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Archive: January, 2013

Ask a Conservator: Frame of reference?

January 31st, 2013

Antique frames in storage. Photo by Scott Cameron/AGO.

A visitor asks: Do you receive artworks with frames or do you construct them to fit?

Margaret Haupt, deputy director of Collections Management and Conservation at the AGO, replies:

Frames are an integral part of every art collection — they serve to protect and enhance the artwork. The best frames can be works of art themselves. Most of the paintings you see on display at the AGO are exhibited in the frames that were on them when the pieces came to us. Generally, original frames are considered a valuable attribute of the artwork.

A frame protects the picture that it surrounds — it gives us a means of hanging the picture, and protects the edges from damage. When the frame incorporates picture glass in front and a backing layer behind, it can actually provide a sealed microclimate for housing and display. We do upgrade the frames as necessary to ensure that they are structurally sound, they won’t rub the front edges of the paintings and that they are sealed.

AGO framers do make frames whenever an artwork arrives without one, or when the existing frames are inappropriate — in some instances, they can’t be upgraded to be fully functional or they are visually incompatible with the painting.

The Gallery’s framing workshop. Photo by Scott Cameron/AGO.

The work of the Frame Shop is focused on pieces that will be displayed in AGO exhibitions. Staff also ensure that works loaned to other museums for exhibition are presented to their best advantage and that they are framed to withstand both the rigours of travel, as well as any differences between environmental conditions at home and away.

The staff sometimes perform minimal conservation treatments such as stabilizing the structure and surface decoration through consolidation; light cleaning, such as removal of dust; and toning out any distracting losses. More complex interventions are undertaken in consultation with our conservators.

Unknown Italian, 17th century; gold leaf over gesso over carved wood; 220 x 158.2 x 6.2 cm; Gift of Joey and Toby Tanenbaum, 2000; © 2013 Art Gallery of Ontario.

The AGO has a large collection of historic period frames, many of which are important decorative arts objects in their own right. Those are separately labeled when installed in the galleries with an artwork. We also keep original frames from the Canadian historical collection, as well as any frames that represent a conscious and deliberate choice of the artist for the presentation of his or her work. There are frames in this collection that can even be considered an intrinsic part of the artwork.

We reframe paintings using historic frames when we find a good match. Period frames provide the viewer with a broader sense of the original physical context or environment in which the work was intended to be displayed when it was created.

As a “mat”ter of fact…
Notes from Works on Paper conservator Joan Weir

Works on paper are usually displayed in frames that are fabricated to standardized sizes in the AGO framing shop. As a space-saving measure, because the AGO works on paper collection contains more than 20,000 items, most of the works are only framed up when needed for exhibition. When not on display, the works are stored in their protective acid free mats in boxes in the Marvin Gelber Print and Drawing Study Centre.

A variety of museum matting styles are used for displaying works on paper. Some factors we take into consideration include the date of the work, the type of image, the media being displayed and the artist’s intent. For example a 19th-century etching print may have a window mat that comes up to the printing plate mark, while a contemporary print might not have a window mat at all and may be “float mounted” instead. Some works are artist framed and we would not alter them for display or storage.

Thank you for your question!


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


Frida & Diego have left the building

January 29th, 2013

The ofrenda honouring Frida and Diego that was located at the end of the exhibition.

Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics & Painting, the sizzling exhibition that recently made its only Canadian stop at the AGO, drew 186,849 visitors during its 13-week run from Oct. 20, 2012 to Jan. 20, 2013.

Hailed as a “showstopper” by Toronto Life and “a must-see” by the Toronto Star, the exhibition also got a lot of people excited about visiting us: over the course of Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics & Painting, thousands of people signed up for AGO memberships and all the accompanying benefits.

Due to the enthusiastic response from GTA residents and visitors to our fair city, we extended the hours of Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics & Painting during its final days to give visitors one last chance to get acquainted with the first couple of Mexican modernism and their incredible work.

