The Toronto Outdoor Art Fair is saddened to hear about the passing of our founder and champion Murray Koffler on Sunday evening, November 5, 2017.
Like so many of his other endeavours, Murray’s idea for the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair came from personal experience. In June 1960, Murray and his wife Marvelle attended an outdoor art fair in Washington Square in New York City. Upon returning to Toronto, they were dismayed to read about artists who were removed from City Hall for trying to sell their art on city property. Together with friends, Murray closed off the parking lot and garden of the then Four Seasons Motor-Hotel on Jarvis Street for an August weekend in 1961 for the inaugural Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, which later moved to Nathan Phillips Square, where it has remained since 1964.
“Murray’s renowned business vision and acumen were integral in the creation and building of the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair. Consistent with his own entrepreneurial spirit, he created an accessible platform for artists to showcase their creative work to the general public. Toronto’s and, indeed Canada’s, artistic community as well as broader society have been made better as a result of his legacy,” said Alex Ciappara, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair.
Every year, Murray and Marvelle made a point of attending and speaking at the Opening Ceremony for the Exhibition on Nathan Phillips Square. Murray’s storytelling, punctuated by his sense of humour, passion and love of art, set the tone for the rest of the weekend. In honour of the Exhibition's 55th anniversary in 2016, our beer sponsor Henderson Brewery collaborated with local artist, Nicole Moss, to design a beer label in his honour.
“The vision that Murray Koffler had 57 years ago to celebrate artists’ entrepreneurial spirit, their creativity and creating a platform to put them at the front and centre of our city is unprecedented and more relevant in today’s environment than it was ever before. I have been struck by his affectionate, generous and caring being and his diligent commitment to create personal connections with the artists. Watching him making his visits to the artists’ tents and listening to their stories and creation processes was the most precious and special moment of the Exhibition for us and the artists. And, we all know how many enriching and stunning artistic careers have been launched from those unassuming, humble tents on the square because of his everlasting vision.” – anahita azrahimi, Executive Director
Murray Koffler was truly a legend. He will be sorely missed.