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Archive: November, 2011

On loan from the V&A…

November 14th, 2011

… Is this unique example of virtuosic 16th-century miniature sculpture. Carved from a single piece of boxwood, it tells the story of St. George, who is famous for slaying the dragon that terrorized a Middle Eastern town and demanded its princess in exchange for peace. The piece tells the story of St. George’s encounter with the dragon, culminating in his victorious descent from the top of the sculpture with the rescued princess and defeated dragon in tow. See it in person so that you can make out each of the tiny details, including the heartbroken King and Queen who look down at the Princess from the top of the city gate in anticipation of her abduction by the dragon, no more than a few cm in size. Other examples of miniature boxwood carving from the Thomson Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario can be found in the display case alongside the piece from the Victoria & Albert Museum. Boxwood is a dense and hard wood with a fine grain that facilitates extremely detailed carving and is capable of a high polish. It became the material of choice in miniature sculptures of the 1400s and 1500s after the Ottoman conquest of North Africa cut off the elephant ivory trade between Europe and Africa.

Scenes from the Story of St. George
Around 1520
On loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum 

On loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum Scenes from the Story of St. George, around 1520, Netherlands, boxwood

Isn’t it beautiful? Leave us a comment below and tell us what you think!

Liveblog: McCready Lecture on Canadian Art by Philip Monk Marshall McLuhan, General Idea, and Me!

November 9th, 2011

Inaugurating their collective enterprise in the heyday of the “medium is the message,” General Idea were often dismissed as camp “triviality.” Yet they created a fictional system based on popular culture that was as coherent as the media analyses of Marshall McLuhan and the International Situationists. The lecture considers General Idea’s contribution to the Toronto School of communication theory. This liveblog follows along with Philip Monk,  Director of the Art Gallery of York University and former AGO curator, as he delves into the worlds of Marshall McLuhan and General Idea. The talk is due to begin at 7.00 – we hope you enjoy following along at home.  Holly, Internet & Social Media Content Coordinator

A bit about Philip Monk: Philip Monk is Director of the Art Gallery of York University and has served as a curator at both the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Power Plant. A published writer since 1977, he currently is finishing his eighth book Glamour is Theft: A User’s Guide to General Idea, a book as if written in the 1970s and as if written by Roland Barthes (in English translation).

19:04  Georgiana Uhlyarik, Canadian curator, is on stage to introduce Philip Monk.
Philip began as a critic and freelance curator in 1977. Last week he was announced as this year’s recipient of the Hnatyshyn Foundation prize for curatorial excellence in contemporary Canadian visual art.’

19.06 ‘Philip has been implicated in the history of General Idea for many years. It has been a complicated and ever evolving history – today is yet another chapter.’

19.07 Philip is now on stage.
I installed the 1984 General Idea retrospective – my first installation. (On screen is photos of that moment and of General Idea). What was is about Winnipeg? That’s the initial connection between Marshall Mcluhan, General Idea and me. But this is a talk about Toronto and the Toronto school of communications. It included McLuhan, why didn’t it include General Idea?’

19.10 … And baby makes four.

19.11 Mt title is a menage a trois, or a menage a cinq. MAT is the title of a General Idea exhibition. Two is the number of rivalry or mimicry, which are one and the same. Two insures we would talk about influence – the influence of Marshall McLuhan ON General Idea. It is mechanical. On the other hand we are already caught in the binary logic of either/or… the number three complicates matters.

19.13 The numbers two and three rule everything I say tonight. These numbers rule General Idea’s system – easy to remember, not easy to see. One-two-three – the numeric cosmology rules General Idea’s system.

19.15 GI were the first to recognise the pervasive influence of MM. A General Idea quote – ‘As children of the Summer of Love and spectators of the Paris riots, we were well aware of the International Situations and Society of the Spectacle on one hand, and of MM, drug culture, digger houses, underground papers and free schools on the other.’

19.16 For AA at least, McLuhan was a hero of sorts.

19.17 Commentary was the linguistic basis of much of General Idea’s fabrications. Rather than a specific medium, we need to discover the immersive environment in which General Idea’s system lived.

19.18 MM’s comments about invisible environments could also be applied to GI’s invisible system.

FILE Magazine could find its source in MM’s Industrial Bride. GI always proved that the dated was fertile, camp ground. Creating an archaeology of the past, images of the future, drawn from fortune magazine, where the same kinds that MM used. They were contemporary for MM and retro for GI.

19.20 FILE published from a Canadian point of view. At a high point in Canadian nationalism, GI were nationalistic too. Another MM trait perhaps?

