Power Ball 21

What to expect at Toronto’s swankiest art party of the year

The Power Plant will be transformed into an illicit speakeasy with immersive installations, flashy cocktails, and over-the-top outfits

Each year the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery holds an awe-inspiring annual fundraiser that promises to deliver elaborate art projects, food, fashion and (of course) spectacle. And this year’s Power Ball: 21 Club on June 6 appears to be no different. Ahead of the event, we chat with executive director Gaëtane Verna to find out what’s in store for attending art enthusiasts across Toronto.

What’s different about this year’s event? What can party-goers expect?

Every year we transform the gallery and push the boundaries of an art gala with art installations, activations, music, food and drink. We encourage creativity and thinking outside of the box, which allows our partners the freedom to try something new. There’s always many surprises, and guests should always expect the unexpected since so much will be uncovered as the night goes on!

We’re thrilled to present a transformative experience, designed by Sarah Keenlyside, of delicious bites and artful sights through a performance that celebrates the dance of service where guests can indulge in exquisite cuisine by Man Ray Bar à vin, Restaurant La Banane and CXBO Chocolates.

And then, the main event — a one-night only unique experience in which the entire gallery will be immersed in art installations, complemented by cocktails, food, performances, music and prizes.

Notoriety and the forbidden seem to be central concepts. How did you arrive at this theme? 

Yes, this year for Power Ball: 21 Club, presented by Holt Renfrew, we’re transforming the entire gallery space into a secret speakeasy. Guests are invited to come into the shadows with us for a night of revelry, by way of an immersive art environment with contemporary art projects and performances, along with delicious food and drink, all for one (late) night only.

This will be the 21st edition of Power Ball and we were inspired by how we often find creative ways to do things we’re not allowed to do. 21 Club makes reference to the most infamous speakeasy from the 20’s but of course, it is through a contemporary lens, with our signature Power Ball spin.


Last year’s Power Ball XX: Carousal (IMAGE: Henry Chan)

Tell us about the artists. Who are involved and why did you choose to highlight their work in particular? 

We invite a diverse gathering of local and international artists to create site-specific installations related to the theme each year. There is a lot of background work that happens well before the setup of an artist’s project at Power Ball! We have an Arts & Entertainment committee that consists of our curators, marketing, development and installation teams.

What about the installations? Pull back the curtain a bit — what can we expect?

There will be installations in many different mediums; the artists are working with neon, black light, inflatables, installations with some unconventional materials and more.

Power Ball party-goers should always be aware of their surroundings and at the 21 Club, we’re walking into the shadows where things are not as they appear. Prepare to indulge, delight and embrace the unknown for a transformative, other-worldly experience.

Look out for Bruno Billio’s TRON209, Chelsea Culprit’s Tru Bruja, and Max Streicher’s Sleeping Giants. Guests will also enjoy a series of performances curated by Tobaron Waxman of the LGBT Intergenerational Artist Residency featuring Carlotta CarlisleGay JesusDainty Smith and Imogen Quest of Les Femmes Fatales burlesque, Tynomi Banks and Drag King Flare, with a special installation by Residency alum Michel Dumont.

This year Sarah Keenlyside — co-owner and creative director of La Banane, CXBO Chocolates and the soon-to-open Man Ray bar à vin — will be preseting Centrepiece. What can you tell us about it?

Sarah Keenlyside will present Centerpiece, a reimagining of the dining experience where the invisible becomes visible, the background becomes the foreground. Guests will be transported into a space that celebrates the dance of service where they can indulge in exquisite cuisine by Man Ray Bar à vin, Restaurant La Banane and CXBO Chocolates. The experience is inspired by Busby Berkeley’s Kaleidoscopic dance and Salvador Dali’s surrealist cookbook.

Not much is known about the opening of Man Ray Bar on Ossington. Why were they selected as a partner for the event?

Man Ray bar à vin is a new bar opening soon, inspired by hors d’oeuvres and the artist Man Ray, whose work aligned variously with Cubism, Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism, while at the same time, he developed his own distinct style and investigated relationships between the real and the fictive; the abstract and the figurative.


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Why is this event so important for The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery and Toronto’s art scene in general?

Since its inception in 1999, Power Ball has thrived as a major fundraising event that directly supports our ambitious exhibitions and public programs, all with free admission. Known as Toronto’s most notorious art party, Power Ball has set the standard as one of the most highly anticipated and influential art galas.

One of our values is to keep artists at the centre of it all, and this includes having their voice at every level of the institution: on our board, as members, as invited education programs. We have an artist package initiative available for purchase which includes two pre-party tickets and a donation which enables 10 artists to attend Power Ball and partake in the event, network with other artists and guests from the vibrant arts and culture scene of Toronto and beyond.

Power Ball is vital to The Power Plant. It is our annual fundraiser that makes it possible for us to provide programming that empowers and encourages creative expression and conversation with the presentation of contemporary art exhibitions by local and international artists. Admission to the gallery is free, so visitors may engage with the exhibitions as often as they wish and also take in an exhibition tour, artist talk or event. We offer a range of programming to engage visitors of all ages from Power Kids to film screenings to master classes with exhibiting artists.

Finally, what will you be wearing to the event?

Attire that fits with the evening! Power Ball is a chance to go all out and many guests plan their outfits far in advance. My outfit will be a two piece set from our presenting sponsors Holt Renfrew!

The Power Ball: 21 Club presented by Holt Renfrew will be held on June 6 at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, 231 Queens Quay W.