The touchscreen recently installed in the Thomson Collection of European Art (Gallery 107). Photo by Craig Boyko/Art Gallery of Ontario.
The Thomson Collection of European Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario includes about 900 objects, mainly northern European sculpture and decorative arts dating from the early Middle Ages to the mid-19th century.
In addition to the collection’s cornerstone artwork, Peter Paul Rubens’ The Massacre of the Innocents, it has both sacred and secular objects including a renowned group of medieval and Baroque ivories, as well as fine examples of silver, Limoges enamel, boxwood carving, medieval manuscripts, carved portrait medallions and nearly 100 portrait miniatures from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It’s a varied collection that captures visitors’ interest, and they’ve told us that they want to know more.
Staff from our Digital Services department worked hard to create a new entry point to the Thomson Collection, in the form of an interactive touchscreen. You’ll find the screen close to the AGO’s entrance (Gallery 107), a room that also contains two paintings (from the Thomson Collection’s Canadian works), a ship model and a vitrine full of small objects from the European Collection.
These objects and paintings represent the Thomson Collection’s European, Canadian and Ship Model components, and each object has a story behind it and reason, including why Ken Thomson collected and appreciated it. In addition to getting an introduction to Thomson and the legacy of his collection, visitors can learn about the objects in depth by selecting them on the touchscreen. They are also directed to other spaces in the Gallery with more of the same kind of object.
Photo by Craig Boyko/Art Gallery of Ontario.
How’d we do it?
The display screen is Microsoft’s 55-inch Perceptive Pixel touch display (learn more about it here). To get the project up and running, AGO photographers had to re-shoot each item using “focus stacking.” This process extends the depth of field in a shot (making more of it in sharp focus) without losing file data using multiple exposures and post-production software.
A folding knife with boxwood handle from the Thomson Collection of European Art. The image on the right — created using the photo-stacking technique — has an extended depth of field.
A shallow depth of field has always been an issue with macro photography. The objects included in the touchscreen project are almost all very small, so we adopted this photo merging or “stacking” software as a new approach. It allows the viewer to see these detailed objects more clearly than ever before.
What’s next? Our Digital team is full of ideas on how to make the experience even better, including enhanced way-finding and the ability to create personalized tours. We hope you’ll spend a few minutes with the touchscreen on your next visit. And if you’ve already had a chance to try it out, share your thoughts on the experience in the comments below.
Recorded: Jan. 15, 2014, at Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario
Artist-in-residence Sara Angelucci; writer and historian Matthew Brower, Mark Peck, Royal Ontario Museum Ornithology Technician; and Bridget Stutchbury, author and Professor of Ornithology at York University, gathered to discuss the extinction and endangerment of North American birds as well as art and society’s relationship with the natural environment. The talk was moderated by the AGO’s curator of Canadian Art, Andrew Hunter.
The discussion was followed by a three-course meal served in FRANK restaurant, specially prepared by executive chef Jeff Dueck in consultation with Sara Angelucci. The main dish featured a vegetarian “pigeon-less” pie to mark the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon. The passenger pigeon, formerly one of the most abundant birds in North America, was pushed to extinction in 1914 due to habitat destruction and over hunting. Dinner and dessert were each paired with a choice of white or red Ontario wine.
Sara Angelucci is a Toronto-based visual artist who works primarily with photography, video and audio, exploring vernacular archival materials such as home movies, snap-shots and vintage portraits and their limited ability to convey the exact sense of a lived experience. Working with these images Angelucci seeks to reposition them in the present, shedding light on their broader context and histories outside of the frame.
Matthew Brower is a lecturer in Museum Studies in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. He writes on issues in animal studies, the history and theory of photography and contemporary art. He is the Author of Developing Animals: Wildlife and Early American Photography (University of Minnesota Press 2010). He has curated exhibitions in historical and contemporary art including Mieke Bal: Nothing is Missing, Gord Peteran: Recent Works,The Brothel Without Walls, Suzy Lake: Political Poetics, and Collective Identity │Occupied Spaces.
Mark Peck is the Collection Manager in Ornithology, Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto. He is also involved in museum exhibits and programs and field research in South America, New Jersey and the Hudson Bay Lowlands of northern Ontario. In addition, he is the coordinator of the Ontario Nest Records Scheme, the ROM liaison for the Ontario Bird Records Committee and the program director for the Toronto Ornithological Club. In his off hours he is an avid bird photographer, traveling extensively for both his profession and his hobby. He has authored or coauthored numerous scientific and popular articles on birds and hundreds of his images have been published in books, magazines and on websites. Mark has been with the ROM since 1983.
