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Archive: November, 2010

AGO Kitchen Cooks Curry

November 29th, 2010

A new major exhibition at the AGO is always an exciting time. In the kitchen, we look to the shows for inspiration, designing menus to compliment the exhibitions. Our aim is to evoke the spirit of the culture through the scents, sights, and tastes of the cuisine. Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts has taken us into a realm of cooking that is exciting, challenging, complex, and exquisitely beautiful.

To help us learn about and master some of the techniques and flavours of this wonderfully vibrant and varied cuisine, we enlisted mother daughter team, Arvinda and Preena Chauhan of Arvinda’s artfully created Indian spice blends, to come into our kitchen and conduct a brief overview of some of the basics of Indian Cooking. What we learned in one day was truly inspiring and left us hungry for more.

Arvinda and Preena arrived with an arsenal of exotic ingredients. The array of spices, grouped into various families was akin to an artist’s pallet both in appearance and concept. What followed was unlike anything we had experienced in our formal training as chefs. The vast complexity of this cuisine became increasingly evident as the two accomplished cooks proceeded to walk us through a few chosen recipes and give us a quick primer on the ancient philosophy of the food and gastronomy that is Indian cuisine.

We watched, listened, tasted and tried our hands at samosas, chutneys, curries, dips, snacks and masalas. The care and ritual around the cooking of the rice alone made us truly reverent of the cuisine of India.

We look forward to practicing our new found skills and invite you to taste with us the splendours of India’s exquisite cuisine.

Anne Yarymowich, Executive Chef, FRANK

AGO Maharaja Contest

November 26th, 2010

Scotiabank and the AGO have come together to offer a contest which will see one lucky person win a trip of royal proportions! The winner and a guest will be whisked away to enjoy a VIP experience in India over 9 nights, and will receive private guided tours to Delhi, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Agra. The contest runs from November 20, 2010 to April 3, 2011 and includes round-trip airfare for two, accommodation, breakfast, and $1,000 CDN in spending money. This Grand Prize trip is valued at $25,000!

There is also the chance to win a 1 oz gold bar, one of two AGO Family/Dual memberships and an AGO private tour and dinner for 4.

Come to the AGO to enter to win at one of our ipad stations or enter the contest online.

Maharaja Members’ Preview

November 26th, 2010

Wow, what a turnout!

Our wonderful members took full advantage of their two days of exclusive Members’ previews for the spectacular Maharaja exhibition.

On November 17 and 18, we broke member preview attendance records with members flocking to view this fantastic exhibition. Not only did they attend in droves, they were full of praise for a show well done. I had the pleasure of greeting and speaking with many of our loyal members, here are just some of the comments I enjoyed hearing:

“Best exhibition ever!”

“We will return because there is too much to see in just one visit!”

“We loved the traditional dance demonstrations, what a terrific idea!”

Members arrived early and streamed into the AGO from opening right through closing. They viewed, they shopped, they dined, and they praised. I had so much fun hosting this preview; it was a fabulous two days meeting everyone and of course, I too loved the exhibition.

My first run-through in the morning to quickly orientate myself before our members arrived was a wonderful teaser and I could not wait to get back in for a longer visit. On my initial dash through, I had a few pieces in mind that I was keen to locate, among them the amazing Patiala necklace. As I reached the area where the beautifully intricate silver carriage was on display I could also see the stunning Star of India Rolls Royce beckoning me from the next room, and I had yet to find the necklace. Well, the necklace found me, as I approached the Rolls I was overcome by brilliant gleams of light that were bouncing off the 2,000 plus diamonds that make up the Patiala. I could bask in that light for hours, and plan to!

Luanne Pucci, Manager Membership, Art Gallery of Ontario

The Mysore Procession Painting

November 25th, 2010

Rembrandt’s Night Watch includes portraits of 18 people. But the Mysore procession painting in the first room of the exhibition introduces us to over 1,250 individuals, each with a particular look and dress. How could a single artist complete such a work?

We know that this style of painting, recording specific events for posterity, often called “company painting” (for the British East India Company), was most often done on commission. We don’t know exactly when the Mysore painting was completed, although we have a fairly good idea of the period of the procession it represents (mid-1800s) because of the identifiable characters it depicts.