GI’s criticism was produced from an artistic, not an academic point of view, mimicking advertising and popular culture at a higher semiotic level.

19.21 ‘The best weapon against myth is to mythify it in turn… since myth robs language of something, why not rob myth.’ (Barthes quote)

19.22 GI not limited to MM in their media analysis – extended to the Kabalah, de Bord’s Society of the Spectacle and the wildcard of William Burroughs.

19.24 Burroughs offered models, methods and lingo to assimilate and use magazines (1968 novel Nova Express). (Shows WB quote about newpapers and the image virus).

19.26 PM talking about the influence of Levi Strauss and his model of myth on General Idea

19.28 MM was only part of the mythic, subversive mix. I want to look at the relationship between MM and GI in a more diffused way than just tracking influence.

19.29 ‘Perhaps the mere speed up of human events and the resulting increase of interfaces among men and institutions insure a multitude of innovations that upset all existing arrangements whatever.’ – Marshall McLuhan

19.30 In light of MM’s quotation conside this GI quotation:

‘When the junkie, when the art junkies gotta get our fix, we gotta make a connection, we need our correspondences’

19.31  ‘In this article seeing art as a system of signs in motion as an archive and indicator and stabilizer of culture as a means of creating fetish onjects as residence for the field of imagery defining a culture, seeing all this and more in many ways we have become aware of the necessity of developing methods of generating realizing stability alternate myths alternate lifestyles.’ General Idea

19.34 ‘We take General Idea at their word as much as we don’t take them at their word. Their work appeared visually as artworks but its event of appearing was performative. The system put their Pavillion in place and kept it standing – a priority given to language.’

19.35 The systematic nature of their work has even now yet to be addressed. Whilst it does not appear, all their operations are linked through it. The systems ruling term, glamour, is a concept who’s operations are achieved through the applications of techniques, produced by strategies and insinuated by tactics.


19.36 Showing a diagram of Glamour’s operation of reversibility. (Barthesesque diagram)

19.38 I want to cover the early ground that instituted this system. The Pavilion was built on a spacial and temporal fault line – we don’t go far back enough in figuring out where this came from. GI were architect advocates. Through their verbal advocacy the Pavilion was erected. ‘This is the story of General Idea,’ they said. We believed them, but behind every story is a back story.

19.41 Everything is permitted was a Nietzsche slogan GI took from Burroughs. Talking about images banks and the collage/cut-up method.

19.42 Perpetually changing, constantly colliding, different alignments of words and images, ever new configurations.

19.45 The Borderline was a concept MM and GI shared. An ambiguous model signifying domains in politics and psychology, it was a major operative concept for General Idea. ‘Ambiguity is not a symptom of a schizophrenic who travels back and forth across the line’. Mirror, cutup and borderline were one and the same – ‘the vacuum created by your invisibility has to be filled with words.’ The Pavillion was built on this unstable fault, borderline, were the border dweller (GI) performed in stolen moments.

19.49 ‘Two heads are better than one, but it’s really just one more mouth to feed on’ – General Idea

19.51 Words are a method of invasion, even of the image.

19.52 As in the tripod, a motif of their late 1970s work, is a symbol of stablity. They are all each other’s right hand man and would hate to be reduced to a couple. They weren’t always a threesome – a three man they became. They did not conceptually consolidate until 1975 – portraits of themsevles as architects, poodles, baby seals, etc.

19.54 Their association with McLuhan ends in 1975 with the passage of two to three. From Borderline, where one and two dominates, to three. This number three was all about control, constructing our vision. Their fixed point of view was a throwback.

19.57 We cannot judge or argue with a mythic system such as General Idea’s.

19.58 General Idea were a laboratory, a studio, an advertising agency. Their collective dream was the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion.
The talk is over – time for some questions for the audience. 

Q. Would you say that some of General Idea’s work, or details or their works, fell out of this system by accident, experiment or chance?

A. Crisis was repeated – and they were always able to cope. Whilst the system seems to have continued throughout – there was a deviation of sorts but with the burning down of the Pavilion they turned their back on their early system. In 1986 there was a crisis in moving to New York and they had to dumb it down for Americans which fell out of the system.

‘I Sent my interperatation to AA (Bronson) and he thought it was fundamentally true and groundbreaking.’

‘Everything that they say in their work is related to everything else.’

Q. What do you think happened in 1975? Until 1975 there’s an interest in the mirror and after it’s the interest in the menage a trois… from two to three.