Bridget Stutchbury is a professor in the Department of Biology at York University, Toronto. She completed her M.Sc. at Queen’s University and her PhD at Yale and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution. Since the 1980s, she has studied migratory songbirds to understand their behaviour, ecology and conservation. Her current research focuses on studying the incredible migration journeys of songbirds to help halt the severe declines in many species. She serves on the board of Wildlife Preservation Canada and is the author of Silence of the Songbirds (2007) and The Bird Detective (2010).
In 2013, the Art Gallery of Ontario proudly presented a career-spanning exhibition of artist Sorel Etrog’s work, featuring his archetypal sculptures and his rarely seen film, Spiral, plus drawings, paintings, book illustrations and prints from both the Gallery’s and private collections. Born in Romania, Etrog came to Toronto in 1963 and his career here left an undeniable mark, both on our cityscape and the many people in Toronto’s art community who knew and admired him.
Recorded: Jan. 8, 2014, at Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario
This talk features former artist-in-residence Sara Angelucci in conversation with artists Spring Hurlbut and Marla Hlady about their work, points of convergence and departure.
Sara Angelucci (born Hamilton, Ont.) is a Toronto-based visual artist who works primarily with photography, video and audio, exploring vernacular archival materials such as home movies, snap-shots and vintage portraits and their limited ability to convey the exact sense of a lived experience. Working with these images Angelucci seeks to reposition them in the present, shedding light on their broader context and histories outside of the frame.
Spring Hurlbut (born Toronto, Ont.) is a Toronto-based artist whose installations, sculptures and photography explore life, death and the human condition. Hurlbut, through her sculptures, which incorporate bone, egg shells, and claws, her photographs of human ash and her solemn monochrome portraits, encourages the acceptance of one’s own mortality and attempts to find the beauty in this inevitability.
Marla Hlady (born Edmonton, Alta.) lives and works in Toronto as a sound and kinetic sculpture artist, exploring ways of experiencing sound through spatial and social contexts. Hlady’s pieces deal with the nature of sound, often materializing it for viewers and reorienting their connection to everyday auditory experiences.
This February our Prints & Drawings department invites you to join them for a Date with Henri Matisse, the newest edition of its monthly Date with [Art] series.
Each Wednesday throughout the month, stop by the Marvin Gelber Print & Drawing Study Centre for the Open Door program, running from 1 to 8 p.m. Enjoy tours of the Study Centre and see original works by Henri Matisse. Before 5 p.m., you can even ask staff members to bring specific works out from storage for viewing.
Henri Matisse is also the title of this month’s Second Friday Talk, happening on Feb. 14 at 11 a.m. (the Study Centre doors open at 10:30 a.m. for viewing works). This is a free talk by one of our wonderful Prints and Drawings volunteers, featuring original works by Henri Matisse.
Have questions about Prints and Drawings at the AGO? Leave them in the comments below.
This Family Day, let your kids be part of something BIG! On Feb. 17, the AGO will transform into the KGO – the Kids’ Gallery of Ontario. Kids will take over the Gallery and let their creativity soar in this all-day art extravaganza.
Family Day at the AGO in 2013
Why choose KGO?
Discounted admission on a Family Day Pass includes all of the fun spread throughout the Gallery – from giant board games to an all-day dance party, to art-making in our studio!
Active fun includes dancing, a Gallery-wide game of Clue, virtual reality art-hunt challenges (via the Time Tremors AGO app), guided tours for kids and families, a Build-It-Take-It-Apart Room, and a giant build-it-yourself playground.
Kids and their adults can make their own original artworks in the Dr. Anne Tanenbaum Gallery School – an all-day art party designed to inspire creative minds to make amazing things. The Dr. Mariano Hands-On Centre hosts our youngest visitors (ages 5 and under), and includes games, play, art-making and stories.
Want to just hang out? Families can chill out in a yoga class, grab a tasty treat from our café and even take a memento home from our fantastic kids’ shop.
See art in new ways in our newest exhibition, Just Like Me: Explore, Imagine, Create. This exhibition is housed in the newly created Kids’ Gallery, and includes exciting works all about children from the AGO’s collections, a unique drawing and activity area, and a photo booth where you can become a work of art! On Instagram, use the hashtag #agokidsgallery and watch your portrait become part of the exhibition (and this popular Facebook album).
Did you know that kids 5 and under eat free at cafeAGO? Accompanied by an adult who’s spending $12 or more, get two free kids’ meals for free. Here are more details.
