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Highlights from #AGO1st – February First Thursday

February 8th, 2016

What did you get up to last Thursday? On February 4, 2016, we were kicking off a new season of Toronto’s biggest art party with an evening of artful programming devoted to Beijing avant-garde artist Song Dong and the theme “There’s No Place Like Home.” Over 2,500 #AGO1st guests took in musical headliner Casey Mecija (formely of Toronto band Ohbijou), who performed against stunning GIF visuals by filmmaker Sammy Rawal; pop-up talks from the Syrian Film Festival and AGO Artist-in-Residence Jérôme Havre; artists Alvis Choi (a.k.a Alvis Parsley), Andil Gosine with Matthew Ryan Smith; and music by DJ Stunts (of Yes Yes Y’All) and Cam Lee (Feministry).

Tickets for our next #AGO1st (March 3, 2016) go on sale February 11 at 10am.

Photos after the jump!

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Where to eat during Winterlicious 2016: FRANK Restaurant

January 31st, 2016

Calling all #YYZ foodies in search of the perfect (and Instagrammable) Winterlicious meal: Our Frank Gehry-designed kitchen and restaurant is serving up a series of fresh, inventive and mouthwatering prix-fixe courses ($25 lunch and $35 dinner). And the food isn’t the only feast for the eyes. FRANK features Douglas fir wood-panelled walls, modern Danish furniture, changing artwork by contemporary artists, and an installation by another noteworthy Frank — Frank Stella.

Below: Toronto’s own @amazerall chowed down at FRANK this Winterlicious and shared shots of his delectable eats.

#LiciousTO is on now til February 11, 2016. Make your FRANK reservation online or by phone at 416.979.6688, and share your meals with @agotoronto @frank_AGO. (Also on the table for one night only: A Winterlicious Evening inspired by Beijing avant-garde artist Song Dong.) 


Beet carpaccio salad in a coriander emulsion, with blackened clementine and dehydrated yogurt

Beet carpaccio salad in a coriander emulsion, with blackened clementine and dehydrated yogurt


Maple duck ham with crackling, celeriac, pickled blueberries, and sunchoke

Maple duck ham with crackling, celeriac, pickled blueberries, and sunchoke


Sea bream with Creole shrimp, grits, and tomato verjus

Sea bream with Creole shrimp, grits, and tomato verjus



Open lasagna with smoked Sicilian eggplant, mushroom Pugliese, and grana padano

Open lasagna with smoked Sicilian eggplant, mushroom Pugliese, and grana padano



Stout-braised short-ribs, with pierogi, mustard, cider kraut

Stout-braised short-ribs, with pierogi, mustard, and cider kraut



Pear & Le Rassembleu in a walnut sable

Pear & Le Rassembleu with crumbled walnut sable cookie


Take me to FRANK’s online reservation

Highway to Hell: Conservator Sherry Phillips revisits the Trans Am Apocalypse No. 3

January 22nd, 2016


(John Scott, Trans Am Apocalypse No. 3, 1998–2000, incised text on acrylic paint on a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 1980, approx.: 129 x 184 x 504 cm (50 13/16 x 72 7/16 x 198 7/16 in.)3300 lb. (1496.9 kg). Art Gallery of Ontario, gift of Chris Poulsen, 2007.)

You may not see it on the Gallery floor all the time, but we’re the proud keepers of John Scott’s 3,300lb. doomsday vehicle: the Trans Am Apocalypse No. 3. The artwork will be on loan to the Art Gallery of Hamilton for the exhibition Fearful Symmetry: The Art of John Scott, February 6 to May 15, 2016, marking the third venue for the touring exhibition of Scott’s work (after stops at the McMaster Museum of Art and Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell, Iowa). AGO Conservator Sherry Phillips shares her thoughts on getting the Trans Am ready for its latest reveal.

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Get ready for #MuseumSelfie Day – January 20, 2016

January 19th, 2016


Selfie lovers, come one, come all. On January 20, 2016, we’re inviting you — museum fans, curators, artists and more — to share your best shots for #MuseumSelfie day, a global social media celebration founded by CultureThemes’ Mar Dixon to showcase some of the world’s greatest collections, and to encourage people to visit and interact with art in person. (Things we like very much.)

