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What it sounds like when 500+ voices of Choir! Choir! Choir! lift up David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in Walker Court.

January 18th, 2016

On January 10, David Bowie passed away at the age of 69, just a few days after releasing a new album. We were shocked and saddened to lose an artist who inspired us all; and we were warmed by your Starman memories and David Bowie is exhibition tributes. So on January 16, we teamed up with drop-in choral group Choir! Choir! Choir! to honour Bowie’s legacy with a one-of-a-kind performance of his legendary cosmic opus, Space Oddity. More than 550 people took their protein pills, put on their helmets, and gathered in the Gallery’s Walker Court to belt out the classic song in three-part harmony. It was emotional, surreal, and uplifting, and we saw this in the expression of every singer.

What we didn’t know at the time: the world was also listening. Our live Periscope broadcast was made a featured video on the streaming site, shared hundreds of times, gathered 90,000 views and over 1,000,000 likes, and caught the attention of Twitter VP Kirstine Stewart and Twitter CEO and Co-founder Jack Dorsey (to name a few). We’re so glad we were able to share this not only with Bowie fans in Toronto, but with Bowie fans across the globe. And we think Major Tom heard us.

Conservation Notes: Resurfacing Large Two Forms

July 30th, 2015

By Lisa Ellis, Conservator, Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Standing at the corner of McCaul and Dundas streets since 1974, Henry Moore’s monumental sculpture Large Two Forms has become an important part of Toronto’s cultural landscape. Scores of school children, families, local residents and out-of-town visitors enjoy sitting in the large void of the northern element, exploring and enjoying the surfaces and forms and now, perhaps more than ever, posing for photographs and selfies with the bronze giant.

Recently, the sculpture has begun to show its age. Those resting in the forms’ voids have inadvertently polished away the original textured surfaces. Pollution and moisture from the air have reacted with what was once a golden-brown surface, most notably on the top of the forms, turning it into a powdery light green corrosion layer. Worrisome stress cracks had opened up across welded joins and in the larger void where many visitors sat or stood for photos.

With generous funding and support from the Henry Moore Foundation, and after much planning and preparation, a small team of AGO staff members spent a month in the summer of 2015 addressing these issues.The treatment plan consisted of repairing stress cracks and attending to the appearance of the sculpture. Read the rest of this entry »

Spotlight: AGO Seniors Arts Engagement Program

July 13th, 2015

Existing programs for seniors have demonstrated that engaging them in meaningful conversations about art, even in cases where cognitive changes are significant, creates a strong sense of well-being for both clients and caregivers. Adding the opportunity for personal creative expression can only enhance the experience, as professionals working in this field of study have learned that practicing creativity:

  • has been proven to support emotional well-being;
  • reinforces the brain cells responsible for memory;
  • cultivates a positive approach to life that enhances the immune system; and
  • promotes social interactions that helps combat depression.

The Seniors Arts Engagement Program is a three-year pilot at the AGO supported by the Elia Family in which we’re experimenting with art-making, in addition to tours, and we’re working to develop a multigenerational engagement approach. On their visit to the AGO, participants take a tour of the collection, looking at some examples of sculpture, and guides encourage conversation about the artworks. Later, in Galleria Italia, the groups enjoys a light lunch and then a facilitated art-making activity.

In the first year we partnered with the City of Toronto’s Long-Term Care Homes & Services Division, which allowed us to connect with a range of seniors. We’re currently in the second year and phase of this pilot program, and we have Baycrest as an additional partner who will help gather clinical evidence to support creative programming for older adults.

For further information please contact Melissa Smith, Gallery Guide and Adult Education Coordinator, at or 416-979-6660 ext. 268.

#BasquiatAGO: Thelma Golden on artists as catalysts of cultural change

March 4th, 2015

My interest is in artists who understand and re-write history, who think about themselves within the narrative of the larger world of art but who have created new places for us to see and understand.
— Thelma Golden

Watch Thelma Golden’s February 2013 TED-Ed talk on her mission to use her position as director and chief curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem to create a new art history narrative. To accomplish this, she says, she had to “see the way in which artists work, understand the artist studio as laboratory, imagine then reinventing the museum as a think tank and [look] at the exhibition as the ultimate white paper.”

