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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, 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.”

Chasing silence: Hammershøi Instagram Challenge

May 6th, 2016

Sunbeams falling in through paned windows, women in quiet rooms, and empty streets with façades executed in melancholy greys. The great Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi is often described as “the painter of quiet rooms”—a name that aptly describes his unique, poetic style. Can you capture a sense of Hammershøian serenity on your smartphone?

(Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor, 1901, Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 52 cm, National Gallery of Denmark)

(Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor, 1901, Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 52 cm, National Gallery of Denmark)

(Vilhelm Hammershøi, Near Fortunen, Jagersborg Deer Park, North of Copenhagen, 1901, Oil on canvas, 55 x 66.5 cm, National Gallery of Denmark)

(Vilhelm Hammershøi, Near Fortunen, Jagersborg Deer Park, North of Copenhagen, 1901, Oil on canvas, 55 x 66.5 cm, National Gallery of Denmark)










Currently on view and free with general admission, the exhibition Painting Tranquility: Masterworks by Vilhelm Hammershøi features twenty-four masterpieces from the SMK – The National Gallery of Denmark. And together with the SMK, we’re launching a photo competition that invites you — and your smartphone — to take pictures of grey-hued, atmospheric interiors in true Hammershøi fashion.

How can I take part?

Take photos inspired by Hammershøi’s aesthetic and share them on Instagram using the hashtag #HammershoiAGO. Or, visit the exhibition in person and take a seat at our very own Hammershøi “selfie spot”: set recreation of Strandgade 25, where the artist lived with his wife Ida for four very productive years between 1912 and 1916.

At the end of each month (May and June), one lucky Instagrammer will receive (2) general admission passes, plus tickets our June 10 or 17 screening of The Danish Girl.

A photo posted by Tim Perzyk (@perzyk) on

What does a Hammershøi photo look like?

Many photographers have already been inspired by Hammershøi in various ways, and this competition isn’t about copying a specific work, but rather about capturing the distinctive look and feel of his art. Many of Hammershøi’s own works are reminiscent of photography and have obvious parallels to Instagram filters and aesthetics.

Characteristic elements of Hammershøi’s work that you might find inspirational:

• Light falling in through windows
• A play of light and shadow
• Restricted colour palette and saturation
• Female figure with her back turned to the viewer
• Solitary female figure
• Figures absorbed in quiet pursuits
• Rooms arranged in a sequential layout
• Empty rooms

The writer Poul Vad studied Hammershøi in great detail, and he describes the relationship between the Danish painter and photography as follows:

Photography is one of the phenomena that defines modernity. The ‘photographic’ aspect of Hammershøi’s paintings is undoubtedly part of the reason why this painter’s art falls within the heading of ‘modernity’ in spite of his traditional approach to his craft. They still seem modern to us today.

You can take your photographs anywhere at all, including at our Hammershøi selfie wall. And remember: a friend’s livingroom can be every bit as Hammershøian as a deserted street in downtown Toronto. So grab your smartphone and start capturing scenes full of greys, light, and tranquillity.

Need some inspiration? Visit Painting Tranquility: Masterworks by Vilhelm Hammershøi , on view til June 26.

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.

#AGOMassive 2016 — Social Media Round-up

April 22nd, 2016

AGO Massive Party
Last night, April 21, close to 1,900 guests helped us raise $313,000 at “Midnight Massive Party,” a magic-and-masquerade-themed fundraiser. Now in its 12th year, Massive Party featured works from Toronto’s top artists and musicians, with Artistic Directors the Broadbent Sisters providing the magic.

Guests explored three unique spaces themed after natural elements and transformation:
Concourse Level_Fire: Where guests found the dance party, set to the sounds of DJ Sophie Jones, and a live performance by RALPH and a swinging midnight-samba band. Installations included “The Infinite Selfie” by Robin Clason, a MAC Cosmetics #FutureMac station, “Poorly Potted Plants” by Tau Lewis, Soderberg Mills’ anaglyphic mirror, and The New Beat + Menalon Music’s “Lazer Harp.”
Level 1_Earth: A moonlit masquerade with mythical installations by the Broadbent Sisters and music by J.u.D.
Level 3_Air: An ethereal, dreamlike space where guests took in “Pseudo Specter” by Michael Vicks and Randall Okita, “The Clearing” by the Broadbent Sisters, and Okita’s “Be Here Now,” with DJ Humble Mike setting a relaxed vibe all night.

