Skip to Content

Art Gallery of Ontario

Keyword Site Search

Art Matters Blog

Looking back on 2017

December 20th, 2017

What an exhilarating year! Check out our picks for 10 of the AGO’s best moments from 2017 (and trust us, whittling it down to only 10 was a challenge).

1. We acquired great art

Tim Pitsiulak. Swimming Bear, 2016. India ink and coloured pencil on paper, 74.9 x 105.4 cm. Purchased with funds donated by Greg Latremoille, 2017. © Estate of Tim Pitsiulak.

The AGO Collection is always evolving, and 2017 was a landmark year. We added some incredible art by incredible artists, including four breathtaking works from this year’s Art Toronto fair, 522 photographs by Diane Arbus (we now have the largest Arbus collection in Canada and the second largest in the world), three video works from Mark Lewis, and last but not least, a complete set of Andy Warhol’s Soup Cans I, announced at the inaugural Art Bash! gala, which will go on display in early 2018.

2. We spread GDT-Mania

Guillermo del Toro meeting fans Image by the AGO.

We invited visitors to celebrate the monster inside all of us with Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters. A huge success, thousands have flocked to the show (which has extended hours until it closes on January 7), as well as to two packed, horror-themed film series in Jackman Hall, a talk series featuring icons like R.L. Stine, a family Monster Bash and a special First Thursday headlined by Peaches. Even artist Ai Weiwei checked it out when he visited the AGO on his first-ever trip to Toronto. For many, a highlight was a free book signing with Guillermo del Toro himself, when thousands of fans met their hero.

3. We had tough conversations around Canada 150

Meryl McMaster. Edge of a Moment, 2017. Inkjet print, 152.4 x 239.7 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Katzman Contemporary. © Meryl McMaster.

2017 marked the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and the AGO responded with Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood, a groundbreaking exhibition featuring new and existing works by over 50 living Canadian artists, showcasing Indigenous and immigrant narratives that counter those we traditionally know from history books. Extending the challenging conversations in Every. Now. Then. beyond the exhibition, programs included workshops in Indigenous art forms and expressions with Grade 9 TDSB students, led by local First Nations, Inuit and Métis artists in conjunction with our AGO Education Officers. 

David Alexander and Julie Crooks examining photographs in Free Black North. Image by the AGO.

4. We helped make connections

Free Black North, curated by the AGO’s Julie Crooks, Assistant Curator, Photography, featured photographs of men, women and children living in Ontario in the mid-to-late 1800s; they were most likely descendants of Black refugees who escaped enslavement in the Southern United States. With no information about the individuals portrayed in these photographs, Belleville resident David Alexander was amazingly able to fill in some gaps. Alexander identified one of the men in the exhibition as his great-grandfather, John Henry Alexander. He was able to tell us that John’s father, Thomas, was enslaved in Kentucky before escaping to what was then Anderdon Township (now Amherstburg, Ontario). John Henry was the last of the Thomas’s five children, and later became a teacher.

5. We had tough conversations around Canada 150

A crowd at Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more. Image by the AGO.

It seems like only yesterday Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more was wowing visitors at the AGO, but the blockbuster exhibition wrapped a successful summer at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Mystical Landscapes wasn’t the only exhibition to go on tour; Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross moved audiences at the MFA Boston, while Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures blew minds at the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands and at the Met in New York City.

6. We showed the best women painters

Florine Stettheimer. A Model (Nude Self-Portrait), 1915. Oil on canvas, 122.5 x 173.4 cm., framed: 126 x 177 cm. Art Properties, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. Gift of the Estate of Ettie Stettheimer, 1967.

Visitors were spoiled with solo exhibitions focusing on some of the greatest artists of our time, who just happened to be women. Our 2017 exhibitions included modernist pioneer Georgia O’Keeffe; Canada’s pre-eminent living abstract artist Rita Letendre; Gershon Iskowitz Prize winner Sandra Meigs and the flamboyantly fun Florine Stettheimer.

7. We refreshed, restored and reimagined our spaces

Look:Forward in action. Image by the AGO.

In 2017, the AGO continued the great work we began at the end of 2016 by reinstalling our Collection galleries as part of Look:Forward  – including some works that had never been displayed or hadn’t been on display in years! We also found new spaces to display art, transforming an old ramp into the new Al Green Gallery, which can be found next to the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre.

8. A revitalized Grange Park opened to the public

Image by the AGO.

Our biggest project this year occurred outside the walls of the Gallery: Grange Park re-opened in July. This community-led revitalization project was made possible by an unprecedented partnership among the AGO, the City of Toronto and the local community. Key features included Henry Moore’s freshly installed Large Two Forms and increasing access to the Gallery via a new entrance from the park. Our south entrance includes a lounge area and gives direct access to the Edward P. Taylor Library & Archives and the Weston Family Learning Centre (WFLC).

9. We celebrated our cultural partners

Creative Minds at Massey Hall: Art + Nationhood. Image by the AGO.

Creating is more fun when you have great art partners. This spring we joined forces with Massey Hall, the CBC and the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity for Creative Minds, focusing on the relationship between art and nationhood. The AGO, Creative Time and The Power Plant worked together to produce the Creative Time Summit: Of Homelands and Revolutions, a two-day workshop for artists and thinkers to examine art and politics, held in September. A natural partnership formed between the AGO and TIFF during Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters, as we both offered complementary film programming to reinforce the connections between del Toro’s films and his cinematic inspirations. Finally, this December, Soulpepper Theatre brought the AGO’s European Collection to life with pop-up performances that respond to works on display. (No wonder art and culture is the heart of Toronto!)

10. We got to share it all thanks to you!

First Thursday crowd. Image by the AGO.

We wouldn’t have had such an amazing year without your generosity. Your support helps us showcase dynamic exhibitions from internationally renowned artists, discover and promote up-and-comers, provide engaging experiences and increase access to great art. Thank you to our Members, First Thursday partiers, Massive Party-goers, Art Bash: The Factory patrons and all of our visitors.

Thank you for subscribing to the AGOinsider every week, and see you in 2018!

Comments are closed.