Frenkel, Vera

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FRENKEL, VERA (1938– ), Canadian multidisciplinary artist, video producer, poet, writer, educator. Frenkel was born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). To escape the Nazis, her family fled to England and subsequently immigrated to Canada. Frenkel studied fine arts at McGill University and with Arthur Lismer at the Montreal Museum School of Fine Arts.

Already internationally recognized as a printmaker and sculptor, Frenkel began exploring video in 1974. At the forefront of contemporary Canadian art, Frenkel's interest in new media led her to produce video, web-based work and multimedia installations. Deeply concerned with human dilemmas, her art has examined the tyranny of received ideas, the mythological properties of popular culture, the impact of censorship, and the bureaucratization of experience. …from the Transit Bar (1992) explores the effects of cultural and geographic displacement. The Body Missing Project (1994 and ongoing), an interactive Internet site, originated with Frenkel's research on the cultural policy of the Third Reich and the proposed Fuehrermuseum in Linz, Austria. As in all of her work, The Institute: Or What We Do for Love (2003 and ongoing) is an acerbic commentary on the institutionalization of contemporary society that plays documentary and fictional realities against each other.

Frenkel's work has been exhibited in major galleries throughout Canada, Europe, and Asia. She participated in the Venice Biennale (1972, 1997, and 1999), and represented Canada in documenta ix in Kassel, Germany (1992). Her work is internationally collected by, among others, the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation.

An innovative and inspiring teacher, Frenkel taught at the University of Toronto (1970–72) and at York University, Toronto (1972–95). Among many honors, she was awarded the Canada Council Molson Prize for the Arts (1989), the Toronto Arts Foundation's Visual Arts Award (1991), the Gershon Iskowitz Prize (1994), the Bell Canada Award (2001), and the ccca Art Award (2004). Her writings have appeared in a range of Canadian and international journals and anthologies.


E. Legge, "Of Loss and Leaving: Vera Frenkel's Body Missing Website," in Canadian Art (Winter 1996), 60–64; B. Grenville and L. Steele, Vera Frenkel: Les Bandes Vidéo / The Videotapes (Exh. cat. Ottawa, 1985); J. Gagnon et al., … from the Transit Bar (Exh. Cat. Ottawa, 1994); S. Schade, "Vera Frenkel: Body Missing," in: Andere Koerper (Exh. cat. Linz, 1994).

[Joyce Zemans (2nd ed.)]