Shary Boyle: Outside the Palace of Me is now open

Photo: John Jones

Shary Boyle: Outside the Palace of Me

On now until May 15, 2022
Gardiner Museum, Toronto

Step into a multi-sensory installation of ceramics, drawings, life-sized automatons, two-way mirrors, and coin-operated sculpture, set to an interactive score.

The Gardiner Museum presents a bold new exhibition by internationally renowned Canadian multidisciplinary artist Shary Boyle. Outside the Palace of Me is Boyle’s first solo Canadian museum tour since she represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2013.

Boyle transforms the exhibition hall into a strange and captivating universe, parts theatre, carnival, and art museum. The title of the exhibition is drawn from the lyrics to “Europe is Lost” by British poet and rapper Kae Tempest. An interactive soundtrack selected by Boyle accompanies the exhibition.

“Tempest is talking about a selfie culture looking at itself, looking at each other, looking at ourselves again. It’s become a house of mirrors. We’re ever presenting or witnessing a performance of the self,” explains Boyle.

Boyle collaborated with a scenic designer, costume artist, robotics engineer, amusement park innovator, and acrylic nail artist. Each work in the exhibition is a testament to slow, skilled, passionate handcraft.

Critically interrogating colonialism, misogyny, racism, and other societal pressures, the works also underscore beauty, longing, a commitment to hope, and the human capacity for empathy.

Visit to learn more and get tickets.


Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

Outside the Palace of Me unfolds across a series of scenes that blur the lines between artist and viewer, participant and spectator. The exhibition begins in the “Dressing Room,” a darkened passage with a demi-lune glass, revealed to be a two-way mirror. This is the first of many surprises and reversals: observed and observer trading roles.

Emerging onto a stage, the visitor becomes the performer, flanked by a chorus of exquisitely rendered ceramic figures. Downstage, a coin-operated pottery wheel topped by a costumed sculpture holds the spotlight. Visitors are invited to press the pedal and send it whirling in a flash of beads and sequins.

Offstage, figures from the miniature to the monumental give form to experiences forged by gendering, family dynamics, racial awareness, class systems, chosen alliances, and collective resistance. Wall painting and works on paper amplify these themes and expand a supporting cast of complicated narrators.

Completing the performance, visitors now find themselves on the other side of the looking glass, with an invitation to peer closely into, and through, someone else’s eyes, evoking the gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us.

Each object in the exhibition draws from the artist’s lived experience, imagination, and carefully researched historical imagery.

Outside the Palace of Me is organized by the Gardiner Museum and curated by Sequoia Miller, Chief Curator and Deputy Director. The exhibition will travel to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Vancouver Art Gallery, and Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. It was previously presented at The Rooms in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The exhibition is accompanied by a stunning publication by Art Canada Institute, featuring over 150 full colour images, an essay by curator Sequoia Miller, and ten original texts by Shary Boyle about key artworks in the exhibition.

Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid


Shary Boyle (b. 1972) is from the Scarborough area of Toronto. The recipient of a 2021 Honourary Doctorate of Fine Arts from her alma mater, Boyle graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1994, developing a studio practice centered on figurative drawing, painting, and live performance. Creating deeply imaginative, idiosyncratic, and unsettling worlds, Boyle was an early innovator of live-drawing techniques using overhead projectors referencing shadow puppetry and cell animation. Boyle often collaborates with musicians and artists of other disciplines for her performances, activating her practice with a characteristically inclusive spirit.

Boyle has performed and exhibited extensively, from Los Angeles, New York, Paris, and Icheon, South Korea, to remote communities such as Dawson City, Yukon Territory, and Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Her work is widely represented in private and institutional collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and the Gardiner Museum.


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:


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.

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