Slide Show: Growing Nuit Blanche Draws 130 Art Installations, Long Lines

By Carla Warrilow October 4, 2011, 2:15 PM EDT

Photo: Emma McIntyre for BizBash

Now in its sixth year, Nuit Blanche took over Toronto with more than 130 public art installations from sunset Saturday to sunrise on Sunday. Although attendance figures will not be released until November, the event has experienced attendance growth each year, with one million visitors in 2010.
Toronto was divided into three different zones, each with its own guiding focus and curator. Zone A, located near Yonge and Bloor streets, was called “Restaging the Encounter” and was inspired by moments in history. Zone B, or “The Future of the Present,” surrounded the Eaton Centre and was curated by Shirley Madill. The area presented “work by artists who use new technologies to form a vocabulary for a non-pictorial art,” Madill said on the Nuit Blanche Web site. Inspired by its location in the Financial District, Zone C was dubbed ”You Had to Go Looking for It.” Scotiabank was the title sponsor.

This year’s centerpiece, Flightpath Toronto, was part of Zone B and took up Nathan Phillips Square outside City Hall. Inviting art-goers to reimagine the city, artists Usman Haque and Natalie Jeremijenko created a new form of public transportation that had people ride a zipline between two sets of truss towers. Guests lined up—for more than two hours—to attend “Flightschool” and fly over the crowd below. A complex laser show kept guests entertained during the long intervals between flights.  

Other exhibition highlights included A Brief History of Rebellion, where Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was played 144 times by live bands. In Commerce Court, artists Tibi Tibi Neuspiel and Geoffrey Pugen recreated Björn Borg and John McEnroe's riveting tennis match during the 1980 Wimbledon final in a piece dubbed The Tie-Break. In Queens Park, visitors watched a CGI video called The Feast of Trimalchio on a 360-degree screen.

As the festival has grown, complaints about Nuit Blanche have revolved around infrastructure, and common grumblings this year included large crowds, slow lines, and infrequent streetcars and buses, despite newly added services like more stops with all-night subway service and late-night GO Train service. While Scotiabank signed on as a five-year lead sponsor last year, there are some concerns about the fate of Nuit Blanche in the face of future budget cuts. The city paid for 23 percent of this year's $2.3 million dollar cost.

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