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Kawhi Life: The art of a beautiful game in Toronto

There’s an argument to be made that what Kawhi does on the court qualifies as art. But what about off it? Where can we and Kawhi find some noteworthy art (basketball or otherwise)?

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor — for at least one year. While the team’s on-court success has its part to play, we’ve decided to do our part in selling the city to the Klaw. Each week we’re talking Toronto, and letting Kawhi know what his life could be like here.

This Week In Toronto

At the risk of pushing this column in too expansive a direction, let’s turn our minds this week to the world... of art.

The famous pop artist Andy Warhol once said, “I see art in everything. Your shoes. That car. This coffee cup. It’s art if you see it as art,” and went on to back this philosophy up with exhibits filled with everything from floating silver balloons, collections of every day objects, photos of himself, and, of course, that famous can of Campbell’s Soup. (Related, but unrelated: if you get a chance to go to Pittsburgh, do check out the Warhol Museum there.) My point here is: art is a lot — and I am by no means an expert.

Fortunately, since art is indeed everywhere (as Warhol believed), we can find it handily in Toronto — and learn more about it together. We can begin with the old stalwart downtown Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), which boasts many classic pieces and some of the city’s most profound exhibitions. (It’s where you could go to take one of those Infinite Mirror selfies, for example). There’s also the relatively newly relocated Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) — home of Raptors Twitter fave Katie Heindl — found in the warrens of Sterling Road. (Just be sure to not go to that dumb Banksy exhibit that was also in the area.) And of course there are a host of many other galleries and spaces, both big and small. It’s a robust scene!

And while Toronto may not have as iconic a figure as Warhol, we do boast some famous names here and there. Most Canadian art discussions, particularly among a certain set, begin with this country’s famous Group of Seven (and sure, Tom Thomson too), who were at least Toronto-adjace. The McMichael Canadian Art Collection in nearby Kleinberg has a sizable collection of their work housed in a building on some beautiful lands. One of the Group, Franklin Carmichael, also has a nifty little community space and gallery nestled in a north Etobicoke neighbourhood. (Show up on the right night and you might see my father painting up a storm.) Switching gears, I also have a spot for the brilliant photography work of world-renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky, for whom an event is currently ongoing at the AGO.

(Another aside: the Toronto Film Critic’s Association — or TFCA — just awarded Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier $100K for their film Anthropocene, made in concert with Burtynsky. The trio decided to gift the money to other local filmmakers.)

Now I know what you’re thinking: what if I want more basketball with my art? If you’re Kawhi Leonard, a self-professed fun guy, but also someone who approaches the sport with a machine-like rigour, maybe what you really want out of your art gallery experience is more reflections of the world in which you live. Worry not, I have a solution for that too.

In concert with MLSE, Conscious BB (on Twitter and Instagram) has put together an exhibition called Art of the North, featuring, you guessed it, your favourite basketball team, the Toronto Raptors. (Props to Will Lou for tipping me off about this.) According to the materials, the show runs from January 10 to 13th, from 11am to 10pm, and: it’s free. All you’ve got to do is head down to the the Lounge at Live Nation (2 Snooker Street), just inside Liberty Village (sorry), and you’ll find the space. As the pictures suggest, the show promises to exhibit all kinds of Raptors pieces from artists all over the world — a truly noble enterprise.

I myself may make an appearance just to see this Viking-esque picture of Jonas Valanciunas in person. And that’s just one work on display! As we’ve clearly established by now in this expansive discussion of the topic: art is good, the Raptors are good — and, if the samples of this exhibit are anything to go on, the combination of the two is, hey now, good too.

Should Kawhi Care?

Well, no.

(But on the other hand...

...was San Antonio doing this for you? Would Los Angeles???)