Karine Giboulo: Housewarming at the Gardiner Museum

Karine Giboulo, My Breakfast, 2021. Photo: Mike Patten

Karine Giboulo: Housewarming

October 20, 2022 – May 07, 2023
Gardiner Museum, Toronto

Enter a world at once familiar and uncanny. Montreal-based artist Karine Giboulo invites visitors into an immersive reimagining of her home at the Gardiner Museum. Brought to life by over 500 miniature polymer clay figures, this is no ordinary house.

Born of the COVID-19 pandemic, Housewarming is a logbook of the past two years—a sculpted documentary of individual and collective experiences grounded in current events. The colourful dioramas furnishing each room prompt reflection about the challenges we face as a society, including connectedness and isolation, aging and care, labour and consumerism, the climate crisis, food insecurity, and housing instability.

On the kitchen countertop, a line of people, masked and socially distanced, await access to a food bank. In the bedroom, the drawer of a dresser opens to reveal rows of masked factory workers hunched over industrial sewing machines. In the laundry room, a forgotten iron causes a forest fire, forcing animals to flee their natural habitat.

Always direct and incisive, Giboulo’s microcosms articulate unexpected juxtapositions—playful and sad, realistic and absurd, poetic and political—prompting a range of emotions from delight to profound empathy. The more closely you look, the more you will recognize yourself in the scenarios and their protagonists.

Get tickets at gardinermuseum.com.

Karine Giboulo, Food Bank, 2021. Photo: Mike Patten


As visitors enter the exhibition space, they stumble upon a life-size reimagining of the artist’s home on a summer evening. The sun has set and crickets are chirping. The door is open, an invitation to enter.

As visitors cross the threshold, they are free to cast themselves in any role they choose—neighbors, friends, guests, or perhaps intruders—voyeuristically navigating between social and private spaces, from the kitchen to a bedroom closet.

The miniature scale of the scenes prompts close looking and scrutiny, making visitors feel like giants as they inspect the interior and surfaces of mundane, everyday objects where stories unfold: a dresser drawer, an oven, a fridge, a coffee maker, a sink, or even a clock.

The works in Housewarming illustrate one of the core functions of miniatures: to reduce and simplify complex ideologies, concepts or situations, and to present them on a scale with which we can relate.

In one of the exhibition’s central works, Food Bank, a group of masked figures forms a socially-distanced queue leading to a food bank inside a reusable grocery bag. Made during the first waves of the pandemic, the work addresses household food insecurity and the impact of COVID-19 on community members made vulnerable by systemic barrier and poverty.

Tucked away in the pantry, a series of canning jars contain figures of elderly individuals, prompting a moment of pause and reflection about the tragedies that have unfolded in long-term care homes across the country. The scene conveys a sense of isolation, loneliness, and abandonment.

In the backyard, a camping tent acts as a powerful counterpart to the home presented as a place of refuge and safety. Inside, over a hundred small figures lie on a sleeping bag. The work calls to mind the encampments established in major cities like Toronto and Montreal during the first waves of the pandemic, as well as the housing affordability crisis and the increasing number of people facing housing instability.


Karine Giboulo is a self-taught, socially engaged artist with a practice rooted in documentary. Over the past twenty years, she has gained recognition for the creation of miniature dioramas that tell stories grounded in the everyday. Colourful and playful, Giboulo’s visual language attracts viewers of all ages; however, her comic book aesthetic is a strategy to entice us to ponder serious themes. Her work confronts the social and humanitarian challenges of our time, raising ethical questions about our Western ways of life.

Giboulo has exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions, including at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Musée de la civilisation du Québec, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, and the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. Her work is widely represented in private and institutional collections.

Karine Giboulo, To Buy the Moon, 2021. Photo: Mike Patten


The Gardiner Museum brings together people of all ages and backgrounds through the shared values of creativity, wonder, and community that clay and ceramic traditions inspire.

The Gardiner Museum’s collection of ceramics comprises approximately 4,000 objects, and focuses on specific areas which have been collected in depth. These include the most important collection of European porcelain in Canada, with particular strengths in Meissen, Vienna, and Hausmaler decorated porcelain, as well as a comprehensive collection of figures inspired by the commedia dell’arte. It holds the best collection of Italian Renaissance maiolica in Canada, and a superb collection of English tin-glazed pottery. The Gardiner preserves highly significant collections of ceramics from the Ancient Americas, Chinese blue and white porcelain, Japanese porcelain, and contemporary Canadian ceramics. It also houses a research library and archives, clay studios, award-winning Shop, and a restaurant.

The Gardiner Museum is among the few museums in the world focused on ceramics, and is one of the world’s most notable specialty museums. For more information, please visit: gardinermuseum.com.


The Gardiner Museum is an accessible venue with a ramp from the street leading up to the main lobby entrance. The entrance is accessible via two sets of double doors with an access button. Accessible restrooms are available on the second and third floors. Third floor washrooms are also gender neutral.

The Gardiner strives at all times to provide goods and services in a way that respects the dignity and independence of people with disabilities. We are committed to giving people with disabilities the same opportunity to access and benefit from our services in the same place and in a similar way as other customers whenever possible. We welcome your feedback.


Gardiner Museum
111 Queen’s Park, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2C7
Facebook: thegardinermuseum
Twitter: @gardinermuseum
Instagram: @gardinermuseum