The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) (FrenchMusée des beaux-arts de l'Ontario) is an art museum in Toronto's Downtown Grange Park district, on Dundas Street West between McCaul Street and Beverley Street.

Its collection includes more than 80,000 works spanning the 1st century to the present day. The gallery has 45,000 square metres (480,000 sq ft) of physical space, making it one of the largest galleries in North America.

Significant collections include the largest collection of Canadian art, an expansive body of works from the Renaissance and the Baroque eras, European art, African and Oceanic art, and a modern and contemporary collection. The photography collection is a large part of the collection, as well as an extensive drawing and prints collection. The museum contains many significant sculptures, such as in theHenry Moore sculpture centre, and represents other forms of art like historic objects, miniatures, frames, books and medieval illuminations, film and video art, graphic art, installations, architecture, and ship models.

During the AGO's history, it has hosted and organized some of the world's most renowned and significant exhibitions, and continues to do so, to this day.

Since 1974, the gallery has seen four major expansions and renovations, typically considered a high number and unseen by most galleries of the world, and continues to add spaces. The most recent are theWeston Family Learning Centre which opened in October 2011 and the David Milne Research Centre that opened in April 2012. Both projects were designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects. Earlier major renovations were designed by noted architects John C. Parkin (1977), Barton Myers and KPMB Architects (1993), and most recently, Frank Gehry (2008).[4][5]

In addition to display galleries, the structure houses an extensive library, student spaces, gallery workshop space, artist-in-residence, a high-end restaurant, café, espresso bar, research centre, theatre and lecture hall, Gehry-designed gift shop, and an event space called the Baillie Court, which occupies the entirety of the 3rd floor.


 [hide*1 History


[1][2]A south view of the first gallery building in 1922

The museum was founded in 1900 by a group of private citizens, members of the Ontario Society of Artists,[6] who incorporated the institution as the Art Museum of Toronto. The Legislative Assembly of Ontario subsequently enacted An Act respecting the Art Museum of Toronto in 1903. The museum was renamed the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1919, and subsequently the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1966.

The current location of the AGO dates to 1910, when Goldwin Smith bequeathed his historic 1817 Georgian manor, the Grange, to the gallery upon his death. In 1911, the museum leased lands to the south of the manor to the City of Toronto in perpetuity so as to create Grange Park. In 1920, the museum also allowed the Ontario College of Art to construct a building on the grounds.

The museum's first formal exhibitions opened in the Grange in 1913. In 1916, the museum drafted plans to construct a small portion of a new gallery building. Designed by Pearson and Darling in the Beaux-Artsstyle, excavation of the new facility began in 1916, and the first galleries opened in 1918. Expansion throughout the 20th century added various galleries, culminating in 1993, which left the AGO with 38,400 square metres (413,000 sq ft) of interior space.

The AGO was and continues to be a major supporter of local arts, which have included shows for the Group of SevenBetty GoodwinDavid Milne, and Shary Boyle.

As the institution and its collections grew, major benefactors included Henry Moore, Betty Goodwin, David Blackwood, Harris Henry Fudger, Walter C. Laidlaw, Joey Tanenbaum, George WestonFrank Porter Wood,Edward Rogers Wood, Ayala Zacks, Ken Thomson, the Massey family, and the Eaton family.

Transformation AGO[edit]Edit

[3]The newly constructed façade of the AGO alongDundas Street[4]The titanium and glass south wing overlooking the Grange and Grange Park

Under the direction of its CEO Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO embarked on a $254 million (later increased to $276 million) redevelopment plan by architect Frank Gehry in 2004, called Transformation AGO. The new addition would require demolition of the 1992 Post-Modernist wing by Barton Myers and Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB). Although Gehry was born in Toronto, and as a child had lived in the same neighbourhood as the AGO, the expansion of the gallery represented his first work in Canada. Gehry was commissioned to expand and revitalize the AGO, not to design a new building; as such, one of the challenges he faced was to unite the disparate areas of the building that had become a bit of a "hodgepodge" after six previous expansions dating back to the 1920s.[7]

Kenneth Thomson was a major benefactor of Transformation AGO, donating much of his art collection to the gallery (providing large contributions to the European and Canadian collections), in addition to providing $50 million towards the renovation, as well as a $20 million endowment.[8] Thomson died in 2006, two years before the project was complete.

