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#emptyAGO Live Feed

May 25th, 2016

Ever dream of visiting the gallery without the crowds? This morning, we’ve invited 20 Torontonians — art fans, Instagram photographers, social media influencers — for an early-bird, behind-the-scenes tour, all before we opened to the public. This surreal experience is our pilot event, the first of its kind at the AGO. Follow the #emptyAGO experience below, and stay tuned for updates about future tours.

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Sign up for the chance to join our first #emptyAGO tour

May 13th, 2016


Before the crowds
Ever dream of visiting the gallery without the crowds? Our first #emptyAGO tour is your chance to experience the AGO before we open to the public.

On Thursday, May 26, 9am–10:30am, we’re asking 20 Torontonians — art fans, Instagram photographers, social media influencers — to roam the empty gallery, snap photos, and hear behind-the-scenes stories from the AGO’s Social Media Officer. This surreal experience is our pilot event, the first of its kind at the AGO.

What’s included:

  • Access to an entirely empty AGO
  • Breakfast mingle in the Grange House
  • Same-day admission to the AGO (which opens at 10:30am)

To join, fill out the form below by Friday, May 20, 11:59pm. Questions? Email or send us a message on Twitter/Instagram @agotoronto. Can’t make it? Follow the action on Instagram/Twitter by checking out #emptyAGO.


On Thursday, May 26 (9am–10:30am), we're inviting 20 guests to experience the gallery before we open to the public. Apply by Friday, May 20, 11:59pm, and we'll confirm your reservation by Tuesday, May 24.
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Family Activities at the AGO

May 13th, 2016

AGO Hands-On Centre

We’re renovating to serve you better! While the Dr. Mariano Elia Hands On Centre is closed for improvements til mid-May, we’re offering facilitated Hands-On Centre activities and materials throughout the Gallery spaces. Check out what’s happening today!

Hands-On Centre On Wheels
Hands-On Fun on the Move! Check in with our Family Program Facilitators in the galleries today. Each day, we will be here to offer fun activities such as building challenges, games, story time, and pretend play using the art in our collections and exhibitions as inspiration!

Here’s where we’ll be:
Tuesdays: 10:30 am – 2 pm
Bennett Gallery (Level 2; Gallery 229 on your map)

Wednesdays: 10:30 am – 2 pm
Thomson Collection of Canadian Art
(Level 2; Galleries 209/210 on your map)

Thursdays: 10:30 am – 2 pm
Reuben Wells Leonard Memorial Gallery
(Level 1; Gallery 117 on your map)

Fridays: 10:30 am – 2 pm
David Milne Centre (Level 1; Gallery 145 on your map)

Saturdays: 10:30 am – 4 pm
Weston Family Learning Centre – Young Education
Commons (Concourse Level)

Sundays: 10:30 am – 4 pm
Weston Family Learning Centre – Young Education
Commons (Concourse Level)

AGO Kids’ Gallery
(Level 1: Gallery 140 on your map).
Visit The Kids’ Gallery at the AGO, a space created especially for children and you. Together you can experience art first-hand, learn and have fun. Enjoy our current exhibition, Pets & Me, with a fun interactive game, touchable activities, and kids talking about art! Kids can draw a picture of their favourite pet, and hang it up on The Kids’ Gallery wall, read a book, or put on a costume and Instagram their silly look!

(Frank) Stella Ela Ola

May 12th, 2016

Frank Stella

Today marks Frank Stella’s 80th birthday, and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than with our very own tribute! Stella Ella Ola is the AGO Youth Council‘s playful response to the Frank Stella painting York Factory (Sketch) VI, in our collection and on display in Room 126. (Due to copyright restrictions, we’re unable to share the original piece in this post or link to it.)

Inspired by Stella’s colour blocking, kids’ TV shows and 1970s modern dance, the Youth Council members gave York Factory (Sketch) VI a youthful makeover in which their bodies replace the artist’s sweeping blocks of colour. Placing themselves within this work creates a dialogue between the original Stella and their photograph, making the original work relevant for a new generation of visitors to the gallery. As Stella would say about this work: “What you see is what you see.”

Plan an AGO outing this Mother’s Day

May 4th, 2016

Mother’s Day is coming up soon (May 8 — just putting that out there) and we’ve got some thoughtful suggestions on how to spoil her this weekend:

(Helen Galloway McNicoll, White Sunshade #2, oil on canvas, 99.5 x 81.9 cm. Gift of the Estate of Budd Sugarman, 2006)

(Helen Galloway McNicoll, White Sunshade #2, oil on canvas, 99.5 x 81.9 cm. Gift of the Estate of Budd Sugarman, 2006, Art Gallery of Ontario)

Take the Mother’s Day Tour

May 8, 2016, 11am–5:30pm
Artful discussion and themed tours of the AGO’s collection — what’s not to like? In the company of a knowledgeable and engaging AGO Gallery Guide, you’ll visit masterworks by empowering female artists, and works that explore themes of family and motherly love. Highlights include works by Kathleen Munn, Christi Belcourt, Bonnie Devine, Paraskeva Clark, Daphne Odjig, Helen Galloway McNicoll, and more.