Special promotions related to the exhibition were popular too. Thousands of diners at FRANK restaurant, caféAGO and the brand new Galleria Italia Café enjoyed Mexican-inspired fare, designed by executive chef Anne Yarymowich and chef de cuisine Jay Tanuwidjaja. Retail sales at shopAGO were also strong, with catalogue sales exceeding expectation and selling out well in advance of the exhibition closing.

Visitors of all ages made contributions at the exhibition’s ofrenda, a traditional Mexican tribute to Frida and Diego designed by artist Carlomagno Pedro Martínez. Click here to view the ofrenda’s progress over the exhibition’s run.

It takes a lot to bring an exhibition of this calibre to the AGO, and we’re grateful to Scotiabank, Gretchen & Donald Ross, Scott & Krystyne Griffin, Valerie Greenfield & Hunter Thompson, the Globe and Mail, GO Transit, the Government of Canada, the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund and the Government of Ontario for their generous support. Thank you!

Co-organized by the AGO, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City, Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting travels next to Atlanta where it will open at the High Museum on Feb. 16, 2013. We hope the people of Georgia enjoy this extraordinary experience as much as we did!

Josef Sudek: The Poet of Prague (podcast)

January 22nd, 2013

Josef Sudek, The Window of My Studio, 1940-1954

Josef Sudek, The Window of My Studio, 1940-1954, Gelatin silver print, 29.9 x 24.0 cm, Art Gallery of Ontario/Courtesy Anna Fárová Estate © 2012

Click to play:

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Recorded: Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2012, at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Duration: 53:57

Josef Sudek is regarded as one of the most legendary photographers from the 20th century and is best known for his compelling photographs of Prague. In this talk, AGO Next Members heard from AGO curator of photography Maia Sutnik and Stephen Bulger — owner of Toronto’s Stephen Bulger Gallery — about this visionary artist before viewing more than 175 photographs selected from the AGO’s Collection that span Sudek’s entire career.

View examples of Sudek’s work here.

The AGO help this event in conjunction with the exhibition Josef Sudek: The Legacy of a Deeper Vision, running Oct. 3, 2012, to April 7, 2013.

Patti Smith at the AGO: Tips for hopeful ticket-buyers

January 21st, 2013

We’re very excited that Patti Smith will be performing at the AGO on March 7, 2013, and we suspect you are too. We also suspect you have some questions about how to get tickets, and we want to make sure you have all the info you need.

Part of the AGO’s programming for Patti Smith: Camera Solo, An Evening of Words and Song with Patti Smith will be part of the March lineup for our 1st Thursdays program on March 7, 2013, with two separate performances — one at 7:30 p.m. and one at 9:45 p.m. Advance tickets for An Evening of Words and Song with Patti Smith, which include 1st Thursday general admission, are $13 for AGO members and $15 for the public and go on sale Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, at 10 a.m. at ago.net, by phone and in person at the Gallery.

A few things!

  • There is a strict two-ticket limit per person (we will cancel any tickets purchased beyond of the limit).
  • We will not accept ticket orders by phone, online or in person before 10 a.m.
  • Please have your membership number available if you are a Member. All customers should have their method of payment available in order to expedite their purchase.
  • General admission tickets to 1st Thursdays, which do not include access to Smith’s performances, are $10 for general public and $8 for AGO members.
  • This is an intimate event with Patti Smith with a very a limited amount of tickets, and we expect this event to sell out very quickly. We cannot guarantee that patrons attempting to purchase tickets by any of the three available methods will be successful.

Buying online

  • Get tickets here starting at 10 a.m. on Feb. 8.
  • When you arrive at our ticketing page, please make sure you have user details ready (either your Membership login info or your user ID and password you have used previously to buy tickets).
  • If you have never purchased tickets from our site, we recommend you register as a user in advance and have your login information ready at 10 a.m. on Feb. 8.
  • Please make sure to have your method of payment on hand to keep the process moving.
  • Do not attempt to purchase more than two tickets; accounts that try to do so will be removed from the system.

