Art for Dental Treatment: An Art Collection Goes on Display

Dr. Zenon Trylowsky found an unusual way to help some of his patients pay for their treatment. Many of them were artists and conformed to the stereotype of the penniless artist. They had no money, but they had talent. So, Trylowsky arranged for his artists to pay for their treatment with their work. Barter has been used at various points in human history to help people who had no money, to get the goods and services that they need. It was useful in this instance too. Some online reviews of a dentist in downtown Vancouver have expressed positive impressions. So it is not surprising that a dentist who treated so many artists, found them happy to pay for their treatment with their art. Recently, Trylowsky held an art exhibition in North Vancouver in which he showed the works of art he has accumulated across 25 years of practice in downtown Vancouver.

Trylowsky’s art collection, the “Teeth, Loan and Trust Company, Consolidated: The Trylowsky Collection”, is being shown from September 24 to December 12, 2021. It features an array of artwork accumulated through gifts and purchases since he opened his dental practice. According to the collection’s curator, Patrik Anderssen, some of the pieces are by some of Canada’s greatest artists, and some are  by its least known artists. Andersson has worked with Trylowsky on around 10 shows and was an early patient of his. The shows have traditionally been held at Trylowsky’s dental practice in the 16-story high-rise Vancouver Block. Andersson wanted to create the show for the Griffin Art Project because he realised that art collections could be built from models of art other than traditional purchases. Thinking about other models for acquiring art, he recalled how his dentist had built his art collection. This for him made this collection unique, because often, art collections show what rich people can attain almost without monetary restraint. He wanted to show a collection held by an ordinary person. In Trylowsky’s case, the art collection was a result of bartering, the relationship between patient and dentist, and the mix of the personal and the professional.

Anderssen likens this show to an impression a dentist makes of your teeth to see what state they are in. This collection is an impression of the professional life of the dentist and how it relates to his relationships with his patients. Trylowlsky often decided against selling the art, choosing instead to mount it on his walls in his dental practice, for his pleasure and that of his patients. This made his practice unique: the typical dental practice shows very bland, non-threatening works of art, art that is not meant to be memorable, merely inoffensive yet mildly engaging. Sometimes a dentist will have pictures of smiling people with beautiful, pearly white teeth. But when you visit Trylowsky’s dental practice, you are invited into an art exhibition masquerading as a dental practice. The collection is extremely varied, with no clear themes or style, or adherence to any particular artist. There are drawings, ceramics, installation pieces and film. It must be wonderful to visit a dental practice like Trylowsky’s.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

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