The Power Plant

Our history

Since its opening in 1987, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery has been a vibrant cultural hub, showcasing diverse art by Canadian with international artists.

138518 (1).jpg

Land Acknowledgement

We respectfully acknowledge the past and present traditional owners of this territory and their unique role in the life of the region. The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery is committed to honouring Indigenous peoples’ unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land and waters, and their rich contribution to society. Toronto is on the traditional territory of the Anishinabeg, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. We ask that you respect the land and traditions of those who walked upon it for millennia before us.

Founding The Power Plant

The Power Plant was initially established in 1976 as the Art Gallery at Harbourfront. The original powerhouse, with its companion building The Ice House (today the Harbourfront Centre Theatre), was constructed in 1926 to house the heating and refrigeration equipment for the massive Toronto Terminal Warehouse (now Queen's Quay Terminal). Part of the Federal Government's acquisition of a 92-acre lakefront site, The Power Plant was in operation as an actual power plant until 1980.

In 1980, Harbourfront Corporation provided the Art Gallery at Harbourfront with the opportunity to renovate the 1920s powerhouse as its new home. Peter Smith of Lett/Smith Architects was chosen to undertake the renovations, the design of which has taken into consideration both the history of the building and the demands of contemporary art. Opened to the public on 1 May 1987, The Power Plant today is easily recognized by its smokestack and exterior façade, both of which have been restored to maintain reference to its history.


The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in 1987

Efforts to present revolutionary contemporary art

Since its earliest programming, The Power Plant has been dedicated to presenting new and recent work by Canadian artists along with their international peers. In 2006, The Power Plant inaugurated an annual commissioning program which included the presentation of new works by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Scott Lyall and Pae White. In 2014, the gallery introduced The Fleck Clerestory Commission Program with an inaugural exhibition by Toronto based artist Shelagh Keeley. Over its thirty-five years, The Power Plant has produced over one hundred influential and award-winning publications to accompany presented exhibitions.

Untitled200F copy.jpg

Shelagh Keeley, Notes on Obsolescence, 2014. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

Recent years

In celebration of The Power Plant’s 25th anniversary in 2012, the gallery introduced ALL YEAR, ALL FREE policy supported by BMO Finance Group, offering free admission and open access to the public to all exhibitions. The Power Plant also marked the occasion with a redesign of its visual identity and added a new lobby and retail space, allowing audiences to further engage with the rich and rewarding work of contemporary artists and thinkers. In 2022, The Power Plant marked its 35th anniversary and to celebrate 35 exciting years of thought-provoking art, ideas, and conversations, The Power Plant has launched this brand new website!

Information cards


The Power Plant Archives

Since gallery's big opening in 1987, we have been carefully saving all the exhibition and event materials in our archives - discover 35 years of The Power Plant!


All Year, All Free presented by BMO Financial Group

Providing as many people as possible with access to free contemporary art remains The Power Plant’s top priority. The initiative leading these efforts is a renewed partnership with BMO Financial Group, whose support of the ALL YEAR, ALL FREE initiative is vital to expanding and diversifying audiences by eliminating the cost of admission to The Power Plant’s exhibition program.