MOCA is motivated by our belief that museums can be culturally and socially useful. We promote exceptional artistic thinking and provide a community space for discourse and creativity.
Working across all contemporary art forms, we empower the local Toronto art scene, while informing the international. MOCA is an accessible, welcoming hub rooted and engaged in a culturally rich neighbourhood; it is here, through art, that you can feel the specialness of this invigorating and hyper-diverse city.
After twenty years working tirelessly to establish a permanent museum of contemporary art in Toronto, David Liss has been appointed the honorific position of Director Emeritus beginning in January 2021. With thanks and gratitude, the Museum’s Board of Directors, Executive Director and CEO Kathleen Bartels and staff recognize David’s achievements over his distinguished career with the institution. As Director Emeritus, David will be on hand, as needed, to share information on historical and archival projects for the organization and provide advice on policy and strategic issues related to the Museum’s affairs.
David moved from Montreal to Toronto in December 2000, accepting the Director/Curator’s role at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, a City of Toronto-affiliated institution that existed as the Art Gallery of North York from 1993 to 1998. In 2005, David oversaw the move and reopening of MOCCA in the heart of one of Toronto’s most vibrant artistic, residential and commercial districts on Queen St. West. As he developed the scope and accomplishments of the organization, his mission was to establish an internationally-recognized, permanent museum of contemporary art in Canada’s largest urban centre.
David always ensured strong support for local artists and initiated dynamic partnerships and collaborations of note. His network facilitated frequent alliances with major partners, including the National Gallery of Canada, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Sobey Art Foundation, and the Toronto International Film Festival. David also established a strong publishing thread realizing 20 books on art, artists and exhibitions between 2001–2016.
While searching for a site to establish a permanent home for MOCCA, David identified development partner Castlepoint/Numa and launched a project that saw the Museum, now the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto (MOCA), open the doors of its current home on Sterling Road in Toronto’s west end in September 2018.
David’s exhibition BELIEVE launched the new venue and saw over 32,000 people attend during its run. The exhibition included new commissions by Toronto-based artists Nep Sidhu and Rajni Perera, as well as a specially conceived wall text by internationally-acclaimed artist Barbara Kruger. In all, 16 artists provided perspectives on how we believe and perceive through a variety of media: Can Altay, Matilda Aslizadeh, Carl Beam, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Awol Erizku, Meschac Gaba, Kendell Geers, Barbara Kruger, Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen, Tuan Andrew Nguyen, Jeneen Frei Njootli, Rajni Perera, Jeremy Shaw, Nep Sidhu, Maya Stovall and Tim Whiten.
In September 2018, MOCA moved into a 55,000 square foot purpose-designed home in a former industrial space at the heart of a new neighbourhood in the Lower Junction.
MOCA (formerly known as the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art – MOCCA) has been celebrated for its incisive, artist-centric approach to programming, and hospitable visitor experience.
At its former location on Queen West, the museum functioned as a hub for creative exchange and played a critical role in shaping the city’s contemporary art scene. Through a commitment to collaborative partnerships with leading like-minded artists, organizations, institutions and festivals from Toronto and further afield, MOCA connected the city to a national and global network of peers.
MOCA featured the work of over 1,100 Canadian and other international artists, hosted 200+ exhibitions and welcomed 40,000 annual visitors. As the lease on Queen West wound down, the need to move provided an opportunity to seek a larger space that could accommodate the museum’s ever-growing aspirations and significance.
Built in 1919, this building, designed by architect John W. Woodman of Winnipeg, was once the tallest in Toronto. Active until 2006, it was originally a factory that produced aluminium products for World War II, and later made items such as kitchen tools, bottle caps and car parts.
When it opened a hundred years ago, this building was considered innovative because it did not use beams for support. Instead, it pioneered a new approach called concrete flat slab architecture. Each floor is a slab of reinforced concrete and is supported by concrete columns – the “mushrooms” you see on each floor, which distribute the weight to the floor below.
Once an example of innovation, and now a heritage building, today it houses the most innovative ideas and art. How cool is that?