Director of Power Plant Gaëtane Verna and Power Ball XIX: Stereo Vision


Gaëtane Verna, Power Plant director

Image: Michael Graydon Photography

June is just around the corner and that means two things: summer is almost tangible and it’s Power Ball season. Toronto’s most over-the-top, indulgent, breathtaking and glamourous party is more than just a fun night on the town — it’s also the engine for the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. We chatted with the gallery’s director, Gaëtane Verna, about this year’s fundraiser and why it’s going to be the event of the season.   

How have you seen the Power Ball change since you took over as director of the Power Plant art gallery back in 2012? 
I would say that the fact that we started working with Max Mara and really establishing to have an international artist do the VIP and have artists transform the space. Our VIP event is a really an immersive environment that is specifically thought of. Whether it’s Max Mara, the Drake Hotel or Parts & Labour, everyone is interested in defending the role of art and living artists in shaping our world. What artists love about working with the Power Plant is that it’s the place where we try to make their wildest dreams come true.

How long had you been working on getting Pedro&Juana — this year’s VIP artists  along with Francesco Pedraglio — involved with this year’s Power Ball XIX: Stereo Vision? 
One year — we are always thinking ahead. Our associate curator Julia Paoli had seen Pedro&Juana do a symposium at Bard and said one day we should work with them. It’s about having the right concept of the theme of Power Ball and then finding the right artist to fit with that concept.


How did you arrive at this year’s stereo vision theme?
We always do brain storming sessions with the theme and everybody pitches in different ideas. We’re also very conscious of the world and the political context in which we’re all living. We finally come up with a title and the artists are then chosen and approached with regard to the thought process of the artists of that year.

What can we expect from Mexico’s Pedro&Juana for the VIP portion of the evening? 
They will be presenting a one night only, site-specific and immersive installation. It will also be presented in collaboration with an Italian performance artist Francesco Pedraglio. Pedro&Juana are architects, so they will be completely transforming the space in order for it to include performances. Sometimes you’ll have difficulty knowing which is the performance and which is just reality happening simultaneously. I’ve never been inside their environment and I’m really excited to see it. The project has not been done before. This is completely specific to the Power Plant, Toronto, June 1st, 2017.


Can you talk about the other artists that will be showing at the general party?
There’s Canadian Kelly Richardson who will be presenting a three-channel video projection that takes the sublime and the surreal tradition of landscape painting and brings it to a very contemporary digital realm. The video depicts an eerie stillness where you’re in a mythical realm and as the video progresses you have these surprising things that occur. 

Daniel Barrow is a former Sobey Art Award winner. He always does these very beautiful and intricate live manual animations using overhead projectors. He’ll present an installation and performance that will explore the themes of fantasy, empathy, isolation and queerness.


The food element is always a big part of the event. Can you tell us about the plans for this year?
A real great innovation this year is that we will be working with the Drake Hotel properties and their new catering [arm] for the VIP portion of the eve. The Drake has been associated with Power Ball and The Power Plant for many years and they’ll be working with Pedro&Juana so that the food experience is also integrated into the arts project. It’s a full experience. Parts & Labour are doing the catering for the regular party. and the Darcys are performing. The food’s going to be fabulous, the music’s going to be fabulous...

Can you speak to the importance of the Power Ball event and how it serves as a fundraiser?
The Power Plant is a non-for-profit, non-collecting art gallery. This year we’re celebrating our 30th anniversary of the institution and it’s the 19th year that we are actually presenting the Power Ball. As an institution, our goal is always to present the best works of art from artists all over the world and make it accessible to the public. The Power Ball is really the engine for the Power Plant because the funds that we raise there are significant to our ability to maintain our program throughout the year. 

The Power Ball really gives you a window into the breadth of the program of the Power Plant; it also gives you a great insight into the energy that the place creates — even though it’s a party. I love the fact that the Power Ball is the engine to the Power Plant.

Any idea what you’re going to wear?
I don’t know yet but it will definitely be Max Mara!

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Karolyne Ellacott is senior editor at Post City Magazines. She can oft be spotted at Toronto’s most nostalgic diners wearing glittery heels and pink faux fur. Follow all of her eclectic writing interests on Twitter @kellacott and Instagram @itismekar.

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