Read more:
Sidewalk Hustle on Midnight Massive
BlogTO: “A weird and wonderful spectacle”

See the social media full roundup after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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!

Northern dining: Lawren Harris meets Terroir Symposium

April 18th, 2016


(Lawren Harris, Lake and Mountains, 1928, Oil on canvas, 130.8 x 160.7 cm, Art Gallery of Ontario, Gift from the Fund of the T. Eaton Co. Ltd. for Canadian Works of Art, 1948 © Estate of Lawren Harris)

(Lawren Harris, Lake and Mountains, 1928, Oil on canvas, 130.8 x 160.7 cm, Art Gallery of Ontario, Gift from the Fund of the T. Eaton Co. Ltd. for Canadian Works of Art, 1948 © Estate of Lawren Harris)

Our very own FRANK Restaurant is thrilled to announce a partnership with Terroir Symposium, one of the largest gatherings of the Canadian hospitality and culinary community, to create an inspirational dining experience featuring 16 internationally renowned chefs from across Canada and beyond. These culinary masterminds will work collaboratively with sustainable suppliers to prepare a six-course menu inspired by the upcoming exhibition, The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris. The chefs will create dishes using the bounty of our northern climate utilizing resources in the most delicious ways.

Monday, April 25, 7pm – 1am
FRANK Restaurant (The Art Gallery of Ontario)
Cost: $200
per person + tax and gratuity. $20 from each ticket sold will be donated to Canadian Food Centres Canada.

Get tickets here

Featured Chefs: Christine Flynn, IQ Food Co. Toronto; Pierre Lamielle, Food on Your Shirt, Calgary; Charlotte Langley, Scout Canning, Toronto; Renée Bellefeuille, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Brandon Baltzley, 41-70, Woods Hole, MA; Todd Perrin, Mallard Cottage, St. Johns, NL; Ned Bell, Yew Seafood Bar, Four Seasons, Vancouver; Jeremy Charles, Raymonds & The Merchant Tavern, St. Johns, NL; Ned Elliot, Foreign and Domestic, Austin; Jim Christiansen, Hey Day, Minneapolis; Scott Vivian, Beast Restaurant, Toronto; Basilio Pesce, The Cheese Boutique, Toronto; Diane Yang, Spoon & Stable, Minneapolis; Bertrand Alépée, The Tempered Room, Toronto and John Jackson & Connie DeSousa, Charcut & Carbar, Calgary.

Learn more at, and follow @TerroirTalk and @Terroir10 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

On the occasion of its 10th anniversary, Terroir, Canada’s leading food service and hospitality symposium, brings together the elite of Canada’s restaurant industry, including influential chefs, food writers, wine and food experts, journalists and business leaders.


Acquiring a masterpiece: The AGO’s very first Hammershøi painting

April 16th, 2016

As we open our newest exhibition Painting Tranquility: Masterworks by Vilhelm Hammershøi, we have something huge to celebrate. In 2015, the AGO acquired the first painting by the Danish master to enter a Canadian museum. Interior with Four Etchings, a characteristic work created at the height of the artist’s career, was for many decades in a private Toronto collection and has been seen publicly only once before, during an exhibition in Japan.

Painted in the Hammershøi apartment at Strandgade 30 in old Copenhagen, the work features some of the artist’s favourite motifs: a closed, square piano with chair, cherished antique Royal Copenhagen porcelain, four heavily framed, indistinct etchings and, most important of all, his wife Ida, who would model for him more than seventy times.

So how did this masterpiece come to reside at the AGO? We chatted with our outgoing curator of European Art Lloyd DeWitt to ask about the history of this painting and the role the Department of Canadian Heritage played in helping to keep it in Canada.