Golden will be speaking at the AGO on March 28 as part of the Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time Symposium. Learn more and book tickets here.

Watch “It Could Have Been Me”: Perspectives on the Fight for Racial Justice and the Legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat

February 9th, 2015

Recorded Feb. 5, 2015, from 7:30 to 9 pm in Baillie Court at the AGO

Jean-Michel Basquiat boldly and directly confronted issues of race, class, police brutality and social justice in his work. These issues are at the forefront of today’s cultural discourse and they were the focus of a panel discussion of Toronto-based young black artists, artists, thinkers and cultural figures at AGO First Thursdays on Feb. 5, 2015. The panelists shared their insights on the realities of anti-black racism, state-sanctioned violence and other issues, using Basquiat’s work and legacy as a jumping-off point. Presented in partnership with the Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition, “It Could Have Been Me”: Perspectives on the Fight for Racial Justice and the Legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat was moderated by Kim Katrin Milan and featured artist and educator Randell Adjei, social justice educator janaya (j) khan, Mustafa Ahmed (a.k.a. Mustafa the Poet) and artist/activist Syrus Marcus Ware. The panel was introduced by Alexandria Williams of the Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition and Stephanie Smith, the AGO’s chief curator.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Timeruns from Feb. 7 to May 10, 2015, at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Howard and Cindy Rachofsky: Collecting art, building a community, leaving a legacy

October 29th, 2014

How do you build community through art collecting? Ask Howard and Cindy Rachofsky. Together they have helped make Dallas a major centre for contemporary art, architecture and philanthropy. As the powerful agents behind the revitalization of the Dallas Museum of Art in 2012, the Rachofskys co-founded The Warehouse, turning what had been an abandoned industrial building into a world class art centre, complete with classrooms, a library and over 18,000 square feet of exhibition space. Over the years, their Richard Meier–designed home has become a community hub and a venue that embraces and promotes contemporary art throughout the city. It is also where the Rachofskys annually host TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art, an event that has raised more than $45 million for AIDS research and for contemporary art acquisitions at the Dallas Museum of Art. In the video above, they discuss their approach to collecting and their contributions to the DMA. Says Howard: “In making the gift, along with our friends, to the museum, gave us the additional responsibility of being curatorially smart and trying, while developing our own collection and responsibilities, recognizing that there are works of art that will ultimately be in a wonderful public institution and that will be in the company of other works in the museum. And therefore it’s the goal to make the museum’s collection as good as it can possibly be and as informative as it can be.”

On Nov. 6, the Rachofksys will share their passion for art and discuss the intersections between collecting, philanthropy and civic change in a Brown Bag Lunch & Talk at the AGO. Tickets are on sale now.

Listen: Jim Munroe, Mark Connery and Jonathan Mak talk video games and comics

June 4th, 2014

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Recorded: March 26, 2014, at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Duration: 01:29:05

In this podcast, hear AGO artist-in-residence Jim Munroe in conversation with artists Mark Connery, a Toronto-based comic and zine artist, and Jonathan Mak, a Toronto-based game developer, about their work, indie culture and how playfulness factors into their practices. Read the rest of this entry »

Listen: Brown Bag Lunch & Talk, with John Elderfield

March 17th, 2014

Why Matisse matters – and de Kooning, Bob Dylan and other great moderns

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Recorded: Jan. 17, 2014, in Baillie Court, Art Gallery of Ontario
Duration: 01:06:15

A leading authority on modern art, John Elderfield offers us an in-depth and insightful look at Henri Matisse and his ongoing relevance in contemporary art and culture. Elderfield brings a wealth of knowledge to this talk, as an independent curator and art historian, a consultant to Gagosian Gallery and as chief curator emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, where he directed more than 20 exhibitions, including Fauvism and its Affinities (1976), Kurt Schwitters (1985), de Kooning: A Retrospective (2011), and Henri Matisse: A Retrospective (1992).