How you can join
Snap a photo of yourself in front of your favourite artwork or collection in the Gallery.

Share it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using two hashtags: #MuseumSelfie #AGOToronto

Visit the Atrium (past Walker Court) to see your selfie art on display—we’ll be broadcasting a livefeed of your photos on TV screens!

Selfie Spots
AGO landmarks and works where inspiration might strike:

Live Feed of your #MuseumSelfies!

Please note: The Gallery does not allow the use of selfie sticks. Backpacks and oversized bags are not permitted in the Gallery; coat check is complimentary for these items.


You Can (Sonic) Dance If You Want To

January 5th, 2016

Are you one of the many Torontonians who resolved to interact with more avant-garde art in 2016? Head to Walker Court this January 5 to 8, where you can take a spin around the dancefloor with Berlin-based artist Haegue Yang’s Sonic Dance – Twin Brother.

Covered entirely in bells, this sound sculpture is also completely mobile; and we want you to gently set the sculpture in motion by steering it — a kind of dance that causes the bells to ring.

With the assistance of AGO staff, you can join in Sonic Dance – Twin Brother on the following dates:
Tuesday, January 5: 11 am – 2 pm
Wednesday, January 6: 5 – 8 pm
Thursday, January 7: 11 am – 2 pm
Friday, January 8: 11 am – 2 pm

Share your photos on social by tagging us @agotoronto!

About Haegue Yang
Drawing on literary sources and other research, Yang creates elegant, abstract installations that combine sensorial light, sound and scent effects with everyday materials such as venetian blinds and household appliances. Referencing the forced and voluntary movements of people across the globe, many of her works move, either by themselves or with the help of gallery visitors.

Sonic Dance – Twin Brother is part of Many things brought from one climate to another, a selection of the AGO’s acquisitions of contemporary art currently on display on Level 5.

11 gift ideas for everyone on your list (and we mean everyone).

December 15th, 2015

(Don’t forget: shopAGO has extended holiday hours to give you a helping hand!)

Gift of Membership

AGO membership, from $45

Treat someone to a year of unlimited admission to the AGO’s collections and exhibitions, special events and previews, and much more.

Get it in store or online at



Colouring Books

Colouring books, from $16.99

Encourage DIY creativity (and stress relief) with these inky adventure colouring books, including Splendid Cities, Johanna Basford’s lost world series, and urban geographer Daniel Rotsztain’s All the Libraries Toronto.

Get them in store or online at



Retail product

Turner-inspired merchandise, from $10

For the Anglophile or extreme-weather enthusiast, these products inspired by Turner’s time and art will prove stylish (and handy).

Get them in store or online at




Art books and exhibition catalogues, from $34

Help them up their coffee table game with these eye-popping page-turners from past AGO exhibitions and contemporary artists.

Get them in store or online at


DIY Electro Dough kit, $33.95

Just like regular Doh, but with lights and buzzers.

Get it in store or online at





Gnome crayons, $15.95

Bavarian Gnomes! Need we say more? All right: colouring just got a little bit more fun.

Get it in store or online at




Children’s books, from $17.95

Early readers can discover the adventures of Sam and Dave, The Secret life of Squirrels, and Canadian illustration sensation Kate Beaton’s whimsical first children’s book, The Princess and the Pony.

Get them in store or online at



Racoon ornaments

Roost Raccoon Bandit Ornaments, $18/ea

Crafted from felt and costumed for a life of crime, these six distinct critters clutch ropes, pouches, and foolproof plans for taking over your Green Bin.

Get them in store at shopAGO.



Retail Holiday Gift Guide

Coffee stencils, $11

Easy-to-use (and holiday friendly) coffee stencils for the burgeoning barista in your life.

Get them in store or online at



Areaware Drink Rock Shapes 003

Drink rocks, $54

Sculptural masterworks that, once chilled, keep your spirits undiluted (and look cool on a bar table).

Get them in store or online at



Retail Holiday Gift Guide

Table tiles, $24

Cocktail masters can fight stains and make a decorative statement with these mosaic-tiled coasters.