The project initially drew some criticism. As an expansion, rather than a new creation, concerns were raised that the new AGO would not look like a Gehry signature building,[9] and that the opportunity to build an entirely new gallery, perhaps on Toronto's waterfront, was being squandered. During the course of the redevelopment planning, board member and patron Joey Tanenbaum temporarily resigned his position over concerns about donor recognition, design issues surrounding the new building, as well as the cost of the project. The public rift was subsequently healed.[10]

[5]The Gehry-designed spiral stairwell in Walker Court[6]Galleria Italia

The AGO reopened in November 2008, with the transformation project having increased the art viewing space by 47%. Notable elements of the expanded building include a new entrance aligned with the gallery's historic Walker Court and the Grange, and a new four-storey south wing, clad in glass and blue titanium, overlooking both the Grange and Grange Park. The outwardly most characteristic element of the design however is a new glass and wood façade - the Galleria Italia - spanning 180 metres (590 ft) along Dundas Street; it was named in recognition of a $13 million contribution by 26 Italian-Canadian families of Toronto, a funding consortium led by Tony Gagliano, who currently serves as the President of the AGO's Board of Trustees.

The completed expansion received wide acclaim, notably for the restraint of its design. An editorial in the Globe and Mail called it a "restrained masterpiece", noting: "The proof of Mr. Gehry's genius lies in his deft adaptation to unusual circumstances. By his standards, it was to be done on the cheap, for a mere $276-million. The museum's administrators and neighbours were adamant that the architect, who is used to being handed whole city blocks for over-the-top titanium confections, produce a lower-key design, sensitive to its context and the gallery's long history."[11] The Toronto Star called it "the easiest, most effortless and relaxed architectural masterpiece this city has seen",[12] with the Washington Post commenting: "Gehry's real accomplishment in Toronto is the reprogramming of a complicated amalgam of old spaces. That's not sexy, like titanium curves, but it's essential to the project."[9] The architecture critic of the New York Times wrote: "Rather than a tumultuous creation, this may be one of Mr. Gehry's most gentle and self-possessed designs. It is not a perfect building, yet its billowing glass facade, which evokes a crystal ship drifting through the city, is a masterly example of how to breathe life into a staid old structure. And its interiors underscore one of the most underrated dimensions of Mr. Gehry's immense talent: a supple feel for context and an ability to balance exuberance with delicious moments of restraint. Instead of tearing apart the old museum, Mr. Gehry carefully threaded new ramps, walkways and stairs through the original."[13]

Selected major exhibitions[edit]Edit

(since 1994)


Past or Current[edit]Edit

  • Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting, (2012)
  • Berenice Abbott: Photographs, (2012)
  • Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée Picasso, Paris, (2012)
  • Iain Baxter&: Works 1958-2011, (2012)
  • Jack Chambers: Light, Spirit, Time, Place and Life, (2012)
  • Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde: Masterpieces from the Collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, (2011)
  • Haute Culture: General Idea, (2011)
  • Abstract Expressionist New York, (2011)
  • Black Ice: David Blackwood Prints of Newfoundland, (2011)
  • The Shape of Anxiety: Henry Moore in the 1930s, (2010)
  • At Work: Hesse, Goodwin, Martin, (2010)
  • Drama and Desire: Artists and the Theatre, (2010)
  • Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts, (2010)
  • Julian Schnabel: Art and Film, (2010)
  • Rembrandt/Freud: Etchings from Life, (2010)
  • King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, (2009)
  • Drawing Attention: Selected Works on Paper from the Renaissance to Modernism, (2009)
  • Emily Carr: New Perspectives on a Canadian Icon, (2007)
  • Catherine the Great: Arts for the Empire - Masterpieces from the Hermitage Museum, Russia, (2005)
  • TurnerWhistlerMonet: Impressionist Visions, (2004)
  • Voyage into Myth: French Painting from Gauguin to Matisse, from the Hermitage Museum, (2002)
  • Treasures from the Hermitage Museum, Russia: Rubens and His Age, (2001)
  • The Courtauld Collection, (1998)
  • The OH!Canada Project, (1996)
  • From Cézanne to Matisse: Great French Paintings from The Barnes Foundation, (1994)

Permanent Collection[edit]Edit

The AGO's permanent collection holds over 80,000 pieces, representing many artistic movements and eras of art history.

