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#BasquiatAGO: Now’s the time to say thank you and farewell

May 15th, 2015

Something very special happened in our building over the past few months: starting Feb. 7, we had the honour of showing incredible artwork in Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time. Through its run to May 10, 155,755 visitors experienced that exhibition, and thousands of Basquiat fans joined us for events that welcomed, feted, discussed, drew inspiration from and sent off the exhibition. The resulting important discussions, impressive artwork and unforgettable fun wouldn’t have been possible without the involvement of our community partners and dedicated individuals inside and outside the AGO.

Bringing exhibitions of this calibre to the AGO requires a lot of support, and we would like to recognize the exhibition’s Lead Supporter, the Hal Jackman Foundation, as well as the generous support of TD Bank Group and Robert Harding, the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada, Official Hotel Partner Eaton Chelsea Hotel Toronto and the Canada Council for the Arts, which supports contemporary programming at the AGO. Thanks to each and all for making Now’s the Time and its accompanying programming at the AGO possible and a big success.

Seeing visitors engage with Basquiat’s powerful paintings and share their thoughts has been very rewarding for Gallery staff who worked to bring the exhibition together. To everyone who joined us in declaring “now’s the time” for Jean-Michel Basquiat in Toronto, thank you.

A fond farewell to Alex Colville, and thanks to our visitors

January 16th, 2015

Alex Colville Living  Room, 1999-2000, acrylic on Masonite. 41.8 x 58.5 cm. Purchased 2000. National Gallery of Canada (no. 40408). © A.C.Fine Art Inc

Alex Colville Living Room, 1999-2000, acrylic on Masonite.
41.8 x 58.5 cm. Purchased 2000. National Gallery of Canada (no. 40408). © A.C.Fine Art Inc

When Alex Colville closed on Jan. 4, it had attracted 166,406 visitors, making it the 10th–best attended exhibition in our history. Notably, it is the only exhibition in the top 10 that focused on Canadian art. The Gallery’s last Colville exhibition, which ran from July 22 to September 18, 1983, welcomed 49,984 visitors.

What made this presentation different? Our director and CEO, Matthew Teitelbaum, ascribes the recent exhibition’s success to timing and the universality of Colville’s work: “At the moment of Alex Colville’s passing there was an acknowledgement of what he meant to so many people around the country. He was understood as a truly national figure in a new way. When we made the decision to mount the exhibition, we had confidence that people would respond, because Colville’s story is everybody’s story, which is: there is mystery in life. Life is born of relationships and of the place where you are from, and Colville’s work captures that complex sense of place that lies deep in our psyche.” Read the rest of this entry »

Saying goodbye to The Great Upheaval (and thanks to our visitors)

March 20th, 2014

More than 140,000 people visited The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection, 1910-1918 at the Art Gallery of Ontario between November 30, 2013, and March 2, 2014. The exhibition was a rare opportunity to see works by a large group of outstanding artists — including Chagall, Kandinsky, Matisse, Modigliani, Mondrian and Picasso — from the collection of the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

The exhibition’s attendance ranks it close to other recent popular exhibitions at the Gallery: Ai Weiwei: According to What? and David Bowie is both drew crowds of about 145,000 each.

Thanks to everyone who helped bring it together, inside and outside the Gallery, especially to our friends at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, lead sponsor BMO Financial Group, generous supporters Gail & Mark Appel and Joan & Jerry Lozinski and hotel partner Eaton Chelsea Toronto. And to all 142,360 of you who visited the exhibition: we hope you’ll be back. Keep sharing your thoughts with us on Facebeook and at @agotoronto on Twitter and Instagram.

The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection, 1910-1918 was made possible by lead sponsor BMO Financial Group, generous supporters Gail & Mark Appel and Joan & Jerry Lozinski and hotel partner Eaton Chelsea Toronto.

Bowie has left the building

December 10th, 2013

David Bowie is at the AGO kicked off world tour and got visitors dancing

David Bowie is opening night. Photo by Dean Tomlinson/Art Gallery of Ontario.

David Bowie is opening night. Photo by Dean Tomlinson/Art Gallery of Ontario.


This fall David Bowie is, a widely acclaimed exhibition of objects from the pop icon’s personal archive, came to the AGO for an extended run from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. We’re happy to announce that it was a hit with our visitors. Running from Sept. 25, 2013, to Nov. 29, 2013, the exhibition drew 146,471 visitors to the Gallery during its nine-week run, garnering praise from the likes of the Globe and Mail, which called it a “spectacular, bewildering multi-sensory collision” and NOW Magazine, which lauded it as a “multimedia extravaganza”.

To kick things off on the exhibition’s opening day, the AGO encouraged fans to don Bowie-inspired garb and be among the first 200 to experience David Bowie is at the AGO. Glammed-up visitors listened to Bowie tunes spun by a DJ on the street as they lined up at the Gallery’s entrance to receive free admission to the sold-out show.