Buying by phone

  • buyers are welcome to call 416-979-6608. Members of the Gallery also have the option to call 416-979-6620.
  • Only calls taken at 10 a.m. or later will be processed.
  • Please have your Members’ number and method of payment ready.

Buying in person

  • Due to public safety/site security reasons, the AGO cannot allow overnight camping on its property. Customers wishing to purchase tickets in person for the Patti Smith events are asked to arrive half an hour prior to the events going on sale at 9:30 a.m.
  • Members should have membership number handy to take advantage of their membership discount.
  • All patrons should have their method of payment handy, to help speed up the transaction.
  • Being in the line does not guarantee purchase. The event will sell out extremely fast and not all customers will obtain tickets.
  • Members will purchase tickets at the same spot as non-Members; AGO staff will ensure that everyone hoping to buy a ticket for Smith’s performances is directed to the right line.

If you’ve read all this info and still have questions, please leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page, or contact us via Twitter.

An introduction to Frida, Naturaleza Viva (1983) at the AGO (podcast)

January 18th, 2013

Film poster for Frida, Naturaleza Viva

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Recorded: Jan. 9, 2013 in Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario
Duration: 40:15

Mauricio Toussaint, Consul General of Mexico in Toronto, and Dot Tuer, guest curator of Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting at the AGO, introduce a free screening of the 1983 Mexican film Frida, Naturaleza Viva (1983), directed by Paul Leduc with Ofelia Medina as Frida and painter Juan José Gurrola as Diego. They discuss the artists and their iconic status and how the film represents their lives, their time and their art. The recording ends with a Q&A with the audience.

The screening was presented in partnership with Consulate General of Mexico in Toronto, as part of the programming for the AGO’s Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting.

A fond goodbye to the Frida & Diego ofrenda

January 17th, 2013

As Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting draws to a close, we want to thank everyone who left pieces of their hearts and minds behind and together made the ofrenda a deeply meaningful part of the exhibition.

Since Mexican artist Carlomagno Pedro Martínez installed this tribute to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at the end of October, AGO visitors have been contributing their thoughts, wishes and memories to the ofrenda. Some have left paper flowers, others notes to one of the artists or both — one visitor even paid homage to the artists and their heritage with a family photo.

Here is the ofrenda shortly after Carlomagno constructed it (late October 2012):


Read the rest of this entry »

Frida Kahlo: Her Life and Art (podcast)

January 16th, 2013

Hayden Herrera

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Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download 55.4 MB MP3

Recorded: Dec. 6, 2012, in the The Anne Tanenbaum Gallery School, Art Gallery of Ontario
Duration: 1:20:48

In this talk, Hayden Herrera interweaves Kahlo’s biography and her painting. She discusses Kahlo’s turning to painting after her bus accident at age 18, her difficult marriage to muralist Diego Rivera and its effect on her imagery, her childlessness and her numerous surgical operations and how she dealt with them in her self-portraits.

Hayden Herrera is an art historian and biographer of Frida Kahlo. She has lectured widely, curated several exhibitions of art, taught Latin American art at New York University and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her books include Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo; Mary Frank; and Matisse: A Portrait. She is working on a critical biography of Isamu Noguchi. She lives in New York City.

This talk was presented as part of the AGO’s programming for Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting. Click here to see our upcoming art talks and symposia.

Help us celebrate the art of Patti Smith

January 7th, 2013

Patti Smith: Camera Solo, opening at the AGO on Feb. 9, 2013, will highlight how Smith’s photography is tied to her interest in poetry and literature, the same passion for words that shines brightly in her lyrics.

To celebrate these connections, we are including listening stations featuring Smith’s music in our presentation of Camera Solo, and we want you to decide which songs to include in the playlist. To help you make your choices, Jim Shedden, head of Digital Content and Publishing at the AGO and a huge Patti Smith fan for 35 years, put together a list of 15 definitive Patti Smith songs, explaining the significance of each track.

You can vote on our Facebook page until noon on Friday, Jan. 11! Just “like” the comment that names your favourite song, or if it’s not listed, add a comment of your own. Read the rest of this entry »