Witte de With Contemporary Art
General Idea
General Idea

The artist collaborative General Idea (1969-1994) produced a vast body of work in a variety of media: video, performance, installation, painting, sculpture, and photography. In twenty-five years of living and working together, they held 123 solo exhibitions and were included in 149 group exhibitions internationally, including the Paris, Sydney, Sao Paulo, and Venice biennales and Documenta 10. In 2011, a retrospective was presented at the Musée d’art modern de la Ville de Paris.

General Idea first came together as a casual relationship between AA Bronson, Felix Partz, and Jorge Zontal in Toronto in the late 1960s. By 1969 they were sharing a house, found common interests in mass media and popular culture, and began their legendary association. Early on, they assumed noms de plume to reflect new identities as collaborators: Michael Tims (b. Vancouver, 1946) became AA Bronson; Ronald Gabe (b. Winnipeg, 1945 – d. Toronto, 1994) became Felix Partz; and Slobodan Saia-Levi (b. Parma, 1944 – d. Toronto, 1994) became Jorge Zontal.

General Idea was active in promoting and disseminating work by other artists. They published 26 issues of FILE Megazine (1972-1989), which centred on artists’ projects. In 1974 they founded Toronto’s Art Metropole as a publishing and distribution centre for artists. They assembled a large collection of over 13,000 artists’ books, multiples, and other materials, which became the Art Metropole Collection, donated to the National Gallery of Canada in 1999 by Jay A. Smith of Toronto. Their many awards include the Lifetime Achievement Award, City of Toronto (1993); the Jean A. Chalmers Award for Visual Arts, Toronto (1994); and the Bell Canada Award for Video Art, Bell Canada and the Canada Council, Ottawa (2002).