What we do know is that it wasn’t painted by one person. The styles of painting in various parts of the 20-foot length of the entire piece indicate several hands at work. The fluid beauty of the painting at the places where the Maharaja and the British resident are depicted indicate the hand of the master. The smaller scale and more rigid handling of the figures later on in the procession clearly show the work of a student, while there seem to be other places where the skill level falls in between. This painting was made in a workshop or atelier, with a chief artist and his assistants at work, much like one can still see in India today. According to specialists in European painting, Rembrandt’s Night Watch might have been done the same way.

Dr Stephen Inglis is the adjunct curator of the Maharaja exhibition and curator emeritus at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Julian Schnabel’s The Patients and the Doctors

November 24th, 2010

Julian Schnabel’s The Patients and the Doctors is on display for a limited time as part of the exhibition Julian Schnabel: Art and Film.

The Patients and the Doctors is Schnabel’s first plate painting. “It was that radical moment that an artist waits for,” he later recalled. By affixing broken plates to the canvas, he destroys the illusion of reality that a representational painting traditionally attempts to create. His smashed shards do not merely represent reality, they are of reality. This breakthrough work heralded his originality, and paintings like this one propelled him to the centre of the 1980s international art world. After Schnabel completed this painting, various possible titles flashed through his mind, which he penned in his notebook:

Painting for the Italian Cinema
Painting for the French Cinema
Painting for the American Cinema
Roman Holiday #2
The Patients and the Doctors
Playboy in a Sportscar
Still Life Kathy

Even at this early moment in his artistic career, Schnabel was thinking about film and relying upon cinema to fuel his pictorial and narrative imagination.

You can hear the artist discuss his work by downloading the Julian Schnabel: Art and Film Audio Tour, FREE from iTunes.

The Patients and the Doctors

Julian Schnabel
born New York City, New York, United States, 1951
The Patients and the Doctors
oil, plates and bondo on wood
Courtesy of Julian Schnabel

Making History

November 23rd, 2010

The Maharaja exhibition plays a significant moment in the 110-year fundraising history of the gallery. Each year, the AGO receives generous financial support from government, individuals, and corporations, to help ensure we bring high caliber exhibitions and programming to the public.

The Maharaja exhibition and all the magnificent treasures it brings with it, also brought unprecedented support from a community of corporations who saw the significance in supporting an exhibition full of rich history to the GTA audience and beyond. We’re proud to say that the support from the Patrons of the Exhibition, Fairfax Financial, The Globe and Mail, Rogers Communications, and Scotiabank Group, is the largest for any single exhibition in AGO history!

What is amazing about the Patrons of the Exhibition’s commitment, is that their support will allow the AGO, for the first time, to welcome visitors 25 years and younger to the exhibition for free. In this way, the AGO hopes to open its doors to audiences that may not have thought about coming to the gallery, and to encourage repeat visits so as to enjoy everything that the the AGO has to offer. You’ll see that it’s part of our marketing campaign to make people aware of the “Free for 25 and under” offer and I am personally telling everyone I know and hope you will too!

Will you, or someone you know come to the AGO for the first time because of this offer? I hope so, because I think you’ll agree that you’ll want to return again and again.

Imogen Fannon, Associate, Partnerships, Art Gallery of Ontario

Maharaja opens: show-stoppers and quiet moments

November 20th, 2010

Finally, after a week of previews, the Maharaja exhibition is now open to EVERYONE. Sure, the people at the oh-so exclusive Gala got to see it before the rest of us, but one thing I learned this week was that actually, they didn’t see the whole thing. Yes, just like a restaurant’s soft opening or the preview week for a new play, the AGO team were still adding finishing touches to the exhibition. Now it’s ready.

What are you going to see? Of course, there are the big moments – the Rolls Royce, the silver carriage, and the famous Patiala necklace made by Cartier for Maharaja Bhupinder Singh in 1928.

The original necklace had only 2,930 diamonds; the yellow diamond that was the centrepiece weighed over 234 carats. Over time, many of the diamonds were sold, but Cartier bought back what it could find and restored the necklace, this time filling the missing stones with zirconia and synthetic rubies.

