Fonds LA.SC158 - Murray Favro fonds

Identity area

Reference code



Murray Favro fonds


  • [195-]-[200-] (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

60 cm of textual records and graphic material
17 photographs
3 drawings
3 posters
1 optical disc
1 watercolour ; 38x43 cm

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Murray Favro (1940- ) is a multi-disciplinary visual artist, sculptor, and musician based in London, Ontario. He is known for his multimedia installations and his work with the Nihilist Spasm Band, of which he is a founding member.

Favro was born in Huntsville, Ontario where he lived until moving to London, Ontario in 1957 with his mother. Here he attended the H.B. Beal Technical and Commercial School (1958-62), where he studied art and became acquainted with a number of other artists in the area. In 1968 Favro married Judith Bryon, and their son, Mark, was born in 1969. After receiving a Canada Council Arts Bursary in 1970 he was able to leave a job as a commercial artist at a printing company and begin working on creating and exhibiting his art full time.

Throughout his career Favro has worked with a diverse range of materials and mediums, including paint, sculpture, projections, film, instruments, and machinery, although he is perhaps best known for his projected reconstructions and technical objects, which cross the borders between art and invention. Much of his work reflects a strong interest in perspective, the relationships between art and science, and technology, and is known to challenge traditional categorization. Two major retrospective exhibitions of Favro’s work have been held to date, the first by the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1983 and the second by the London Regional Art and Historical Museums and the McIntosh Gallery in 1998.

In addition to his artistic career, Favro is the guitarist for the Nihilist Spasm Band, which he founded alongside John Boyle, John Clement, Greg Curnoe, Bill Exley, Art Pratten, Archie Leitch, and Hugh McIntyre in 1965. Favro has described his work with the band as influential and parallel to his work as an artist, noting the band’s lack of hierarchy and their music’s lack of structure as intentional and significant. The instruments he plays as guitarist for the band are of his own creation, as are a number of the instruments played by other members of the band. They have performed shows across Canada and internationally, including an appearance at the Paris Biennale in the 1970s and at least two Japan tours in 1996 and 1999.

Throughout his career Favro has given artist talks and lectures at institutions across Canada, including the National Gallery of Canada, and taught classes at the Ontario College of Art in the 1970s. Together with a number of other artists who were active in London in the 1960s and 70s, such as Jack Chambers and Tony Urquhart, he was involved with some of the first artist-run galleries in Canada, namely the 2020 Gallery, which existed from 1966-1970 and the Forest City Gallery, founded in 1973.

Favro’s work is held and has been exhibited by many major art institutions and private collections across Canada, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Montreal Fine Arts Museum. He has been represented variously by the Carmen Lamanna Gallery and the Christopher Cutts Gallery in Toronto. Favro received the Gerhson Iskowitz Award in 1997 and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2007.

Archival history

The materials now constituting the Murray Favro fonds were transferred directly from the artist to the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2007.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

AGO credit line: Gift of Murray Favro, 2010

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of the personal and professional records of Murray Favro, documenting his life and activities as a multimedia artist and musician, as well as his personal interests and pursuits. It includes such textual records as notebooks, correspondence, contracts, grant applications, newspaper clippings, meeting notes, invitations, and records from Favro’s involvement with the 2020 Gallery and Forest City Gallery. Also included are records relating to exhibitions of Favro’s work, including two major retrospectives in 1983 and 1998. Throughout the fonds there are extensive notes and writings by Favro including installation instructions, project notes and ideas, drafts of documents and correspondence, and journal writings recording the artist’s thoughts on a wide range of topics. There are also textual records that were likely used for research and reference in Favro’s work, such as articles, photocopied pages from textbooks, catalogues, and other printed materials, often relating to technology and technical equipment such as projectors, computers, film and photography. Visual materials in the fonds include a watercolour painting, posters, photographs, drawings, and rough sketches and diagrams. Personal records include materials such as membership cards, schedules, and records from Favro’s interests and activities, such as flying lessons and motorcycles. Materials capturing his activities as a musician with the Nihilist Spasm Band include promotional posters and flyers, itineraries, set lists, expense lists for tours and performances, and other textual records. The fonds also includes one optical disc with samples from Favro’s digital projects.

The fonds has been arranged into a single series comprised of 64 files. The materials within each file may span a range of years and reflect a variety of activities. Details about the contents of each file can be found in the scope and content notes.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


Further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

Fonds has been arranged in a single series, following the creator’s original order as much as possible.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Open. For access to the digital records in File 5-16: Computer Samples, please contact the archivist for assistance. Access to Special Collections is by appointment only. Please contact the reference desk for more information.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright is held by the creator. Copyright belonging to other parties, such as that of photographs, may still rest with the creator of these items. It is the researcher’s responsibility to obtain permission to publish any part of the fonds.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Finding aid available for this fonds.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Greg Curnoe fonds – Related material in the Greg Curnoe fonds includes records in Series 1: Writing Files, relating to the Nihilist Spasm Band and journals from trips taken together with Favro. Also see Series 2: Correspondence Files and Series 22: Photographs.

John Boyle fonds – Related material in the John Boyle fonds includes records in Series 2: Nihilist Spasm Band.

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Notes area

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Description control area

Description identifier

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Level of detail


Dates of creation revision deletion

Created 12 July 2019. Revised 16 February 2023.


  • English



Fleming, Marie. 1983. Murray Favro: A retrospective. Art Gallery of Ontario.

Fones, Robert, Helga Pakasaar, Matthew Teitlebaum and Peter White. 1998. Murray Favro. Virago Press.

Doherty, Nida Home. “Aiden Urquhart interviews London artist Murray Favro.” Interview by Aiden Urquhart., April 25 2020.

Archivist's note

Preliminary description created by Amy Furness. Finding aid prepared by Camille McDayter, 2023.

Accession area

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