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Archive: February, 2009

Weapons of Mass Consumption

February 26th, 2009

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As you explore the AGO, you may notice strange sounds emanating from one of the contemporary elevators just west of the Tanenbaum Atrium and of the Grange entrance (hang a right at the bird man). Don’t be afraid, it’s actually a video work by Vera Frenkel, one of Canada’s most renowned multidisciplinary artists. In this work, titled “This is your Messiah Speaking Frenkel” proposes consumerism as a religion and the mass media as its preacher. In the video, she speaks about the media as a powerful and zealous leader worshipped by faithful consumers while a woman translates her message into American Sign Language. This work certainly hits home these days as the worldwide financial crisis and society’s dependence on debt dominates the news.

Frenkel’s engagement with social issues is also evident in her work as a passionate advocate for artists. Since the 1960s she has eloquently argued for increased funding, support and respect for her fellow artists.

And yes, I shamelessly stole the title of this posting from that new Lily Allen song, The Fear.

People are talking about Sin and Salvation…

February 24th, 2009

"Their Jesus had gorgeous rock star charisma"
- Peter Goddard, Toronto Star

"The colours are vividly romantic"
-Robert Fulford, National Post

"Both seductive and disturbing"
-Sarah Milroy, The Globe and Mail

"You can’t help but enjoy [it]"
-Robert Fulford, National Post

Read more of what’s been said about Sin and Salvation: Holman Hunt and the Pre-Raphaelite Vision:
His Vision, Our Culture- Sarah Milroy

Casting light on an obscure culture- Adam McDowell

Sex, stunners and rock-star hair- Peter Goddard

Lessons learned, history remade- Robert Fulford

Image:
John Everett Millais (1829-1896),
Peace Concluded,1856,
oil on canvas, 116.8 x 91.4 cm.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Putnam Dana McMillan Fund.

Be Part of the Art

February 23rd, 2009

Micah Lexier (born 1960). A work of art in the form of a quantity of coins equal to the number of months of the statistical life expectancy of a child born January 6, 1995.

Some artists may think of their works like children, but an artwork currently installed on the 5th Floor of the AGO takes this to a whole other level. In 1995, Toronto (via Winnipeg) artist Micah Lexier created A work of art in the form of a quantity of coins equal to the number of months of the statistical life expectancy of a child born January 6, 1995. It consists of two boxes of coins, with each coin inscribed with this title as well as instructions on how it works. On the 6th day of every month, one coin is transferred from one box to another, until all of the coins have been transferred.

If you would like to transfer the coin while the work is on display in 2009, simply email <<contemporary_art@ago.net>> Bookings can made for the 6th day of each month; a staff member will email you to confirm and make arrangements. Appointment times will be between 9am and 5pm. If the 6th falls on a weekend, coin transfers will take place of the business day immediately prior to the 6th.

If you’re wondering what we do when it’s not on display; well, the work lives in our conservation department where AGO conservators faithfully (and dare I say, lovingly) transfer a coin each month, recording each move in a logbook.

What’s happening at FRANK: February 23 – March 28

February 18th, 2009

Along with Cross Town Kitchens and 20 other Toronto restaurants, FRANK will be offering a prix fixe menu from February 23- March 28. Ten dollars of the $50 menu will go directly to The Stop Community Food Centre, a local organization that encourages and enables access to healthy food for the community.

Dine TO

Continue reading for the Menu

Entrée, choice of:
Braised Wellington County beef short ribs with horseradish jus, Yukon gold potato mash and roasted Cohlemeir Japanese turnips
Or
Pan seared whitefish fillet with sautéed Brussels sprouts, bacon lardoons, white bean and celeriac puree and veal jus reduction
Or
Hand rolled potato gnocchi with black trumpet and oyster mushrooms, truffled mushroom jus and shaved Monforte Dairy Toscano cheese

Dessert, choice of:
Milles crepes cake with layers of Ontario rye flour crepes, caramelized apples baked and served warm with Woolwich Dairy chevre ice cream
Or
Rice pudding brulee with Armagnac poached prunes and cardamom shortbread

Lunch Prix Fixe
February 23, to March 28, 2009
$35.00 per person, $5.00 of which is donated to The Stop

Appetizer, choice of
Jerusalem artichoke soup with toasted sunflower seeds and sunflower oil
Or
Mapledale 4 year old cheddar cheese and onion tart with heirloom beet ,fennel and apple slaw and apple cider reduction

Entrée, choice of:
Pork and beans: Maple cured roasted pork belly confit with Quebec style feves au lard.
Or
Bison Burger with melted Niagara gold cheese, quince ketchup and onion rings.

