Skip to Content

Art Gallery of Ontario

Keyword Site Search

Art Matters Blog

Archive: April, 2015

Conservation Notes: Displaying Henryk Ross’s powerful Łódź Ghetto photos

April 30th, 2015

By Katharine Whitman, Conservator, Photography

Henryk Ross, Negative #940 from Lodz Ghetto Collection Series, 1940-1944,  35 mm cellulose nitrate negative, 40.88 x 45.97 cm. Gift from archive of modern conflict, 2007.

Henryk Ross, Negative #940 from Lodz Ghetto Collection Series, 1940-1944, 35 mm cellulose nitrate negative, 40.88 x 45.97 cm. Gift from archive of modern conflict, 2007.

The exhibition Memory Unearthed: The Łódź Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross is rather unique for the AGO in that many different mounting methods are used to represent the powerful imagery of the photographs. It depicts the life in the Łódź Ghetto in German-occupied Poland: a work camp for Jewish and Romani people before they were sent to the Auschwitz and Chelmno concentration camps. We used a variety of display methods in the exhibition—pins, frames, magnets and custom-designed display cases—that work together to create a seamless display of period and modern prints.

New prints made from Ross's negatives, pinned to the wall of the gallery.

New prints made from Ross’s negatives, pinned to the wall of the gallery.

Unlike most exhibitions at the AGO Memory Unearthed includes many modern prints because most of the original images are only available in negative form. The negatives are nitrate-based and cannot be put on display for health and safety reasons. We put them into frozen storage, but before that we scanned them into a database and made new prints for the exhibition. To avoid detracting from the image, we opted to pin them to the walls of the gallery without frames (as above).

Prints sandwiched between Plexiglas.

Prints sandwiched between Plexiglas, with Japanese paper tabs.

This exhibition also includes period gelatin silver photographs, such as a folio of contact prints, identification cards, candid shots and wedding photographs. One of the more complicated mounting challenges we faced was how to minimally present Ross’s folio of contact negative prints safely and gracefully. The goal was to give the impression that the pages were almost floating in the case. To accomplish this, we:

  • affixed the folio pages to clear Plexiglas frames, which were then sandwiched in long sheets of additional Plexiglas;
  • attached Japanese paper tabs along the top edge, connecting the pages to Plexiglas frames;
  • used dry wheat-starch paste, a fully reversible adhesive, to attach the tabs to the folio pages;
  • and used archival double-stick tape to attach the tabs to the Plexiglas frames.

This method was successful, but to give visitors another way to view these important images, they are also projected on the wall near the presentation case in a film format (as in the photo below).

Gelber Gallery, where we are presentign the Ross folio.

Gelber Gallery, where we are presentign the Ross folio.

Learn more about the exhibition Memory Unearthed: The Łódź Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross here.

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

#BasquiatAGO: Now’s the Time to party!

April 30th, 2015


All good things must end, but we’re not saying goodbye to Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time without one last hurrah. To celebrate the exhibition and say thank you to everyone who supported its run at the AGO, we’re throwing a special party during its closing weekend. On May 9, 2015, we’re staying open from 5:30 to 10 p.m. and making specially priced tickets available for those hours so everyone in Toronto can experience this rare chance to see Basquiat’s work in Canada.

An all-ages event, the evening will feature DJs spinning music from Basquiat’s era, pop-up spoken word and beat-boxing performances, plus cash bars and food service (for guests 19+) in Walker Court. At 7 and 8:30 p.m., check out Counterpoint, a special performance organized by the AGO Youth Council featuring break dancers and ballet dancers that explores the relationship between high culture and pop culture through an unforgettable mashup. All programming is presented in partnership with Unity Charity.

Want to join us? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Tickets for timed-entry to Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time between 5:30 and 10 p.m. — which include admission to the party — are $12.50 for all ages. Admission is FREE for AGO members and for children five and under.
  • Tickets are available for purchase online at, in person and over the phone. The last timed-entry to the exhibition is 9 p.m.
  • The AGO’s other exhibitions and gallery spaces will be closed during the party.
  • The exhibition remains on view for one final day on Sunday, May 10, 2015, during normal visiting hours of 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, and regular prices remain in effect.

About Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time
Praised as “impressively broad and surprisingly nuanced” by the Globe and Mail, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time marks the first major exhibition of the artist’s works in Canada. Featuring over 80 artworks, primarily large-scale paintings and works on paper from museums and private collections across North America and Europe, the exhibition has been on view at the AGO since Feb. 7, 2015. An overnight celebrity and art world superstar by age 20, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) became famous for his powerful paintings that referenced the world around him — art history, music, the urban environment and popular culture — to explore issues of race, identity and social injustice. See the art and learn more at

#BasquiatAGO: An update on #crowningheroes

April 20th, 2015

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s groundbreaking and provocative artistic approach translated 1980s New York City into a radical visual language, one that confronted issues of racism, class struggle, social hypocrisy and black history. Inspired as much by high art — abstract expressionism and conceptualism — as by hip hop, jazz, sports, comics and graffiti, Basquiat used recurring motifs to explore issues that he continuously grappled with in his life and art.

The crown was one of these motifs. It appears on a variety of figures in his paintings, including renowned jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie; celebrated athletes, including Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and Hank Aaron; and sometimes the artist’s friends, like Michael Stewart. Basquiat used crowns — as well as halos — to honour his icons.

Inspired by Basquiat’s use of this symbol, we launched a city-wide Instagram program in March 2015 soliciting the public to “crown” their heroes using our pop-up neon crowns and to share stories with #crowningheroes and #BasquiatAGO. Above are just a couple of the many powerful narratives shared. Check out #crowningheroes on Instagram to see many more.

There are only a few shorts weeks left to experience this once in a lifetime exhibition – Now’s the Time to experience Basquiat at the AGO!