The show stoppers are great, but the real beauty of the exhibition is in taking one’s time with many of the quieter pieces, such as the many miniature paintings and long scrolls that reveal an exquisite style of beauty and storytelling as seen in South Asia.

You’ll see how the scroll paintings, of processions that depict the various groups of people who would be participate in such an affair, are similar to the room-commanding painting of the Delhi Durbar in 1903 (which does the exact same thing).

A sense of history comes through as well. This was a period of great change as the smaller kingdoms, who had survived and ruled as the great Mughal Empire crumbled, then had to meet the challenge of a new power in South Asia – the British. Finally, as their actual powers diminished further, the Maharajas became more famous for what they bought (check out the Art Deco room for that lifestyle) than what they represented. At the time of India and Pakistan’s independence, when the princely states were absorbed into the new nation states, they had to adapt again, some becoming hoteliers, others politicians, for example.

The story of the Maharajas is the story of power being reinvented again and again. This exhibition shows that in the form of art and material objects as styles changed according to the times.

All I know is that many of the the images I saw delighted my mind and my captured my heart. I’ll be visiting again. Will you?

  • Tell us what your favourites are from the exhibition. We would love to hear from you and highlight them on the blog.

Piali Roy is a Toronto writer with a long-held interest in South Asian culture and history. You can contact her at

Restoration of the Grange Steps

November 19th, 2010

by Jennifer Rieger, Historic Site Co-ordinator

The portico work is moving to its end. The foundations have been rebuilt and parged and the work of setting the treads back in has begun. When the portico began to shift the mortar between the steps cracked and the steps also shifted. The task now is to realign the steps with a smaller space between them. This has resulted in the steps becoming more tightly placed in relation to the foundation. A lip of the foundation now extends beyond the bottom step. As this is below grade it is not a problem as it will be covered with gravel; however, we do need to be careful to restrict any moisture from getting into the foundation structure while still allowing any moisture that does to escape. While attaching a flashing to the base of the bottom step and the overhang is one solution, we have decided to parge the area. The parging material is made of lime and cement (similar to the lime mortar we used on the chimneys) and will be placed so it slopes away from the steps. This material will be breathable so any moisture that enters can escape.

Grange Restoration

Grange Restoration

Grange Restoration

Performing in Maharaja: Bageshree Vaze

November 18th, 2010

Bageshree Vaze will be performing dance demonstrations in the AGO exhibition Maharaja: the Splendour of India’s Royal Courts. For the full performance schedule, click here.

Bageshree Vaze is a versatile and multi-talented Indo-Canadian artist. As a dancer and choreographer, she strives to create and present work that reflects her cultural influences. She was initially trained in the style of Bharatha Natyam in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and also trained in Hindustani (North Indian) classical vocal music with her father, Dr. Damodar Vaze. In 1996, Bageshree began to create dance works that combined her knowledge of South Indian dance and North Indian music, and she explored collaborations between Indian dance and Western forms, such as ballet, modern and West African dance.

In 1998, Bageshree began training in the North Indian classical dance style of Kathak. As this form uses Hindustani music, she was able to relate better to the rhythmic and musical language of this style, and has felt most comfortable choreographing and performing in Kathak. As a result, much of her work in recent years has drawn from the vocabulary of Kathak. Bageshree completed a Master’s degree in Dance from York University in 2000, and her final thesis was a choreography using Kathak language. In 2001, Bageshree also began training with renowned vocalist Veena Sahasrabuddhe, and she released a debut album, Bageshree, which combined Indian classical aesthetics with modern pop music and electronica. Bageshree was named ubbharta sitara (rising star) by MTV India in February 2004.

Bageshree strives to preserve the integrity of traditional dance and music, but to create new work that is reflective of her second-generation experience. Her performances fuse music and dance into one genre, according to principles of Indian aesthetics, rather than seeing them as separate genres, which has been the case in the modern art world. Tabla is an integral component of Kathak dance, and much of her current work is done in collaboration with her husband and tabla artist Vineet Vyas.

Visit her website at