This one-hour talk included a self-serve brown bag lunch of a sandwich and small pastry, created by the AGO’s culinary team.

The Brown Bag Lunch & Talk series is generously supported by

  • Maxine Granovsky Gluskin & Ira Gluskin

In association with

  • The Drawing Room

Listen: Meet the Artist, with Paul Graham

March 10th, 2014

Paul Graham, Untitled (Smoking girl in orange light)Paul Graham,
Untitled (Smoking girl in orange light), 1996–98, from the series end of an age.
Chromogenic print, 179.5 x 133.7 cm.
Gift of Alison and Alan Schwartz, 2000. 2000/1348 © Paul Graham; courtesy Pace Gallery and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.

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Recorded: Oct. 17, 2013, at Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario
Duration: 1:23:13

Paul Graham is a British photographer based in New York. Lauded as “a profound force for renewal of the deep photographic tradition of engagement with the world,” he was awarded the 2012 Hasselblad award for major achievements in photography.

In conjunction with the exhibition Light My Fire: Some Propositions about Portraits and Photography

Generously supported by Penny Rubinoff

Signature Partner, Photography Collection Program

A hands-on experience with the Thomson Collection

March 4th, 2014

The touchscreen recently installed in the Thomson Collection of European Art (Gallery 107). Photo by Craig Boyko/Art Gallery of Ontario.

The touchscreen recently installed in the Thomson Collection of European Art (Gallery 107). Photo by Craig Boyko/Art Gallery of Ontario.

The Thomson Collection of European Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario includes about 900 objects, mainly northern European sculpture and decorative arts dating from the early Middle Ages to the mid-19th century.

In addition to the collection’s cornerstone artwork, Peter Paul Rubens’ The Massacre of the Innocents, it has both sacred and secular objects including a renowned group of medieval and Baroque ivories, as well as fine examples of silver, Limoges enamel, boxwood carving, medieval manuscripts, carved portrait medallions and nearly 100 portrait miniatures from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It’s a varied collection that captures visitors’ interest, and they’ve told us that they want to know more.

Staff from our Digital Services department worked hard to create a new entry point to the Thomson Collection, in the form of an interactive touchscreen. You’ll find the screen close to the AGO’s entrance (Gallery 107), a room that also contains two paintings (from the Thomson Collection’s Canadian works), a ship model and a vitrine full of small objects from the European Collection.

These objects and paintings represent the Thomson Collection’s European, Canadian and Ship Model components, and each object has a story behind it and reason, including why Ken Thomson collected and appreciated it. In addition to getting an introduction to Thomson and the legacy of his collection, visitors can learn about the objects in depth by selecting them on the touchscreen. They are also directed to other spaces in the Gallery with more of the same kind of object.

Photo by Craig Boyko/Art Gallery of Ontario.

Photo by Craig Boyko/Art Gallery of Ontario.

How’d we do it?

The display screen is Microsoft’s 55-inch Perceptive Pixel touch display (learn more about it here). To get the project up and running, AGO photographers had to re-shoot each item using “focus stacking.” This process extends the depth of field in a shot (making more of it in sharp focus) without losing file data using multiple exposures and post-production software.

A folding knife with boxwood handle from the Thomson Collection of European Art. The image on the right — created using the photo-stacking technique — has an extended depth of field.

A folding knife with boxwood handle from the Thomson Collection of European Art. The image on the right — created using the photo-stacking technique — has an extended depth of field.

A shallow depth of field has always been an issue with macro photography. The objects included in the touchscreen project are almost all very small, so we adopted this photo merging or “stacking” software as a new approach. It allows the viewer to see these detailed objects more clearly than ever before.

What’s next? Our Digital team is full of ideas on how to make the experience even better, including enhanced way-finding and the ability to create personalized tours. We hope you’ll spend a few minutes with the touchscreen on your next visit. And if you’ve already had a chance to try it out, share your thoughts on the experience in the comments below.