Dessert, choice of:
Milles crepes cake with layers of Ontario rye flour crepes, caramelized apples baked and served warm with Woolwich Dairy chevre ice cream
Or
Rice pudding brulee with Armagnac poached prune and cardamom shortbead

Heart matters

February 12th, 2009

William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), Isabella and the Pot of Basil, 1866-8, retouched 1886, oil on canvas, 187 x 116.5 cm. Laing Art Gallery, Tyne and Wear Museums.

There is a common idea that art galleries are innately romantic. This notion is not surprising considering the numerous works of art around the world that are based on themes of love. Some of these works include the pop art sculpture LOVE by Robert Indiana installed in New York, Tokyo, Vancouver and other places worldwide; Picasso’s famous paintings of his lovers including Dora Maar au Chat, a portrait of his Croatian mistress; and the marble sculpture The Kiss by French artist Auguste Rodin.

Fortunately one does not have to travel across the globe to experience such love-based art. The AGO will be opening an exhibition on Valentine’s Day where strong themes of love are present. Holman Hunt and the Pre-Raphaelites were fascinated with love and relationships and, like Picasso, used muses and lovers as the subjects of many works. Two portraits in the exhibition are detailed sketches of Hunt’s lovers, the Waugh sisters, while love is also explored in a painting of young lovers eloping, seemingly escaping from the world around them. In one of Hunt’s most famous paintings, Isabella and the Pot of Basil, obsessive love is a motive for Isabella.

Sin and Salvation: Holman Hunt and the Pre-Raphaelite Vision is a great example of love influencing works of art but this theme is not limited to this exhibition only. I would argue that there are themes of love in almost every work of art, including one many Torontonians have already fallen in love with, the new AGO. Along with other galleries across the world, the AGO houses some of the greatest love stories of all time, and effectively provides a venue for romance—I cannot think of a better place to spend Valentine’s Day.

The AGO will be encouraging love and romance up to and on February 14 with Naughty Love Tours, discounts at Shop AGO, Love Potion cocktails and a special prix fixe menu served at FRANK.

For more information visit: http://www.ago.net/valentines-day-2009

Frank takes it slow

February 11th, 2009

By: Shawn Micallef

At first glance Frank is not the kind of restaurant you associate with Slow Food. Not “slow food” as in speed – it’s likely most people don’t want to be rushed out of a space like Frank – but rather the Slow Food Movement. This past Sunday the restaurant played host to “A Sweet & Savoury Taste Workshop on Eggs and Grains” presented by Slow Food Toronto.

The Slow Food Movement was founded in Italy in the 1980s as an activist response to fast food chains, specifically a McDonalds outlet that was set to open near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Since then the movement has spread around the world and expanded its mandate. Part of Slow Food Toronto’s mission is to build a community that includes producers, artisans, chefs and food activists as well as “supporting local, small-scale sustainable farm operations”.

The Slow Food event at Frank was indeed a workshop as it brought together an interesting collection of people. Certainly some of the diners (or “tasters” to be true to the event’s billing) were part of Slow Food Toronto, but there were others who were new to the scene, as my tasting partner and I were. As well, the farmer responsible for most of the food were eating was present. We don’t often get to see who’s responsible for our food, so this was a unique experience.

Stoddart products for sale.

Harry Stoddart, of the Stoddart Family Farm located in the Kwartha Lakes region, began the workshop by talking to us about his farm’s history (been in the family since 1819 when his ancestors emigrated from Ireland). The activist element of Slow Food was not ignored in Frank’s swank surroundings as Stoddart did discuss some of the regulatory difficulties he experiences being a niche producer, particularly with the Supply Managemangement system in Ontario.

Though Slow Food Toronto does have a political bent, they don’t sacrifice the dining experience. That seems to be part of the point of a workshop like this, to demonstrate that Slow Food is not about sacrificing the pleasure of food, but rather, enhancing it. In fact, the communal table we sat at was filled with confirmed foodies, most of whom worked for Loblaw’s President’s Choice, designing new food products for Canadian stores. This was not just part of their research, it’s something they enjoy doing.

Frank’s executive chef Anne Yarymowich began by welcoming everybody to her restaurant and gave us some background on the event: the other invited chefs were preparing new dishes with Stoddart’s products, and for some, it was as new an experience for them as it was for us as diners. The best part of the evening was when each dish was served the chef responsible came out and spoke about what he or she made and the challenges the organic product posed. We learnt that spelt flour is hard to work with when Chef Donna Dooher remarked that using spelt reminded her of how processed our food usually is, and though she “wasn’t very happy about working with spelt at 10AM yesterday,” she was pleased with the results. Not perfect, she said, but a successful experiment.

