15 entries
  • "You were always there over the decades. Will miss you're..."
    - Richard Bonderenko
  • "My most sincere condolences on the loss of this great..."
    - Sean Isaacs
  • "I met Avrom in the seventies - his artists were legendary..."
    - Rae Johnson
  • "AV was always generous and encouraging to me as an American..."
    - Sandra Barz
  • "I am truly saddened by this news. I only met him once, as a..."
    - Margaret Cresswell
The Guest Book is expired.

AVROM ISAACS Av Isaacs, the legendary Toronto art dealer, died Friday, January 15, 2016. When Av closed his final art gallery door in 2001, he was renowned as a Canadian dealer who for 50 years had shaped critical taste and developed an audience for challenging new art. Born in feisty North Winnipeg in 1926, Av graduated from the University of Toronto (Political Science and Economics) in 1950 and suprisingly, opened the Greenwich Art Shop for picture framing. Young students from Ontario College of Art and Design (Mike Snow, Dennis Burton, Gord Rayner) began hanging out there and many of those young artists (all under 30) were with Av for the next 50 years. Early on they established a reputation for the cutting edge and eclectic art that became what people associated with Av Isaacs. "Av could smell talent" was Mike Snow's comment. In 1960, when an unknown artist applied for a job in the framing shop, Av offered him a job and a 1-man show, the beginning of Av's long dealer/artist association with William Kurelek. "He was the exception to the rule" said Av "...whatever the hell the rule is". Av's stated aim in his famous Art Manifesto was "...to promote contemporary Canadian painters, to plan discussion evenings and events, to make the gallery a centre of artistic activity". In 1961, he opened the beautiful and much beloved Isaacs Gallery at 832 Yonge Street and for 25 years it was known for new and challenging work by Canadian artists but also for its art related activities. Powered by Av's eclectic energies, the Isaacs Gallery fostered poetry readings, the Artists' Jazz Band, mixed media concerts, publishing and protests (Gumby Goes to Heaven), African sculpture, photographic exhibitions and the earliest private gallery exhibitions of Inuit art, which led to Av opening a separate gallery, The Innuit Gallery (1970-1991). Av was a seemingly benign character with a formidable sense of humour and a core of steel. "He's a bulldog" said one associate. His personal hobby was biking and for years he got around Toronto on an old clunker, did the coast road from San Francisco to Los Angeles and tore along the Lakeshore Road near his country home. He was a member of PADAC and served as board member and advisor for the visual arts on all levels of government: municipal, provincial and federal. Av was presented with The Order of Canada in 1998. He cherished it. He received many awards and honours including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the City of Toronto. In 2005 four Toronto art venues: the University of Toronto Art Centre, the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at Hart House, the Textile Museum and the AGO hosted Isaacs Seen, a gala and exhibition celebrating Av's life and times. In 1992, Av spoke to the Art Graduates at York University when he was given an honorary degree. "Life" he said "is a hell of a lot shorter than you think, so try to focus on the area that will give you the most satisfaction". His life had that focus. "Like the sun that we cannot afford to do without" he continued, "I think of galleries and theatres as centres of energy in our personal universe". Av Isaacs is survived by his daughter Renann, his North Winnipeg rooted clan, by his longtime collaborator and wife Donnalu Wigmore, and by the Isaacs influence, now a part of the Canadian art fabric from coast to coast. A memorial will be held for Av Isaacs in Spring 2016.

Published in the Toronto Star on Jan. 16, 2016