A. They began to consolidate themselves… in 1975 they had to brand themselves because people were confused about them and who they were. It was necessary – that’s how the portrait came about and how the story began. They consolidated into a trio and the business model came up then.A collective dream became more specifically focussed. They had to have an artistic identity when they began showing commercially.

‘Everything in General Idea is coded – you have to read the code words.’

Members’ Shopping at shopAGO

November 9th, 2011

From November 22th through 27th, AGO Members receive 20% off regular priced merchandise and 15% off jewellery at shopAGO!

Exquisite jewellery. Luxurious art books and catalogues. Unique stocking stuffers. Delightful toys and books for little hands. And much, much more!

As a Member, you always get a discount at shopAGO. During Members’ Shopping Week, drop in often and enjoy the extra savings — just in time for the gift-giving season.

*Regular Member’s Discount is 10%. Promotional discounting of 15% and 20% is in lieu of, not in addition to, regular discount of 10%. Please note, no further discounts apply to previously reduced merchandise, sales items and Mourlot Archival Prints. See Sales Associates in-store for further details.

Special events during the Member’s Shopping Event include:

 Sprucewood Shortbread Sampling – Tuesday, November 22nd  12pm to 6pm


 Anne Sportun Trunk Show –  Wednesday, November 23rd  12pm to 8pm


 Jack Chambers: Light, Spirit, Time, Place and Life book signing with Dennis Reid

Wednesday, November 23rd  6pm – 8pm


Dandi Maestre – Friday, November 25th   12pm to 4pm


 He Named Her Amber book launch with Iris Haussler and David Moos

Saturday, November 26th  2pm to 4pm

Visionary Canadian Jack Chambers Celebrated at the AGO

November 3rd, 2011

Jack Chambers, Self-Portrait No. 2, 1953(TORONTO – Nov. 3, 2011) The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) opens an exhibition of Canadian artist Jack Chambers’ work on Nov. 26, 2011. Entitled Jack Chambers: Light, Spirit, Time, Place and Life, the collection surveys the varying styles and media used by the artist to create an incredible range of work. Curated by renowned Canadian art scholar Dennis Reid with art critic Sarah Milroy, the exhibition is based largely on holdings from the AGO’s permanent collection and remains on view until May 13, 2012.

Situated in the Signy Eaton gallery, the exhibition is presented within four central themes, each anchored by a representative keystone piece in rooms themed “Light,” “Spirit,” “Time,” and “Place”. More than 100 works in various media make up the exhibition, including 40 paintings, 58 drawings, five films, four prints, as well as archival photos, process materials,  notebooks and letters from the AGO’s Special Collection. Featured paintings include Meadow, 401 Towards London, McGilvary County, and Lunch. A room in the centre of the space will display a selection of Chambers’ influential films including Mosaic, R34, Hybrid, Hart of London and Circle.

Read the whole press release

How To Create A Chagall-Inspired Menu

November 1st, 2011

We go behind-the-scenes with the AGO’s Executive Chef Anne Yarymowich  to find out where she gets her ideas for a menu to complement a show like Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde and to find out about some of her favourite dishes from shows past.

FRANK Food Chagall 1


Anne collaborates with chef de cuisine Martha Wright to create contemporary comfort cuisine: food that is warm and inviting, prepared with honesty and integrity. FRANK’s menu showcases an exclusively Ontarian wine list and seasonal ingredients, striving to support local producers with a dedication to global concepts of sustainable farming and slow food. But a meal at FRANK or in our cafe is about more than just tasty eats . As Anne explains, it’s all about enhancing the visitor experience by creating a relationship between the art and the food….

“When I’m planning a menu based on a show at the Gallery my inspiration comes from a number of places. One is the point of origin of the artist or the place that he or she worked. For example, Matisse is French but his work, such as his Odalisque pieces, has Moroccan content from when he visited the French North African Colonies. I also look to the subject matter of the paintings. Sometimes we go shopping for specific vessels, like tagines for Morocco.

In Chagall we have a Russian Jew working in Paris so there are many rich sources of inspiration. We always ask ourselves (of the show) ‘is it food friendly?’ I’ve got a vast collection of cookbooks and magazines that I can turn to for ideas and inspiration, including a great book on Jewish cuisine.

We wanted to make sure that the menu for Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde was respectful of Jewish culture. We’re not a kosher kitchen but we chose a menu that didn’t use any pork or shellfish.