Get them in store or online at


Proceeds from your purchase directly support world-class programming at the AGO, arts and culture in Canada.




Why this artist needs your fingerprints

December 8th, 2015

By Jon Davies, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art

Micah Lexier (born Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 1960), A work of art in the form of a quantity of coins equal to the number of months of the statistical life expectancy of a child born January 6, 1995, 1995, metal, wood and enamel paint. Purchased with financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance program, 1997, (97/5).

Toronto-based artist Micah Lexier’s practice draws on autobiography, portraiture and his close relationships, and he often translates this personal subject matter into acts of counting, mark-making and collecting. Intimate and emotional content therefore becomes a kind of information.

This work in the AGO collection uses 906 specially fabricated coins to tick down the statistical life expectancy of an imagined child born on January 6, 1995. Each coin is numbered, and one coin is transferred on the 6th of each month from one box to another until all the coins have been transferred, the orderly rows of the origin box giving way to the chaotic pile of the destination box. Lexier’s work traces the passage of time and, by requiring human contact every month, suggests that we cannot live our lives alone but must depend on the care and assistance of others.

Vitally, the coins are meant to be handled with hands — not gloves — so that each individual’s fingerprints mark a coin and become part of the work. Coins are a recurring form in Lexier’s work. They combine the intimate and the global as we carry them around on our person, but they are part of a system much bigger than any individual. Also, each coin begins life identical to the others, but as it travels from hand to hand they each age and wear differently, becoming distinct.

Join the coin transfer
A work of art in the form… is currently on view in the 5th floor exhibition Many things brought from one climate to another, a display of contemporary art from the AGO’s collection. The work acts as a rite of passage that AGO visitors can witness over the course of their own lives—and, from now until until July 6, 2070, members of the public are invited to participate in this monthly activation. If you are interested in transferring a coin, contact

Canadian illustrator Kate Beaton draws #TurnerAGO

December 3rd, 2015

I love the images and descriptions of Turner on Varnishing Day. There are quite a few sketches by other artists of the man going about his business in those very public events, depicting how people were paying attention to him. This illustration shows a cross section of reactions to his work — adoring, loathing, jealousy, wonder and everywhere in between, all in one place.  “He has been here and fired a gun.”

— Kate Beaton

We asked the Canadian illustrator and New York Times bestselling graphic novelist of Hark! A Vagrant and Step Aside, Pops to put her spin on #TurnerAGO and the British master’s inner (and extended) circles.

1 — J.M.W. Turner, the painter of light.

2 — John Constable, the British landscape painter, was Turner’s “frenemy.” He described his rival as “uncouth, with a wonderful range of mind” but also praised his technique: “He seems to paint with tinted steam, so evanescent, and so airy.”

3 — James Abbott McNeill Whistler was an American painter and printmaker who spent most of his career in Europe. He saw Turner’s work when he was a young man, and admired the paintings’ lack of finish, and their depiction of light and atmosphere. Like Turner, he enjoyed working directly from nature, often at dawn or dusk. He was inspired by the British master to visit Venice, and like him loved the reflections in the water.

4 – Claude Monet, the French Impressionist painter, saw Turner’s paintings in an exhibition in London in the early 1870s. He was influenced by him and proclaimed “Turner painted with open eyes.”

5 – Claude Debussy, the French composer, called Turner “the finest creator of mystery in the whole of art.” Both men were inspired by the many moods of nature — from the tranquil reflections in water to the wilds of storms at sea.

6 – Mrs. Sophia Booth, a landlady, was Turner’s companion in his late life. Being intensively secretive, Turner concealed their 18-year relationship even while they lived together in London. To their neighbours, he was Mr. Booth, Admiral Booth, or (our favourite) “Puggy” Booth.

7 and 8 – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were not amused by Turner’s paintings, their lack of finish, and excessive use of yellow.

9 – John Ruskin, the British art critic and friend of the artist, called Turner “the greatest man of his age, eccentric, highlight intellectual, hating humbug of all sorts.” A huge champion of the painter, Ruskin was a serious groupie.