It includes the world's largest collection of Canadian art, which depicts the development of Canada's heritage from pre-Confederation to the present. Indeed, works by Canadian artists make up more than half of the AGO's collection, with works from Tom ThomsonGroup of SevenEmily Carr, and Cornelius Krieghoff, among others. This collection also includes Inuit and Native art from the past and present, with artists such as Kenojuak AshevakNorval Morrisseau, and Jackson Beardy.

The museum has an impressive collection of European art, including a highly important collection of miniatures, sculptures, Medieval and Renaissance decorative arts, and major works by TintorettoGian Lorenzo BerniniPeter Paul RubensRembrandt van RijnThomas GainsboroughAnthony van DyckFrancisco GoyaEmile Antoine Bourdelle, and Frans Hals, and works by other renowned artists such as Pablo PicassoAuguste RodinCamille PissarroClaude MonetHenri de Toulouse-Lautrec,Pierre BonnardRaoul DufyPaul CézanneJames TissotAlfred Sisley, and Edgar Degas.

[7][8]Art Gallery of Ontario sculpture court, 1929

A key feature to the gallery is a modern and contemporary art collection illustrating the evolution of modern artistic movements in Canada, the United States, and Europe, including works by Franz KlineMark RothkoArshile GorkyDavid SmithHans HofmannJoan MiróMarc ChagallHenri MatisseSonia DelaunayAmedeo ModiglianiYves TanguyGiorgio de ChiricoSalvador DalíMichael SnowGeneral IdeaJean-Paul RiopellePaul-Emile BorduasBarbara HepworthGeorgia O'Keeffe, and Jack Chambers, Other contemporary artists include Shary BoyleClaes OldenburgFrank StellaJenny HolzerGerhard RichterMicah LexierBrian JungenSol LeWittIain Baxter&, and Richard Serra. The collection also extends to installations, photography, graphic art (such as concert, film, and historic posters), film and video art. It also holds the largest and most significant body of works from the late Montreal artist Betty Goodwin, with a bulk of the works given to the gallery by the artist. The same can be said for Canadian artists David Blackwood and David Milne.

The photography collection contains over 40,000 works mainly from Europe and North America, from historic prints to modernists to contemporary works. Contemporary photographers like BrassaiEdward BurtynskyJulia Margaret CameronWalker EvansLarry FinkRobert Flaherty can be found in this collection. In addition to these, the AGO also has one of the most significant collections of African art in North America, as well as the largest collection of Oceanic art and artifacts in Canada.

Another significant collection at the gallery are the print and drawings, including one of the biggest holdings of Robert Motherwell works in the world. It also includes sketches from the Renaissance era such asMichelangelo, large works by Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, as well as works from Piet MondrianEgon SchieleÉdouard Vuillard, David Milne, Vincent van GoghPaul KleeHenri MatisseWassily KandinskyThéodore GéricaultJames Gillray, and Paul Gauguin. Also present are old English and French caricatures, Victorian etchings, and prints from James McNeill Whistler. This collection usually is displayed little at a time with revolving exhibitions. However, the collection is viewable by appointment. The museum vault also hosts tours few times a year or less, limited to certain members only.

There is also an extensive historic ship models collection located below ground level, in new spaces designed by Frank Gehry.

Other collections include the David Milne Research Centre, visible Inuit art storage, library, the TDSB collection, and free-entry space that displays art temporarily from local artists.

Finally, the AGO is home to the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre, which houses the largest public collection of works by this British sculptor. This is another of the gallery's collections that involve the artist as the major benefactor, as Moore donated almost his whole personal collection to the museum. Moore's bronze work, Two Large Forms (1966–1969) greets visitors at the museum's north façade, at the intersection of Dundas and McCaul Streets

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