The AGO also threw an official opening party in Walker Court on Sept. 27, 2013. Guests released their inner Bowie and danced the night away. They also enjoyed after-hours admission to the exhibition, sets from DJs Luis Jacob and Odessa Paloma Parker, GIF tributes to Bowie by Toronto new media artist Lorna Mills and a special one-night-only exhibition of memorabilia, presented by Toronto artist Andrew Zealley and others.

David Bowie is opening night. Photo by Dean Tomlinson/Art Gallery of Ontario.

David Bowie is opening night. Photo by Dean Tomlinson/Art Gallery of Ontario.

The partying didn’t stop after the exhibition’s opening. On Nov. 23, 2013, the AGO lit up again with decked-out guests after hours for the AGO’s Bowie Bash closing gala. More than 425 attendees participated in this festive and fashionable fundraiser that included a gourmet dinner designed by AGO executive chef Jeff Dueck, live musical entertainment and more, all in support of AGO programming.

Just as during its successful run at the V&A, David Bowie is was in high demand in Toronto, and so the Gallery responded. Not only did we expand the visiting hours to accommodate gallery-goers navigating their busy fall calendars, but we also extended the closing date by two days to Nov. 29 to help as many visitors as possible catch a glimpse of the exhibition that everyone had been talking about.

Bringing exhibitions of this calibre to the AGO requires a lot of support, and we would like to recognize our corporate partners Holt Renfrew and RBC; Sennheiser for the incredible sound experience; leadership gifts from La Foundation Emmanuelle Gattuso, the Ira Gluskin & Maxine Granovsky Gluskin Charitable Foundation and Rob & Cheryl McEwen; our government partner, the Government of Ontario; our hotel partner, Eaton Chelsea; and our media partners, Q107 and NOW Magazine. Thanks to each and all for making David Bowie is and its accompanying programming at the AGO possible and a big success.

Organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and curated by Victoria Broakes and Geoffrey Marsh (the V&A’s curators of theatre and performance), the exhibition’s stop at the AGO was the first on its world tour. It will be on display at the São Paulo Museum of Image and Sound in the new year and at the MCA Chicago next fall.

Huge art, big success: Nearly 150,000 visitors experienced Ai Weiwei: According to What? at the AGO

November 8th, 2013

Visitors to AGO First Thursdays on Sept. 5, 2013, check out the exhibition.

Ai Weiwei: According to What?, the ground-breaking and critically acclaimed exhibition of large-scale artworks that stopped at the AGO from Aug. 17 to Oct. 27, 2013, drew in 145,407 visitors during its 10-week run and fuelled an undeniable “Ai Weiwei moment” in Toronto. Almost a quarter of the exhibition’s audience was composed of first-time visitors at the AGO, responding to media commentary that According to What? “shouldn’t be missed” (Torontoist) and such praise as “This is what art is supposed to do” (NOW).

Everyone at the Gallery worked to make this exhibition interactive and engaging. We encouraged visitors to take photos and share their thoughts; at the September AGO First Thursdays event, we organized a live video chat between Ai Weiwei and AGO director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum (watch); and, on Aug. 18, 2013, artistic director Gein Wong gathered close to 300 Chinese-speaking community members at the AGO to participate in Say Their Names, Remember, a performance commemorating thousands of children who died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that inspired a number of Ai’s works. Ai’s work Snake Ceiling (2009), also a tribute to young victims of the Sichuan earthquake, was installed on the Gallery’s second level in April 2013 and remained in place until this month.

Toronto celebrated Ai Weiwei before and during the exhibition, too. Prior to the opening of Ai Weiwei: According to What? at the Gallery, Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads was installed in front of City Hall in Nathan Phillips Square, with the cooperation of the City of Toronto, and remained on display for almost three months, before Ai’s enormous installation Forever Bicycles (2011) took over the square for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2013. Toronto artist Sean Martindale‘s Love the Future: Free Ai Weiwei — an eight-foot-tall statue of the artist made from salvaged cardboard — greeted visitors at the entrance of the AGO through the run of the exhibition (learn more about the work here); at First Thursdays on Sept. 5, Martindale had his head shaved and invited others to do the same in solidarity with Ai.

Bringing exhibitions of this calibre to the AGO requires a lot of support, and we’re grateful to Emmanuelle Gattuso and Allan Slaight; the Hal Jackman Foundation; the Delaney Family Foundation; the Donner Canadian Foundation; Partners in Art; Francis and Eleanor Shen; the Globe and Mail; the Canada Council for the Arts; and AW Asia, New York for making it all possible.

Co-organized by the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, and curated by head curator Mami Kataoka, the exhibition’s stop at the AGO was its third on a tour of five North American museums. It will soon be on display at the Miami Perez Art Museum and then the Brooklyn Museum.

Additional thanks go out to PEN Canada for their involvement in this exhibition and for creating this wonderful roundup of #aiwwAGO social media posts by visitors.