And getting here is easy! Access the KGO in the heart of downtown Toronto by transit or by car, or make a day of it and explore our neighbourhood — including nearby Chinatown, Kensington Market and Queen Street West — on foot!
The AGO’s Gallery School during Family Day 2013.
Family Day Hours
Monday, Feb. 17 Gallery hours: 10 am – 4 pm Hands-On Centre: 10 am – 4 pm FRANK Restaurant: 11 am – 3 pm caféAGO: 10 am – 3:30 pm Espresso Bar: 10 am – 3:30 pm Members’ Lounge: 11 am – 3:30 pm shopAGO & shopAGOkids: 10 am – 4 pm
On the agenda…
Giant floor games and all-day dance party (11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.)
Starting point for a Gallery-wide game of Clue
Visit the brand new Kids’ Gallery Just Like Me exhibition
Family-friendly films in Jackman Hall
WESTON FAMILY LEARNING CENTRE
Meeting point for KGO Gallery tours
Built It and Take It Apart Room
Family yoga (11 a.m. and 1 p.m.)
Drop-in playtime for little ones in the Dr. Mariano Elia Hands-On Centre
Don’t forget: Save $10 on the AGO Family Pass. For $39 a Family Pass admits two adults and up to five youths (ages 6 to 17). Children 5 and under are FREE.
AGO artist-in-residence Jim Munroe has transformed the Community Gallery into a classic arcade with a pop-up installation of three retrofitted arcade cabinets called Torontrons. Engineered by The Hand Eye Society and produced by Munroe, each Torontron is loaded with six contemporary video games designed by Toronto video-game artists. The pop-up arcade cabinets have appeared all over Winnipeg and in Toronto — recently at Academy of the Impossible, the TIFF Bell Lightbox, Roy Thompson Hall and the Projection Booth Cinema — and have inspired similar international projects in New York, Shanghai, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and beyond.
Image courtesy of Jim Munroe/The Hand Eye Society.
From Feb. 1 to March 21, 2014, visit the Community Gallery on our concourse level to play – no quarters required! And before you visit, preview some of the Torontron games online:
Want to know more? In late January, Munroe spoke about his residency on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning (listen here), and he will also give a pop-up talk at our February edition of First Thursdays. On Feb. 21, Munroe will host Fancy Videogame Party in collaboration with Wild Rumpus and the Hand Eye Society, bringing together some of the best multi-player, party and physical video games from around the world for one night only at the AGO. And you can see him at our Meet the Artists talk in March, when he’ll be in conversation with fellow indie culture artists Mark Connery and Jonathan Mak about their work, indie culture and how playfulness factors into their practices.
An extractor unit keeps Conservation manager Maria Sullivan safe from solvent vapours.
By Maria Sullivan, Manager of Conservation
In the AGO Conservation Department, we’re always concerned about the condition of the artwork… but of course we’re very careful about our own health and safety, too.
Visitors to our labs often wonder about the long contraptions that resemble elephant trunks dangling from the ceiling. We do often call them trunks, but they are, in fact, extraction units that we use when working with small amounts of solvents. When the units are on, the trunks suck air away from the working area so that the conservator isn’t exposed to the solvent vapours. We always consult our material safety data sheets (MSDSs) to understand the materials we’re using and what protective measures are needed. We also try to use less toxic materials whenever possible.
Recently, we were extremely fortunate to host a highly distinguished visitor who’s an expert in this area: Monona Rossol. Monana is a chemist, artist and industrial hygienist who has spent a lifetime advocating for safety in the arts, and she is president and founder of Art, Crafts & Theater Safety (ACTS), a non-profit dedicated to providing health and safety services to the arts. Her expertise is also relevant to artists, who use some of the same substances in their work (see tips below).
Monona investigates items in the AGO’s Conservation Department.
Monona presented a workshop for staff members from the AGO and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) on Safety in Art Conservation and Museum Practice. The workshop addressed issues such as working intelligently and safely with chemicals and disaster planning. The AGO partnered with the ROM, OCAD University and the University of Toronto to bring Monona to Toronto for a series of educational events on safety in the arts.
While we are always careful in our practice at the AGO, it’s always good to have a reminder of the potential hazards and to consider measures we might take to improve our practice further.
Monona addresses the workshop attendees.
Monona’s tips for conservators and artists:
Follow WHMIS (workplace hazardous materials information system) and have handy the old MSDSs or the new safety data sheets on all chemicals. This includes items such as solders, welding rods and wood products.
Make sure you’ve been trained to understand the safety information. This includes Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs), Threshold Limit Values (TLVs), evaporation rates, flash points and other technical data.