We always do lots of background research when preparing for a show like Chagall.  Luckily this time we had done lots of the groundwork already when researching for Catherine The Great: Arts for the Empire – Masterpieces from The State Hermitage Museum, Russia. I was also able to draw from my own heritage – my background is Ukranian and there is definitely crossover between Ukranian and Russian cuisine.

FRANK Chagall Food 2

Then there’s Paris, where Chagall such a crucial period of time. It’s a great culinary destination and one we can invoke with food like croissants and confit – the kinds of food Chagall might have eaten at that time.  It takes about a month to brainstorm, test and mull over new concepts for our menus.

We try to stay true to the Frank brand, but with tweaks and nods to what’s going on in the Gallery. Our ultimate goal is to enrich the visitor’s experience of the show. Using tastes and sounds and bits and bites we help to create an immersive experience for the visitor that uses all of their senses. For example, when we had the William Wegman show made up exclusively of pictures of his Weimarner dogs we decided to do ‘dog biscuits’ for the café. I definitely think of the food as part of the Gallery as a whole, as another way of enhancing the guest experience.

I really enjoy Eastern European cuisine as it’s close to my heart. There are so many different expressions of a borscht, and thinking about that tradition reminds me of my mother and grandmother. I’m actually judging a borscht contest soon called ‘Not Your Baba’s Borscht’ as part of a charity fundraiser.’

I also look for food in the images of the shows. Once in a while there will be a still life with an eggplant in it that we can use. Inspiration can come from the work itself, the style, the title or the content. When we had our Surrealism exhibition we showed Magritte’s famous The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images) – the picture of the pipe with the text below it, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe (this is not pipe). So to complement that piece we served a chocolate dessert with the words ‘c’est ne pas à pied’ written in chocolate sauce below it. It means, this is not a pie.

Food can be very whimsical and tongue in cheek. It’s nice to be playful – when we brainstorm a show everyone in the kitchen will get together with a load of food magazines and swap jokes and banter whilst we come up with ideas.

Art is very sensual and so is food. Both are visual, visceral experiences that use colour, viscosity and textures. We want our guests to feel that relationship.  We also know we have to cater to today’s palette and part of the challenge is picking dishes that are exciting but also have that popular appeal. “




Russian-inspired borscht featuring Ontario beets


Pan-fried stuffed egg with horseradish and caviar on a salad of baby arugula, baby beet greens, pumpernickel croutons and Dijon vinaigrette


Pan-seared steelhead trout fillet on buckwheat blini, with roasted baby carrots and lemon-chive sour cream sauce


Braised beef brisket with caraway rye bread pudding, choucroute and caramelized onion


Mushroom barley stuffed cabbage rolls with truffle cream sauce and roasted wild mushrooms


Apple charlotte russe with brandy Alexander sauce and brandied damson plums


Chocolate rum baba with poached pear


You can join us for dinner at FRANK Restaurant for a Chagall-inspired prix fixe menu. To order call FRANK Restaurant at 416 979 6688 or book online.

$65* Chagall & FRANK Restaurant Package:

  • 3-course prix fixe dinner at FRANK
  • 1 adult admission to Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde
  • 1 audio guide

Available October 18, 2011 through January 15, 2012.
Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30 – 8:30 pm**

* Price includes taxes but excludes alcoholic beverages and gratuities. The FRANK prix fixe dinner is also available on its own for $50.

**Bookings subject to availability. Exhibition Viewing and Dinner must occur on the same night. Offer not transferable to other promotions.


Indian artist Gauri Gill wins $50,000 Grange Prize

November 1st, 2011

Sunita, Nirmala and Sita, from the series Balika Mela Portraits, 2003

(TORONTO/MONTREAL – Nov. 1, 2011) After an eight-week public vote, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and Aeroplan are proud to announce that Delhi-based artist Gauri Gill is the winner of The Grange Prize 2011. The $50,000 prize is Canada’s largest photography prize, also granting $5,000 and an international residency to each of the runners-up, and is the only major Canadian art prize to have its winner chosen by the public.

Gill is an Indian photographer born in 1970 and based in Delhi, India, whose body of work includes a decade-long study of people living in marginalized communities in Rajasthan, India. Her photographs “often address ordinary heroism within challenging environments,” says a statement on behalf of the nominating jury, “depicting the artist’s often-intimate relationships with her subjects with a documentary spirit and a human concern over issues of survival.”

Read the whole press release

Gauri Gill (Indian), Sunita, Nirmala and Sita, from the series Balika Mela Portraits, 2003, archival pigment print, 76 x 102 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Nature Morte Gallery. © 2011 Gauri Gill.