1-Hour Highlights Tours (every one is different!): 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm. Meet in Walker Court, Level 1 (If you need directions, head to the Info Kiosk at the entrance.)

On the Dot Tours: Quick, 10-minute art chats. Meet in front of the work On the Dot:

11:30am “Time Dissolve” by Carl Beam, Room 227
11:30am “Mother and Child” by Kenojuak Ashevak, Room 140
1:30pm “Mother and Child” by Frances Loring, Room 227
2:30pm “The Wisdom of the Universe” by Christi Belcourt, Room 225

Gift of Membership

Give the gift of a 1-year membership

Give her the gift of 5,000+ years of art. Free admission, Member Preview Days, Gallery-wide discounts, complimentary coat check, access to the Grange Members’ Lounge (including Afternoon Tea), and too many perks to name!

AGO Afternoon Tea

Mother’s Day Tea at the Grange

If nothing but the finest recreation of a Downton Abbey high tea will satisfy, then treat her to la crème de la crème at the Norma Ridley Members’ Lounge, Grange House and Atrium (Level 1). Saturday & Sunday, May 7 & 8 (Seatings at Noon, 12:30, 2:30 and 3pm), by reservation only; A Members’ exclusive. ($50 per person plus tax and 15% gratuity)



Colouring Books

shopAGO for Mother’s Day Gifts

Unique, affordable and stylish gifts she’s sure to adore, from the crafty (colour-your-way-to-calm books!) to designer decor to beautiful jewellery. Plus: Members’ enjoy a 10% discount.


Family Tree & Drop-in Play in the Weston Family Learning Centre

Little ones can also celebrate Mother’s Day during our artmaking and play activities. Create your own family drawing or message to add to our collective AGO Family Tree. Included with general admission (Members visit free!). Where: Weston Family Learning Centre, Concourse Level, 10:30am–4pm.

AGO Frank Brunch

FRANK Mother’s Day Brunch Buffet

Currently sold out!

Enjoy a delicious brunch buffet at FRANK, where art, food and talk meet. Choose from continental, carving and seafood stations including an oyster bar, as well as salads, an assortment of sweets, and a selection of housemade pastries. Plus: We also have a special menu for your little ones.



Bruce LaBruce curates Pride month launch party x AGO First Thursday – June 2

May 3rd, 2016

Pride Toronto

Bruce LaBruce, photo by Saad Al-Hakkak

Bruce LaBruce, photo by Saad Al-Hakkak

This June, we’re kicking off Pride Month with a special First Thursday art party guest curated by legendary Toronto-based artist, filmmaker, writer and photographer Bruce LaBruce! Pride Month, which runs from June 1 to July 3, is Toronto’s first-ever month-long celebration that unites and empowers people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expression.

Presented in partnership with Pride Toronto & Inside Out LGBT Film Festival, this special edition of AGO First Thursday will highlight competing visions of queerness with a dynamic mix of provocative, topical programming and electrifying performances. Bruce has invited four of his favourite queer artists to perform, each of whom are resolutely forging their own unique aesthetic and politic, but are aligned in terms of avant-garde practice and spirit, as well as gender radicalism.

Programming highlights includes performances by internationally celebrated queer artists Ron Athey and Narcissister, as well as musical performances by No Bra and a special DJ set by New York’s Gio Black Peter.
June First Thursday

June 2, 2016, 7pm to 11:30pm

Tickets: $13 in advance and $16 at the door.

(AGO Members: $11 in advance and $14 at the door.)

Tickets go on sale Thursday, May 12 at 10 a.m. at, and are expected to sell out.

Follow #AGO1st and #PrideTO on Twitter and Instagram for ticketing and programming updates.

Watch: Stephan Jost answers 45 questions

April 20th, 2016

On his first day as the Michael and Sonja Koerner Director, and CEO, Stephan Jost answered our speedy Q&A to catch us up on some essentials — including: “iPhone or Android?” and “Is this the strangest interview you’ve ever done?” (Answer: “No! I once was interviewed on live television by a blind priest who fell asleep during the interview.”) Shot with Periscope!

AGOxInstagram: March 2016

April 5th, 2016

It’s time for another edition of AGOxInstagram! We’re lucky: Our visitors are some of the best photographers in the city, and we are constantly marveling at your views of the AGO. Inspired by you, we’ve created a monthly round-up of favourite AGOxInstagram shots (See January 2016’s selection here). Want to take part? Keep sharing your Instagram and Twitter photos with us by tagging @agotoronto or #agotoronto.

AGOxInstagram March 2016
Photos (by row, left to right): @zachbalbino, @cecilymy, @kandisebrown, @alyssayuhas, @bofajardo, @danielakonishi, @epiiffany, @mandclu, @_ktrinac

Mark Lewis: Canada

March 29th, 2016


Study for « Canada » films, photo: Mark Lewis, courtesy of the artist

News! The AGO is pleased to announce its first collaboration with the recently re-launched Museum of Contemporary Art_Toronto_Canada (formerly the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art). From May to August, 2017, the AGO will host Mark Lewis: Canada, as part of Demo-Graphics, MOCA’s new, international art biennial.

