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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.

Why is contemporary art important? Join us on Twitter and let us know!

March 7th, 2012

Nice To Tweet You

Join the Art Gallery of Ontario on Thursday,  March 8, 2012 at 11 a.m.  for an online discussion about contemporary art.

“Why is contemporary art important?” If you’ve been to see Watch This Space you might have already answered this question by using the #contemporaryTO hashtag and posting to our first ever in-gallery Twitter Wall. We’ve had some truly excellent responses so far, and with so many amazing contemporary artists on display at the AGO right now it was a natural choice for the theme of March’s #ArtHour.

What: #ArtHour is a Twitter chat with a new art topic each month. We invite you to spend one hour each month thinking about and sharing what art really means to you.
When: Thursday, February 9, 11:00 – 12:00 EST and then every second Thursday of the month.
Where: On Twitter – Follow @AGOToronto for more information or search for the hashtag #ArtHour. We’ll also be posting the questions here on the blog.
Who: #ArtHour is for everyone –  Galleries and museums, arts professionals, artists and anyone interested in learning more and meeting other passionate art fans.
Why: It’s a great, free way of meeting art fans from across the world.
How: Starting at 11am we’ll be asking a series of questions around the month’s topic for you to answer, debate and discuss.

From 11am until 12.00pm EST on Thursday, March 8 we will be tweeting a question every 10 minutes using the hastag #ArtHour. Anyone can respond, also using the #ArtHour hashtag. What is a hashtag?

For example, we would tweet:

Q1 Why is contemporary art important? #ArtHour

And you could tweet back:

A1 Contemporary art is a lens through which to see the world we live in #ArtHour

Our March topic is CONTEMPORARY ART. Your favourite artists, the coolest shows, what we can be doing to support our local art scene and more.

We hope that you’ll help spread the word and join us for this great online event. For more information about #ArtHour please email holly_knowlman@ago.net.

See you on Twitter,  Thursday February 9,  11:00 – 12:00 EST 

 

AND Check out all the amazing contemporary exhibitions at the AGO this Spring!

 

Yael Bartana: …And Europe Will Be Stunned

Israeli filmmaker and artist Yael Bartana is a rising star in the international art scene. Her film trilogy…And Europe Will Be Stunned raises questions about ideas of homeland and a sense of belonging. In the films – Mary Koszmary (Nightmares), Mur i Wieża (Wall and Tower) and Zamach (Assassination) — Bartana tests reactions to the unexpected return of the “long-unseen neighbour,” telling a story of the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland. The trilogy also challenges the viewer’s readiness to accept the other and the complexities of cultural integration in a culturally and politically unstable world. Learn more.

IAIN BAXTER&: Works 1958–2011

Canadian artist IAIN BAXTER& has made a career out of breaking rules and keeping viewers on their toes, and the AGO is inviting visitors to experience his intriguing body of work. Featuring 100 works, the exhibition offers the most comprehensive survey of BAXTER&’s career to date, comprising pioneering works of appropriation art, gallery-transforming installations, environmental art, and conceptually based photography. Learn more.

Generously supported by:
Leslie Gales & Keith Ray
Rosamond Ivey
The Steven & Michael Latner Families
Philip B. Lind & Ellen Roland

Watch this Space: Contemporary Art from the AGO Collection

An exhibition that invites visitors to consider how the universal concept of space has inspired artists.Watch this Space brings together compelling works in a variety of media. Canadian and international artists are included in this exploration of the  issues and ideas related to space — be it physical locations, psychological realms or the places that exist somewhere between the real and the imagined. The installation includes new acquisitions and longtime collection favourites such as Gerhard Richter’sScheune/Barn No. 549/1 and Ellsworth Kelly’s Blue WhiteLearn more.

Toronto Now

Toronto Now is an ongoing series of contemporary art projects that puts the focus on Toronto artists and displays their work in the free, street-facing Young Gallery. The current installation NOW: A Collaborative Project by Sean Martindale and Pascal Paquette guest curated by Katherine Dennis, reflects the artists’ interest in pressing Toronto issues and the tension between the rush of the average Torontonian’s current lifestyle and the benefit of being mindful of environmental, political and cultural subjects. Learn More

The Toronto Now series is generously supported by The Contemporary Circle

Team Macho: Axis Mundi

An interactive installation by local art heroes Team Macho, have transformed the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre Community Gallery into a fully functioning art studio, inviting visitors to occupy the space alongside the artists. The installation draws on themes brought forth in writer Northrop Frye’s Words with Power, along with ideas related to the history of artists working in collaboration, referencing the practices of General Idea and the Group of Seven, among others. Learn more.

NOW: A Collaborative Project by Sean Martindale and Pascal Paquette

March 7th, 2012

By Beth Corbett, Communications Intern

“Come on in, you’re open,” reads the cheery welcome at the front desk of the NOW Service Bureau, part of the AGO’s current Toronto Now exhibition NOW: A Collaborative Project by Sean Martindale and Pascal Paquette. Enter the Service Bureau and experience Martindale and Paquette’s Do It Yourself agency, meant to challenge the hurried pace of life and encourage meaningful thought on pressing Toronto issues. The Post NOW wall provides a forum for sharing ideas, asking questions such as “How can you affect change in your city?”

The artists were brought together by guest curator Katherine Dennis, and the exhibition incorporates elements from their design, graphic arts, graffiti and street art backgrounds. Sean Martindale, who has an MFA from OCAD University and graduated from Emily Carr University’s design program, is known for his street art interventions such as his “poster planters” in Kensington Market and sidewalk planter interventions. Pascal Paquette practices graffiti writing under the pseudonym Mon Petit Chou and graduated from La Cite Collegiale in Ottawa in graphic arts.

