The Murals of McCaul Street

In the block of Toronto’s McCaul Street between Stephanie Street and Grange Road there are two splendid murals.

They are painted on the south-facing brick wall of 52 McCaul (previously home to Suzanne Greenaway’s Prime Gallery, and now home to the OCADU student gallery) and on the south-facing brick wall of the Brinks Building (latterly the Toronto headquarters of Otis Elevator, now leased by OCADU).

The 52 McCaul mural was painted in 2009 by the Brazilian artist Nunca under the auspices of the Manifesto Festival.

Founded in 2007, the Manifesto Festival of Community & Culture in Toronto is, in its own words, “one of Canada’s biggest celebrations of hip hop culture and beyond – a multi-disciplinary, world-class festival with a positive social and economic impact … empowering diverse communities of young people through arts and culture…  building careers, fostering community connections and fuelling civic pride – all while contributing to the vitality of the city we love.”

Francisco Rodrigues da Silva (“Nunca”) is a Brazilian grafiteiro artist whose images confront modern urban Brazil with its native past. His tag-name Nunca (“Never” in Portuguese) echoes his determination not to be bound by cultural or psychological constraints.

Nunca has exhibited in Brazil at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo and around the world, notably in Greece at the AfroBrasil Museum and in the United Kingdom at the Tate Modern museum. The Tate Modern’s brick walls were decorated with six paintings 15 metres high by the artists featured in the exhibition, including Nunca. Here is some of his work in cities in addition to Toronto:

Nunca: The Tate Modern mural in London, 2008

Nunca: Boneyard Project for retired military planes, Tucson, 2011

Nunca: Frieght train, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Nunca: Gdansk, Poland, 2009

Nunca: Grotaglie, Italy, 2010

Nunca: Wynwood Walls, El Barrio, Miami

Nunca: The McCaul Street mural, Toronto

Just north of the Nunca mural on McCaul Street stands the Brinks Building. In 2014 a brilliant mural was painted there under the auspices of the artists’ collective ULTRA RARE. 

ULTRA RARE was a “placemaking lab” surrounding 52 McCaul Street, on a site owned by Osmington, Inc. that will eventually be home to a new condominium and museum. (Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Toronto, Osmington, Inc., under CEO Lawrence Zucker, works with Canadian institutional investors to provide management, leasing, and development services for real estate properties.)

The Brinks Building mural was designed and painted by Julia Dickens, Tara Dorey, Alexandra Mackenzie, Lido Pimienta, Peter Rahul and Diana VanderMeulen. ULTRA RARE was supported by Osmington Inc., Prime Time Paints, and Vinci Park, and sponsored by Pittsburgh Paints (PPG) and Stephenson’s Rental Service Inc.

A timelapse record of the production of the mural starts here at 2:37