Co-curated by MOCA’s CEO and Director Chantal Pontbriand and the AGO’s Chief Curator Stephanie Smith, Canada is an anthology of connected films by Mark Lewis. The installation of these films explore the name “Canada” and how that name has come to be associated, both within our country and throughout the world, with fantasies, stories and imaginary histories.

Mark Lewis, born in Canada and based in London, is among the most prominent artists of his generation working in photography and moving images. Throughout his career, he has gained wide-ranging success and internationally acclaim for his short, silent films. In 2009, Lewis represented Canada at the Venice Biennale, and in 2014, he was asked by the Louvre to produce new films that would consider, in some way, the museum’s history, physicality and historical collection. His mining of the museum’s art collection, its architectural passageways and its audience, formed the basis for a new series of films that were presented in the context of a solo exhibition at the museum that same year. In the same year, also in Paris, Le Bal offered him a much acclaimed solo exhibition. Lewis continuously shows internationally, recently exhibiting in Sao Paulo, Porto, Seoul, and London. Canada will be his largest project to date, with a series of installation films culminating into a feature-length film similar to the acclaimed Inventio shown at the Toronto International Film Festival and at the Berlinale in the last year. This year, he is winner of a Governor General Award in Visual Arts and Media.

Mark Lewis: Canada is one element of a full program of AGO exhibitions and events that will celebrate Canada 150 in 2017. More details will be available at a later date – stay tuned!

For more information, please visit


Focus on: Magdalyn Asimakis in the Print & Drawing Study Centre

March 29th, 2016

Magdalyn Asimakis

Photo: Luis Mora

There’s a bright, public space in the gallery where you can get lost in works straight from the vault: the Marvin Gelber Print and Drawing Study Centre, on level 1. This world-class print room and vault offers a unique space for accessing the our collection of works on paper and photography. We took a behind-the-scenes look with Magdalyn Asimakis, the monitor of the P&D Centre, and the curatorial assistant for 2015’s Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s The Time.



Tell us about the Centre, by the numbers (which are pretty incredible).


In a nutshell: we have 20,000 works on paper that span from the 1400s to the present day, and over 50,000 photographs. Our department’s current exhibition, Drawing, Je t’aime, features nearly 100 of our finest drawings—and those are just the tip of the iceberg.

And these are works that aren’t currently on display, so what exactly are they stored in? 

The works are stored unframed and matted in solander boxes (which sort of fold open like a clam shell) and map drawers. This is standard practice, and the benefit is it allows us to bring works out of the vault easily for viewing and study.

How can the public come see the works?

Since we opened in ’93, we now have a very active public program that is animated through staff and a dedicated group of volunteers. On Wednesdays, you can drop in the Study Centre between 1pm and 8pm for our Open Door program to see the space and a selection of works on display. And until 4pm that day, we take requests! You can actually ask to have specific works brought out from the vault. We also have free talks on the second Friday of each month at 11am, and a quarterly ticketed talk on Friday evenings called Close Encounters. And each month for First Thursday, we curate a pop-up exhibition in the Study Centre called Out of the Vaults which is very successful. Not to mention we are always hosting classes and taking private appointments.

What surprised you when you started working here?


A solander box containing Albrecht Dürer’s The Virgin with the Swaddled Child, 1520, Print, 14.5 x 9.9 cm (5 11/16 x 3 7/8 in.), Gift of Sir Edmund Walker Estate, 1926.

I was really pleased to learn that the Study Centre’s collection was so central to the everyday work we do. It’s really a hands-on environment. Most days involve going into the vault to see an object or to go through a solander box. The reasons we look at works in the Study Centre vary, whether we are bringing them out for visitors to study during Open Door on Wednesdays; for drawing classes, lectures and exhibition planning; or for examination with colleagues (scholars, curators, and conservators). The collection is really alive and nurtured daily. Opening a solander box or looking at a work up close without protective glass never gets old.

What does a normal day look like for a P&D staffer?


Most of our work takes place behind the scenes. We work closely with colleagues from other departments including collections care specialists, registrars, conservators, library staff as well as curators from other areas. At the moment, we also have a mobile photography unit stationed in our vault to expedite the digitization process of the collection. There is a lot of interest in our works on paper collection, so on any given day you can find artists, curators, scholars and, on occasion, celebrities in here looking at works.

Is there a “Prints and Drawings” moment that stands out for you?

The most interesting moments are when the space is being shared because it creates unexpected connections. One day we had a class of Fine Arts undergraduate students in the Study Centre viewing some relief prints and at the next table was artist Stephen Andrews looking at his own works with Kitty Scott, the Carol and Morton Rapp Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, in preparation for his exhibition at the AGO. As the students were finishing their class, Stephen invited them over and he talked to them them a bit about his work, much to their amazement. The study centre offers a space for curators, artists, and students to have exchanges like these.