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Archive: December, 2008

Reflections on a transformative year

December 24th, 2008

As we reflect on the close of 2008, there is really only one sentiment to express on the transformation of the Art Gallery of Ontario: together, the staff, volunteers, donors, members and friends of the AGO did something special. It will be a gift that lasts for a long time to come. Together we have truly realized this project for our visitors. As we went through planning and construction, it was the visitor that we did not yet know that we kept foremost in our minds … the young child, or the retired bus driver, who will come to the AGO and discover a whole new way to think about the world. That’s who we did this for, even as we created something that makes our city a better place. The year ahead will be filled with challenges. But challenging times make the idea of community all the more important, and that’s what I hope the new AGO will stand for – a magical place that brings the community together in celebration of art, creativity and imagination. Over the holidays I hope all will enjoy the special times with family, and have a little more fun than you planned. And visit the AGO, truly the home you have built, brick by brick, titanium sheet by titanium sheet!

Matthew Teitelbaum
Michael and Sonja Koerner director and CEO

Galleria Italia. Photo: AGO Photographer Sean Weaver © 2008 Art Gallery of Ontario.

Frankly my dear, this is the restaurant at the AGO

December 3rd, 2008


By: Shawn Micallef

The first thing I overheard when I walked into Frank is that this will be the new place to have an affair in Toronto. Frank is the new restaurant on the ground floor of the AGO and it has a few cozy seating areas that are tucked away, hidden from the rest of the room. It’s a romantic (pardon the pun) notion, but I wonder if the giant glass wall along the Dundas sidewalk might deter those looking for a clandestine location. Like the Galleria Italia above, Frank is an inside-outside kind of space. One thing Modernism does very well, unlike our beloved Victorian structures, is it often allows us to be inside, safe from heat and cold, but not feel very disconnected from the outside.

Some of the other walls inside of Frank are equally stunning — entire glass wine rack panels stretch from floor to ceiling that looking like some kind of primitive analogue punch card from a 1960s supercomputer. Along with the glass “zig-zag” bar they make the place feel like Superman’s icy Fortress of Solitude. Yet unlike Superman’s place, Frank is full of colour and warm, natural wood, much like that found in the rest of the AGO. An interesting detail are the Gehry-designed tables: the tabletops match the seats in the café below. I was told that Gehry had a specific pattern in mind in how the coloured tables should be laid out, and knowing that you do get the feeling that you’re in his own kitchen when in the room.

Like many new restaurants, the kitchen itself is out in the dining area, and this informal feel is magnified by the stairs that lead down to AGO’s open café below. Connecting the two is a giant twisted steel sculpture by Frank Stella (giving a platonic double entendre to the name Frank). Frank is also in the enviable position of being able to tap into the AGO’s art collection for its walls — currently artists on display include Joyce Wieland and Paterson Ewen, both of whom likely walked this stretch of Dundas in their time. The main room connects to the Yonge Gallery — the free, ground floor contemporary art space that also fronts Dundas. Currently it is filled with large construction photographs Edward Burtynsky took during Transformation AGO.

The M word and the art world

December 2nd, 2008

Sometimes I have a bit of a guilt complex about being a marketer. It doesn’t always sit well to know that I’m a professional convincer. I help support a family by convincing people that their lives are not complete without a particular product or service. The only thing that saves me from utter shame and self-disgust is that I truly believe that people’s lives can be vastly enriched with what I push: the experience of art.

As a marketer at the AGO, the last few years have been a thrilling and bumpy ride, but seeing the smiling faces streaming into the gallery over the free weekend made me immediately realize that not a second was spent in vain.

For the last six months we’ve been working with the doug agency to develop an accessible and dynamic marketing campaign to launch the new AGO. Our strategy was to reach new audiences, or in other words, to not speak exclusively to the art-enthusiasts who likely had our opening on their radar already, but instead to visitors for whom the gallery was an ‘occasional consideration’ or even a ‘never-experienced’. Developing the kind of creative that would do all of this, as well as determining innovative and effective methods of communication, has been a blast.

We began with a city-wide postering campaign that launched six weeks out from opening. For two weeks ‘Free Joyce Wieland’, ‘Free Henry Moore’ and ‘Free Tom Thomson’ was postered in black and white checkerboards throughout the city. Two weeks later the intentionally ambiguous posters turned to full colour, still revealing no more info. Finally two weeks prior to our opening the posters revealed the AGO’s logo along with the many of our free offerings, such as the ‘Free Opening Weekend’, ‘Free Wednesday Nights’ and ‘Members always visit free’

Meanwhile magazine ads began to drop as well as newspaper ads two weeks prior to opening.

Also, through generous support from various partners, we were able to extend our reach into vehicles not often frequented by us ‘thrifty’ arts organizations: television, online and cinema. We ran hundreds of television ads from November 3 – 16 on CTV’s Toronto, Ottawa and Southwestern Ontario standard and specialty channels, such as Much Music, MTV, Discovery, Bravo, Space, Star! and Comedy network. These same ads appeared on as pre-roll before their broadband programming such as Grey’s Anatomy, Amazing Race, Lost, America’s Next Top Model, Canadian Idol, Desperate Housewives, Mad Men, and The Hills, to name a few.

Generous support from Cineplex enabled us to run a :30 second pre-show and in-lobby spot in 54 theatres across Canada on 571 screens leading up to opening. A dynamic, animated version of our logo is the final tag at the end of the spot.

To sustain excitement about the new AGO and promote the many reasons for a return visit, the majority of our advertising will land after opening, and will include transit, print, billboards and online advertising. Again, through support from CTV, the AGO will be running more television spots on CTV’s standard and specialty channels as well as broadband during December, January, March and April. Two to three spots will be rotating during these months featuring testimonials from people interviewed in the new AGO gallery spaces.

We’ve also ventured into the world of social media in exciting and interactive ways. Stay tuned for a post dedicated to these initiatives.

Andrea Seaborn