As a non-foodie, these details went unnoticed, as everything that came out of the Frank kitchen was exquisite looking and artfully presented. We noted the idea that we were actually eating tiny, ephemeral works of art that exist for only a few minutes before being destroyed (or devoured, depending on your perspective) while surrounded by a building that houses artworks that are, essentially, eternal. What’s the difference between consuming a painting and eating these lovely “quail eggs in nests?”

When we sheepishly told our Frank waitperson that we were vegetarians – always a moment of stress at foodie events – they returned a few moments later informing us the kitchen would accommodate by altering the few dishes with meat in them into vegetarian versions. The dexterity at which the restaurant industry can pivot for customer needs is always remarkable. The great irony of the night that with so many dishes to taste, we were only given 5 or 6 minutes to each each one, so slow food can indeed be fast sometimes.

Quail Eggs in Nests on Crispy Pancetta with Cranberry Hollandaise by Chef Donna Dooher of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

Duck Egg en Cocotte with Duck Graisserons, served with Spelt Flour Buttermilk Biscuits by Chef de Cuisine, Martha Wright of Frank.

Ravioli filled with Duck Yolk and Celeriac Puree by Chef Leslie Steh of Far Niente

Spelt and Wheat Donut with a Hen Egg Sabayon by Chef Leslie Steh

Local Apple Tart with Spelt Flour Crust by Chef Donna Dooher.

Miles Crepes Cake: Rye Flour Crepes Layered with Caramelized Russet Apples, and Hen Egg Royale, Baked and served with Woolwich Dairy’s Chevre and Honey Ice Cream by Pasty Chef Christopher Measson of Frank.

Grain Eggs and Anne

February 5th, 2009

This Sunday, February 8, a Slow Food workshop will be held at the AGO’s new restaurant FRANK. For those of you who are not familiar with Slow Food it is not what you think— and is definitely not what I thought it was. Slow Food does not allude to how long it takes to prepare food; it is actually an organization that supports the environment, animal welfare and health, fair compensation of producers and good tasting food.

Anne Yarymowich, the executive chef at FRANK, Donna Dooher of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen and Leslie Steh of Far Niente are all Slow Food members who have been challenged to showcase the eggs and grains of Stoddart Family Farm, a certified organic farm located in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario. This challenge includes the creation of two dishes—one savoury and one sweet—that contain eggs and grain as the main ingredients. Menu items include ravioli filled with duck yolk and a cauliflower puree finished with olive oil and maldon salt—a savoury dish—and rye flour crepes layered with caramelized russet apples, and egg royal, baked and served with chèvre and honey ice cream—a sweet dish. These and four more unique dishes will make up the tasting that demonstrates the versatility of eggs and grains.

This workshop provides an opportunity for the three celebrated chefs to support an organization they are actively involved in, and will be a reunion of two chefs that have not worked in the same kitchen since Anne left Donna Dooher’s Mildred Pierce in 1996. For you it’s an opportunity to learn more about Slow Food and to sample six delicious dishes paired with local wines.

Unlike Sam-I-am, its sounds like many people will like grain, eggs and Anne.

To be a part of it all, and taste the “ducky goodness” as Martha Wright, Chef de Cuisine at the AGO describes one of the dishes, call 416-978-8849 or go online to www.UofTtix.ca. The workshop takes place Sunday, February 8 from 4 to 6 pm and tickets cost $40 for Slow Food members and $50 for non-members.

Celebrate Winter at FRANK

February 5th, 2009

If you haven’t already been introduced to FRANK, make sure you acquaint yourself over the next couple of weeks. The AGO’s popular new restaurant will be offering a limited-time prix-fixe menu in celebration of Canada’s winter season. Executive chef Anne Yarymowich along with chef de cuisine Martha Wright have crafted a warm and comforting menu featuring appetizers and entrées specifically created to showcase this fabulous season. The menu is complete with a selection of mouth-watering desserts created by pastry chef Christopher Measson. Soon you’ll know why everyone is talking about FRANK.

This winter prix-fixe menu will be offered at a price of $40 ($35 for AGO members) from January 30 to February 12. For menu information or to make a reservation at FRANK visit www.ago.net/frank
or call 416.979.6688

Photo courtesy of Christina Gapic, AGO Photographer © 2008 ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO.