To “The Invitational,” arts patrons and workers, and visitors to Chinatown:

“The Invitational” has branded itself as an “international art exhibition” but is in fact a poorly disguised real estate ad. This historic building used to house the Bright Pearl, a Chinese restaurant, and other Chinese businesses, as well as the Labour Lyceum, a centre for political activism for the Jewish community and its unions. The organizers, David Moos Art Advisory, and the real estate brokerage firm, Metropolitan Commercial, are puppeting this history for their own gain. From their press release:

“The Invitational is hosted at 346 Spadina Avenue at the intersection of Chinatown and Kensington Market, two of Toronto’s most dynamic historic neighbourhoods, in a building that formerly housed the Bright Pearl Restaurant, a culinary landmark. Recently remodeled, the long-shuttered space is again open to the public on occasion of this exhibition.”

The “recently remodeled” building

The organizers say that this space is “open to the public” while it’s actually being claimed for the wealthy. Terms like “cultural exchange” and “histories of migration” are used to make this hollow PR campaign seem meaningful. The people and history of these neighbourhoods are being used to make this commercial space seem more cool or exciting.

The real history of Chinatown is one of historic racial segregation. It takes place on land with which many Indigenous nations, including the Wendat, the Petun, the Seneca, the Mississaugas, have long and vital relationships. It was stolen by the British Crown through many means, including the Toronto Purchase, a fraudulent contract with the Mississaugas of the Credit River. This same Crown created racist policies that shaped Chinatowns: in Canada, the Chinese Head Tax was levied on Chinese people between 1885 to 1925 to discourage Chinese immigrants from settling after they built the Canadian Pacific Railway — itself a colonial project that displaced Indigenous peoples — and the Chinese Exclusion Act outright banned most Chinese from 1923 to 1947. Today, Chinatown has one of the highest concentrations of rooming houses in the city, and developments like this one drive the housing crisis that leaves people in precarity. Racism forced Chinese people to create their own neighbourhoods to live in, and now the people who built these vibrant places are being pushed out.

During the ILGWU strike in 1931, garment workers gathered outside the Labour Lyceum.
City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 23262

This exhibition is an ugly attempt to use art as decoy for destructive, capitalist wealth accumulation. We see how capitalism dismantles communal ways of life every day. We know that developments like this one are a contemporary manifestation of colonialism. We refuse the use of art as a way to conceal the ruin brought on by greed.

As artists and arts workers, we stand against David Moos Art Advisory and Metropolitan Commercial employing the aesthetics of diversity to further the reckless goals of profit. The living cultures of our communities and struggles will not be used as advertising.

