Meanwhile, its flagship brand, Gucci, has embraced street performers and street performers alike, and launched an artist residency program last year.

Arnault, likewise, has the Louis Vuitton Foundation – also in the City of Light – and Louis Vuitton, the brand, has a long history of collaborating with artists. Marc Jacobs, when he was its chief designer in the 2000s, moved the needle perhaps the most when he let pop-art pro Stephen Sprouse loose on the LV monogram – the first time that this privilege had been extended since 1896.

The company making inroads into galleries has also been around for quite some time. More than a decade ago, for example, fashion designer and ex-model Dasha Zhukova – then wife of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich – opened a new exhibition celebrating Russian modern art at her renovated Moscow gallery.

In India, industrialist Abhishek Poddar is preparing to open the doors of the Museum of Art and Photography in Bangalore. Home to a collection of 6,000 objects in depth – with a focus squarely on South Asian visual culture – it debuts in December. Lots of buzz about it already in the art world.

Right here in Toronto, the late shoe matriarch and philanthropist Sonja Bata was at the forefront. She poured her lifelong obsession with shoes into one of the most unique museums in North America – aka the Bata Shoe Museum.

Of this newest addition to the art scene in this city, Kim finally has this to say: “The Cultural Assets Gallery is a reflection of our decades of learning, collecting and collaborating with artists around the world. “

Shinan Govani is a Toronto-based freelance columnist covering culture and society. Follow him on Twitter: @shinangovani


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