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ExhibitIKEA in Toronto 01

In July, the home furnishing retailer approached the highly sought-after conceptual artist Bruno Billio, mixed-media artist Thrush Holmes, renowned photographer George Whiteside and women’s fashion designer David Dixon and proposed a collaboration. What came of it is now at the corner of King and Peter streets, smack dab in the middle of Toronto’s theatre district. Housed in a giant temporary pavilion are four radically different reworkings of Ikea’s most popular and quieter gems. Here’s our crib sheet of the four creations.

Designer: Thrush Holmes

Design details: Referencing the retailer’s in-store vignettes of living rooms and bedrooms, Holmes’s cabin-for-one is inspired by the eight months he spent in insolation in Parry Sound, 10 years ago. After a dozen two-hour store visits, he finally settled on furnishing the one-room cabin with, among other items, a Malm bed that he treated with text; a wall-mounted bookshelf stocked with classics from Holmes’s personal collection (including Hamlet and Othello); and an artful arrangement of honeycomb-shaped mirrors. Accent pieces, including a deer head borrowed from Klaus Nienkämper Jr., and his own massive paintings, adorn the wall.

Best attribute: Hands down, the exterior. The cabin is clad in the cardboard boxes that encased the furniture found inside, and in addition to the spray painted graffitti, Holmes also created “ultra tags” – swoopy and jagged neon lights. Don’t miss the “ultra” smoke escaping through the chimney.

Designer: Bruno Billio

Design details: Inspired by the stacked columns at the Cathedral of Siena in Italy, Billio (who is famous for his sculptural stacking technique) made staff nervous as he piled chairs throughout the store during his researching visits. He decided to use the Reidar chair from the 2012 collection to create two accidental spine-like sculptures. “They wanted to bend, the higher I stacked them, and I let them do what they wanted to do,” he says. The final, 1,000-pound structure stands entirely on the bottom chair’s two spindly front legs.

Best attribute: The massive mirror beneath the stack of chairs offers a new view of the bend as well as the underbelly of the sculpture.

Designer: David Dixon

Design details: Although he fretted that he would be asked to fashion couture out of the new Varmluft shade, Dixon went with the obvious – women’s clothing created using Ikea’s wide range of fabrics. Sticking with neutral tones, he created an elegant collection of skirts and dresses with modest hemlines as well as exquisitely tailored jackets. The pieces are displayed on mannequins in a Beverly Hills-sized closet space, which Dixon dubs the second most intimate space in the house (after the bathroom).

Best attribute: Dixon calls to attention the often overlooked superabundance of fabrics Ikea offers.

Designer: George Whiteside

Design details: Sunlight pours into a stark white room where Whiteside exhibits 52 photographs of Ikea’s vessels. The avid vase collector (he’s got everything from Jonathan Adler to Eva Zeisel) immediately fell in love with the Ödby picture frames. After shooting over 200 variations of arrangements – in a Giorgio Morandi style – Whiteside whittled the bunch down to 51 (there’s a duplicate of one image) and layered the image on top of notebook paper from an old cookbook.

Best attribute: A closer look at the photographs reveal texture and script on the notebook paper. The blue and pink lines have fallen victim to expected spillage and a turkey was definitely carved.

ExhibitIKEA is open August 18 to 20 from 10am to 6pm and on August 21 from 12 to 6pm.

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