Signed,

Amy Lam, Shellie Zhang, Annie Wong, Amy Wong, Sameer Farooq, Aliya Pabani, Su-Ying Lee & Simone Schmidt Anne Abbott + Marilyn Abienhaim + Kieran Adams + Jonathan Adjemian + Elle Alconcel + Basil AlZeri + Lizz Aston + Brit Bachmann (Vancouver) + Jessica Baldanza + Dean Baldwin + Sharlene Bamboat + Akash Bansal + Laura Bardsley + Laura Barrett + Madelyne Beckles + Yuula Benivolski + Xenia Benivolski + Vida Beyer + Jeff Bierk + Sarah-Tai Black + Adrian Blackwell + Sarah Bodri + Lauren Bride + Maegan Broadhurst + Noa Bronstein + Jaclyn Bruneau + Janessa Brunet + Bill Burns + Kat Burns + Andrew Buszchak + Angel Callande + Xuan-Yen Cao + Suzanne Carte + Jennifer Chan + Lesley Loksi Chan + Derrick Chang + Victoria Cheong + Hannia Cheng + Wallis Cheung + T.L. Cowan + Patrick Cruz + Robyn Cumming + Chris Curreri + Sean D’Andrade + Gabi Dao (Vancouver) + Ishan Davé + Marinda de Beer + Michael DeForge + Hannah Dyer + Julia Dickens + Kimberly Edgar + Lily Eng + Amelia Ehrhardt + William Ellis + Kat Estacio + Katie Ewald + Catherine Fatima + Chris Flanagan + Marilyn Fernandes + Emily Fitzpatrick + Susanna Fournier + Vera Frenkel + Michelle Fu & Brian McBay (221A, Vancouver) + Melissa Gan + Spencer Glassman + William Emerson Gaydos + Inez Genereux + Emily Gove + Francisco-Fernando Granados + MaryCarl Guiao + Tea Hadziristic + Kara Hamilton + Ryan Hayes + Kevin Hegge + Ame Henderson + Joel Herman + Katie Hernandez + Stacey Ho + Tom Hobson + Sam Holzberg + Alex Hong + Elise Hunchuck + Priya Jain + Shizen Jambor (Vancouver) + Smiley Jammer + Jessica Jang + Kristel Jax + Amy Jemmett + Aisha Sasha John + Spencer Julien + Nadia Junaid + Paul Kajander + Nafisa Kaptownwala + Jean-Paul Kelly + Elizabeth Khan + Sarah Kilpack + Myung-sun Kim + Justin Kong + Jacob Korczynski + Christy Kunitzky + Fuyuki Kurasawa + Belinda Kwan + HaeAhn Kwon + Jenny Laiwint + Ginette Lapalme + Mark Lazaro + VAI YU LAW + Helen Le + Bertha Lee + Cameron Lee + Alana Leprich + Robyn Lew + Gabriel Li + Karie Liao + Life of a Craphead (Amy Lam + Jon McCurley) + Shannon Linde + Steffanie Ling + Sarah Liss + Alex Lowe + Henry Heng Lu + Morris Lum + Angelo Luu + Marvin Luvualu Antonio + Janet Mac + Annie Macdonell + Sara MacLean + Michael Maranda + Steph Markowitz + Rodrigo Marti + Sean Martindale + Pamila Matharu + Hugh Mater + Sara Matthews + Emerson Maxwell + Mani Mazinani + Robin Alex McDonald + Jesse McKee (Vancouver) + Alicia Buates McKenzie (Calgary) + Laura McCoy + Ben McCarthy +Chelsea McMullan + Rea McNamara + Casey Mecija +Roxanne Vela Melliza + Immony Men + sofia mesa + Dana Michel + Mikiki + Alexis Mitchell + Monica Moraru + Emily Moriarty + Bridget Moser + Gabrielle Moser + Aamna Muzffar + Zinnia Naqvi + Petrina Ng + Amanda Norsworthy + Maanii Oakes + Ananya Ohri + Meghan O’Neill + Sean O’Neill + Olivia Oi-Ching Or + Owen Pallett + Adam Paolozza + Evalyn Parry + Shani Khoo Parsons + Sojourner Truth Parsons + Carrie Perreault + Liz Peterson + Tak Pham + Cadence Planthera + Coman Poon + Maxine Proctor + Public Studio (Elle Flanders & Tamira Sawatzky) + Jasmine Rault + Barbora Racevičiūtė + Asad Raza + Lucas Regazzi + Kerri Reid + Vanessa B. Ringer + Patricia Ritacca + Vince Rozario + Matias Rozenberg + Denise Ryner + jes sachse + Stu Sakai + Jarrett Samson + Daniella Sanader + Leila Sarangi + Simon Schlesinger + Walter Scott + Seth Scriver + Erica Shiner + Flora Shum + Ansley Simpson + John Smith + Matt Smith + Lisa Smolkin + Danielle St.-Amour + Kaitlin Austra Stelmanis + Miles Stemp + Beth Stuart + Andrew Finlay Stewart + Jordan Tannahill + Kathleen Taylor + Zak Tatham + Kika Thorne + Toleen Touq + May Truong + cheyanne turions (Vancouver) + Valerie Uher + Kritty Uranowski + Diana Lynn VanderMeulen + Indu Vashist + Alex Verman + Joshua Vettivelu + Claudine Vuong + Amar Wala + Rachel Wallace + Phoebe Wang + Theresa Wang + syrus marcus ware + Bry Webb + Christopher Willes + claude wittmann + Nikki Woolsey + Edward Wong + George Wong + Joy Wong + Vidal Wu + Ke Xu + Xuan Ye + Vanessa Ling Yu + Florence Cing Gaai Yee + Clare Yow (Vancouver) + Andrew Zukerman

Organizations

187 Augusta + Angry Asian Feminist Gang (AAFG) + Aisle 4 + BLOCC (Building Leverage Over Creative Capitalism) + Call Again + Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) Toronto Chapter + GTA (Gentrification Tax Action) + Mayworks Festival for Working People and the Arts + Paperhouse Studio + PAARC (Pacific Association of Artist Run Centres) + Project 40 Collective + Support Your Local Collective + The Beguiling +Toronto Art Book Fair + WAYF collective + Workers United Canada

For more information, or to add your name to this letter, please contact: brightpearlto@gmail.com