Connecting mental health patients through art

November 24th, 2015


Did you know that the AGO offers a free program for mental health clients and professionals? We believe the Gallery can be a unique space for psychological engagement and well-being—one where people can feel safe and comfortable visiting regularly.

That’s why we developed a variety of meaningful, participant-centred tours aimed at engaging and familiarizing mental health clients with the AGO. The program, Accessibility for Mental Health Organizations (AMHO), also provides training and support for healthcare practitioners so they can facilitate visits for their own clients.

Since 2010, more than 2,500 clients and their mental health care workers have visited the AGO for Education Officer-led tours, enjoying our facilitated and curated discussions, and the chance to engage with art in a comfortable environment. Here’s what they’re saying:

[The tour] was a really inspiring evening for our group (some of whom had never had an opportunity to visit the AGO before), both because of the aesthetic pleasure of being in the gallery, and because of the opportunity to really explore some of the artworks from the perspective of mental health. I’m so glad that this program will be continuing, and very grateful that we were able to participate.

—Reesa Grushka, Disabilities Counsellor/Educator, York University

The chemistry between the Gallery and the Hospital was extraordinary. I wanted us to create a safe-enough space to allow these women—some of whom had never been to an art gallery before—to feel they belonged. I had no idea how successful the project would be. More than one of our participants reported that the group made the difference between a lifetime of suicidal feelings, and feeling OK about herself. You don’t often hear that after 12 weeks of regular talk therapy.

— Eva-Marie Stern, Art Psychotherapist, WRAP & Trauma Therapy Program, Women’s College Hospital

These outings are so valuable to me and have made me a better therapist because I’ve learned new ways to open discussions with my clients and see different sides of their personalities. These monthly visits have become so vital to our programming.

— Wendy, Recreational Therapist, Bellwood Health Services Inc.


If you would like to participate or know someone who would benefit from this experience, please contact Melissa Smith by emailing or by phoning 416.979.6660 ext. 268. AMHO offers:

Facilitated tours: organizations may book free hour-long tours led by AGO Education Officers who are trained to facilitate visitor-centred discussions in the Gallery. Mental health care workers accompany their group. The content can be custom developed collaboratively with staff and clients. The range of topics is vast including such topics as: hardship and resilience; body language; love; Canadian identity, etc.

Community memberships: each organization can receive four AGO family memberships to loan to group members for visits on their own or with friends and family.

Ai Weiwei: Toronto LEGO Collection Point

October 30th, 2015

Donate #legosforweiwei and support free speech.

Dropoff location: Southwest corner of Dundas St. W. and McCaul St., near Henry Moore’s Large Two Forms sculpture

On October 23, celebrated Chinese artist Ai Weiwei posted on Instagram: “In September Lego refused Ai Weiwei Studio’s request for a bulk order of Legos to create artwork to be shown at the National Gallery of Victoria as ‘they cannot approve the use of Legos for political works.'”

Ai’s post triggered a flood of responses on social media criticizing Lego for “censorship and discrimination,” and thousands of anonymous supporters offered to donate their used Legos to the artist. In response to the overwhelming inquiries, Ai is using his global influence to invite each of us to consider the implications of corporate influence on an artists’ work. At his request, museums around the world are taking a stand in support of free expression, collecting donated Lego bricks to help Ai create a new work—and the Art Gallery of Ontario is the first #legosforweiwei collection point in Canada. In the fall of 2013 the AGO hosted Ai Weiwei: According to What?, an exhibition that asked our visitors to consider what it means to speak freely without penalty. The AGO is proud to support Ai again and will always vigorously defend artists’ rights to express themselves.

Want to pitch in? Donate your Lego bricks through the sunroof of the BMW car parked in front of the AGO, at the southwest corner of Dundas St. W. and McCaul St.; the sunroof will be open seven days a week from 7:30am–6pm (with extended hours on Wednesday and Friday: 7:30am–9pm). A donation bin is also available in the AGO lobby.

Or, send donations by mail to:
c/o Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON
M5T 1G4

Share your thoughts on social by tagging @agotoronto @aiww #legosforweiwei.