Make sure all chemicals have labels that identify the substance and its hazards and that can be understood by everyone — not just you and your lab/studiomates.
Store incompatible chemicals separately. Solvents, acids, alkalis, organic peroxides and oxidizers must each have separate special storage units. And some chemicals must be stored completely alone because they react with almost everything. These include nitric acid and glacial acetic acid.
Read, learn and research for safer chemicals and procedures to replace the more hazardous ones you use.
Check your local exhaust ventilation systems. You can use smoke from a stick of incense, tiny bubbles from children’s bubble-making toys, a bit of talcum powder or any visible substance that will suspend in the air long enough for you to watch it move. If it is not moving steadily away from you as you work, adjustments or repairs must be made.
Wear the right protective gear. Not all gloves are barriers against all chemicals. Not all respirators work for all air contaminants. Each type of protective eyewear is designed for a specific limited purpose. Consult with safety people and manufacturers until you are sure you have the right gear for the job.
Err on the side of caution. Most lab and studio accidents occur in ways that were not anticipated. Think through your procedures keeping in mind that Murphy was an optimist. Most of your chemicals have never been tested for long term-effects such as reproductive damage or cancer. Don’t be the lab rat.
Curious about Conservation?
If you have a burning question about Conservation, leave a comment below. We’ll do our best to give you an answer in an upcoming Conservation Notes post.
Signature Partner of the AGO’s Conservation Program
Each season, our education department offers courses for adults, youths and children that cover the fundamentals of art and art-making: painting, drawing, sculpture, photography as well as lectures that illuminate the history of art and where it is today. Beyond that, though, we aim to develop boundary-pushing educational experiences that expands students’ creative skills and knowledge. This session, a number of classes are available for the first time at the AGO, and we’re excited to tell you about them here (click on links for dates and more information).
In addition to the usual favourites, new programs for 2014 include:
Discovering Digital Games
This four-week workshop will introduce you to new creative practices in video games. Come in with questions and we’ll introduce you to some existing art games and show you how to create a simple video game for yourself. No previous gaming experience is necessary, although it is recommended to have an open and curious attitude about what games can be. Participants will need to bring their own Mac computers.
One of the six bone porcelain tea cups, English, dated approx. 1822-30.
Introduction to Tea with Diane Borsato
This hands-on workshop with fall 2013 AGO artist-in-residence Diane Borsato will introduce participants to the history of tea’s cultivation, and various cultural practices that have developed around its consumption. Students will learn about the production and defining characteristics of the five categories of tea — white, green, oolong, black, and pu-erh — as well as proper brewing and service techniques for the different styles.
Artists’ Books, Zines, Sketchbooks
How can a book be an artwork? How is a book physically made? This workshop introduces students to the traditions of artists’ books and zines and basic book-making techniques like simple binding, assembly and photocopy printing. Students will produce/bind their own sketchbooks or notebooks, their own photocopied zines and unique accordion-fold publications. The workshop will also include a visit to view the artists’ books and multiples in the AGO’s E.P. Taylor Research Library and Archives.
Art & Ideas: Modern Art, Modern Dance
Join field specialists in informal talks that explore the relationship between visual art and the choreography and dance of Europe in the years leading up to, and during, the First World War. Spotlighting artists such as Constantin Brancusi, Paul Cézanne, Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, Vasily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Piet Mondrian and Pablo Picasso, among others, the talks will also trace the achievements of these tumultuous years as artists experimented with new ways to create art while launching such movements as Expressionism, Futurism and Cubism.
Art & Ideas: Modern Art
Join field specialists in informal talks that explore the dynamism, creativity and innovation of art produced in Europe in the years leading up to, and during, the First World War. Spotlighting artists such as Constantin Brancusi, Paul Cézanne, Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, Vasily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Piet Mondrian and Pablo Picasso, among others, the talks will also trace the achievements of these tumultuous years as artists experimented with new ways to create art while launching such movements as Expressionism, Futurism and Cubism.
Learn more about these courses and more for kids, youths and adults, plus how to sign up, at ago.net. Registration for spring 2014 courses opens Feb. 14, 2014.
On Jan. 2, 2014, artists Shary Boyle, Vanessa Dunn, Petra Collins and Aminah Sheikh got together on stage at AGO First Thursdays for a conversation entitled “21st-Century Art: Why Feminism Still (Really) Matters.” The talk was moderated by Nicola Spunt and presented by After School and Hazlitt. For those who couldn’t be here, an audio recording and links to media coverage: