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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.

See Lost in the Memory Palace through the eyes of a teenager

June 4th, 2013

After visiting the AGO and seeing Lost in the Memory Palace: Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, students from Cawthra Park Secondary School had to choose a work and record a 20-second response. Don Ball, head of visual arts at Cawthra, says the students were asked to move “beyond mere description.”

Experiment in F# Minor

The work:

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Experiment in F# Minor, 2013, mixed media interactive sound installation including 72 loudspeakers on two wooden worktables, 2.44 x 1.83m

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Experiment in F# Minor, 2013,
mixed media interactive sound installation including 72 loudspeakers on two wooden worktables, 2.44 x 1.83m

The response:
Read the rest of this entry »

Conservation Notes: Zeroing in on a tiny menace

April 9th, 2013

What is this thing?
The specimen in the video above, the larva of a webbing clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella), was discovered in a cardboard box stored on top of a wool carpet in an administrative office. At only 5mm long, webbing clothes moth larvae can be very difficult to detect. The red wool fibres from the carpet — also visible in the video — provided the larva a steady source of food. At this stage in its life cycle, after hatching from an egg, the moth can cause the most damage, because larvae feed on material and produce frass (aka excrement) that will be a colour similar to the material that has been eaten (in this case the red fibre from the carpet).

What’s happening in the video?
Conservators Sherry Phillips and Maria Sullivan collected the larva and viewed it under microscope to identify the specimen, and the carpet was immediately wrapped and sealed to prevent further migration of pests, then placed in a chest freezer to eliminate any other larvae, eggs and adults in the carpet.

Where did it come from?
Moths can find their way into the Gallery on coats, clothing or on other items that staff or visitors carry. New artworks or materials are screened for pests before placement in the galleries or vaults.

So, what’s the big deal?
All galleries and museums need to be vigilant and pro-active in keeping pests under control. The goal of an effective pest-management program is to find and deal with these issues before they affect the collection, and so efforts extend to all areas of the building, not just in the galleries. Larvae can cause extensive damage to artwork made of or containing materials that have protein, such as natural fibres — particularly silk and wool — as well as hides and feathers. AGO staff monitor for pests throughout the building on a weekly basis to identify potential problems, because it is easier to prevent a problem than to deal with an infestation.

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

Life of a Craphead Present: Doored (Video)

February 21st, 2013

Watch the video archive of the live-streamed event.

Recorded Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, 8:30 pm in the Weston Family Learning Centre Gallery School, Art Gallery of Ontario

What is this video?

On Feb. 10, AGO artists in residence Life of a Craphead presented a new edition of Doored, a monthly performance show that they have been curating and hosting since 2012. Doored features exciting new work from performance artists and comedians in Toronto. This edition’s participants were Bridget Moser, Cameron Lee, CN Tower Liquidation, Daniel Goodbaum, Fake Injury Party, Glenn Macaulay, Gwen Bieniara, Laura McCoy, Lisa Smolkin, and Neil LaPierre and David Tallis, with live music by Man Made Hill, visuals by Nikki Woolsey and door by Zoe Solomon.

Doored is part of the regular programming at the artist-run venue Double Double Land in Kensington Market.

About Life of a Craphead

Life of a Craphead is the collaborative work of Amy Lam and Jon McCurley, comprising performance, comedy, theatre and video. Established in 2006, their projects include transporting two psychopaths in a cage on the back of a truck, touring a live comedy show, giving away everything on a restaurant’s menu, and building a three-storey maze. Their first feature-length film, Bugs, is in post-production. Life of a Craphead have presented work at The Power Plant, Toronto; Gallery TPW, Toronto; Hotel MariaKapel, Hoorn, The Netherlands; Department of Safety, Anacortes, U.S.; and the Banff Centre, Banff, as well as at numerous comedy venues and music shows in Canada and the U.S.

Life of a Craphead live and work in Toronto and collaborate frequently with other artists and performers.

Participating performers

Bridget Moser is an interdisciplinary artist whose performances combine inanimate objects, affect, prop comedy, and escape art. She has presented work in various venues across Canada, the United States, and Europe.

Cameron Lee received his BFA in Drawing and Painting from OCAD U, the University of the Imagination. He hasn’t drawn or painted much since graduating.

CN Tower Liquidation is Sebastian Butt, Charlie Murray and Xan Hawes. They specialize in the dematerialization and reconstitution of objects into cubes. Recent shows include Free(or Best Offer), Ed Video Media Arts Centre, Guelph; THASDF FORDFBDFG CDFBLLimdbbing MEAD, Gendai Workstation; and Paul Petro’s Christmas Spice.

Daniel Goodbaum is either an artist/comedian or a comedian/artist. He’s attempting a ‘reverse Woody Allen’ by starting as a filmmaker and working his way into standup. He makes videos about food, fashion, film, and one or two things that don’t start with the letter ‘f’.

Fake Injury Party are three full grown men who know how to get the job done and have fun doing it! Experience: catering, dishwashing, serving.

Glenn Macaulay has been performing comedy in Toronto since 2005. He believes in true love and has to get to the theatre nice and early in order to fully enjoy the experience.

Gwen Bieniara is an artist from Toronto who works closely with performance.

Laura McCoy lives and works in Toronto.

Lisa Smolkin is an artist living in Toronto. Some of her creative stand-out moments include hosting a connectedness workshop, having a home-museum tailored to its visitors, and co-presenting a performative installation about the idea of emotional receptivity/industrial receiving areas.

Man Made Hill is the Solo Funk Agenda of Randy Gagne. Incubated in a crusty basement in Cambridge, ON, Man Made Hill has been steady mutilating sounds since 2004. Armed with a modest arsenal of synthesizer/sampler/drum-machine/voice/dance MMH assumes a series of transformational stage personas including Extra-Terrestrial Sex Judge, Diseased Futuristic Priest, Energy-Mayonnaise Demonstrator, Prison Disco-Enthusiast etc…

Neil LaPierre and David Tallis are prophets of the hypercassional (events you’ll be finding yourself doing everyday several times a day). This is their first performance at the AGO.

Nikki Woolsey lives in Toronto and makes mostly sculpture and photography. She collaborated with Life of a Craphead at the Hotel Maria Kapel residency in The Netherlands and contributed to CN Tower Liquidation’s performative “Theory of Condensation” event at the AGO. She was included in the recent exhibition “That’s not a run in your stocking, it’s a hand on your leg” at Narwhal Art Projects. She sometimes works as a prop maker and production designer.

FRANKly delicious: Chef Anne’s Buttermilk Bacon Biscuits

February 6th, 2013

In this video, executive chef Anne Yarymowich shows how to make the Buttermilk Bacon Biscuits served alongside Nova Scotia Clam Chowder on FRANK’s Winterlicious lunch and dinner menus.

Buttermilk Bacon Biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup cold butter
1/2 cup cooked bacon bits, drained of fat
1 cup buttermilk

For the bacon:

  • Use good quality double smoked slab bacon. About 8 ounces raw will yield a half cup cooked. If you are using a commercial sliced bacon your yield will be much less. Cut into quarter-inch cubes.
  • Render in a pan on medium low heat until most of the fat is rendered out but the bacon still has a bit of chew. Remove from fat and drain well on paper towel. Set aside to cool.

For the biscuit dough:

  • Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, whisk together until well blended.
  • Cut in the cold butter using a cheese grater. Work the butter into the flour mix with your fingers, until well incorporated.
  • Add in the cooked cooled bacon.
  • Add in the buttermilk all at once and mix just until liquid is incorporated and the dough comes together.
  • Turn onto a lightly floured board. Roll out to 1 inch thickness.
  • Cut into 2×2-inch squares or with 2-inch round cutter.
  • Place on parchment lined tray.
  • Bake at 375 F for 12 minutes, turning the tray once, halfway through the baking time.
  • Serve immediately

Video by Danny Winchester/AGO.

Art. Food. Talk. Find out more about FRANK, including its hours, menus and special events and see photos of its modern, inviting setting.