The NOW Service Bureau is housed in the street-facing Young Gallery beside FRANK, the AGO’s restaurant. Home to all of the AGO’s Toronto Now exhibitions, the Young Gallery is free to visit and does not require a ticket.

The other part of NOW is Gift Shop Gift Shop, located inside the AGO Gift Shop. Gift Shop Gift Shop expands on the self-reflective themes of NOW with a variety of items from Toronto artists, leading a tongue-in-cheek exploration of consumerism and commercialization.

Visitors can get their picture taken as an “AGO Shopper” with Tongue & Groove’s Your Face Here, or buy a set of 25 postcards with images of the AGO Gift Shop, modeled after the Frank Gehry transformation postcard set. It’s also possible to pick up an exclusive dematerialized, cubed souvenir balloon from General Idea’s Magic Bullet, or to take home a water bottle personalized with an artist’s name – water included!

NOW: A Collaborative Project by Sean Martindale and Pascal Paquette kicks off the AGO’s 2012 Toronto Now series, running January 21 – April 1, 2012. Toronto Now is a series of contemporary art projects that puts the focus on Toronto artists and displays their work in the AGO’s free, street-facing Young Gallery.

For more photos from the exhibition, visit the NOW Facebook Page.

Image Credits:
  1. Young Gallery; photo courtesy of Katherine Dennis.
  2. Graffiti wall art by Posterchild, completed as part of the
     Martindale/Paquette Whitewash (2011-ongoing) video project;
    photo courtesy of Sean Martindale and Pascal Paquette.
  3. Name Dripping Water, Keith Cole; individual 
    branded water bottle, water included; photo courtesy of Keith Cole.
  4. Your Face Here, Tongue & Groove collective;
    photo courtesy of Katherine Dennis.
  5. Infinite NOW (2012), Sean Martindale and Pascal Paquette (installation photo);
    photo courtesy of Katherine Dennis.

#ContemporaryTO: Celebrating Contemporary Art in 2012

January 19th, 2012

 We’re kicking off 2012 with five diverse exhibitions of contemporary art, celebrating the work of artists both established and emerging, local and international. Taking over various spaces within the Gallery, several separate installations beginning this month and continuing into the spring will offer something for every contemporary art lover. Each exhibition offers you an immersive experience, prompting you to reconsider your notions of time, space, and identity, or, in some cases, asking you to participate in the work directly.

Yael Bartana: …And Europe Will Be Stunned

Israeli filmmaker and artist Yael Bartana is a rising, and to some controversial, star in the international art scene, and soon AGO visitors will have a chance to get up close and personal with her work.

After winning the Artes Mundi prize for “work that stimulates thinking about the human condition” in 2010, Bartana presented her latest project at the 2011 Venice Biennale — the first non-Polish artist to represent Poland at the major international art exhibition.And Europe Will Be Stunned, her film trilogy made between 2007 and 2011, will be on view for the first time in Canada in the AGO’s Lind Gallery from Jan. 25 to April 1, 2012.

“Interweaving past and present, reality and fiction, the conceptual and the emotional, and drawing on propaganda films of the 1930s and ’40s, as well as the visual language of advertising, Bartana’s films boldly traverse a landscape scarred by the histories of competing nationalisms and militarisms,” said Elizabeth Smith, AGO executive director of Curatorial Affairs and curator of the exhibition.

Featuring architecture and scenography by Oren Sagiv, And Europe Will Be Stunned raises questions about ideas of homeland and a sense of belonging. In the films — Mary Koszmary (Nightmares), Mur i Wieza (Wall and Tower) and Zamach (Assassination) — Bartana tests reactions to the unexpected return of the “long-unseen neighbour,” telling a story of the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland. The trilogy also challenges the viewer’s readiness to accept the other and the complexities of cultural integration in a culturally and politically unstable world.

And Europe Will Be Stunned is accompanied by one of the artist’s earlier video works, Trembling Time (2001), from the AGO’s collection. Bartana will be present for a public Meet the Artist program on Jan. 26 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Jackman Hall at the AGO.

IAIN BAXTER&: Works 1958–2011
IAIN BAXTER& has made a career out of breaking rules and keeping viewers on their toes, and the AGO is inviting visitors to experience his intriguing body of work in 2012.

The Gallery will present a major exhibition of more than 100 works by the preeminent Canadian artist from March 3 to Aug. 12, 2012. Including work produced both under his name and through the N.E. Thing Co.,IAIN BAXTER&: Works 1958–2011 offers the most comprehensive survey of BAXTER&’s career to date, comprising pioneering works of appropriation art, gallery-transforming installations, environmental art, and conceptually based photography. The exhibition affords a unique opportunity to recognize the artist’s defining contribution to Canadian contemporary art.

Co-curated by Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and David Moos, former curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the AGO, the exhibition travels directly to Toronto from Chicago, where it is currently on view at MCA. IAIN BAXTER&: Works 1958–2011 is generously supported by Philip B. Lind and Ellen Roland.

Watch this Space: Contemporary Art from the AGO’s Collection
Marking the return of the AGO’s contemporary collection to the galleries for which it was intended, Watch this Space is an installation that re-imagines the collection and invites visitors to consider how the universal concept of space has inspired artists.

Compelling works in a variety of media by both Canadian and international artists explore issues and ideas related to space — be it physical locations, psychological realms or the places that exist somewhere between the real and the imagined. “In recasting our contemporary collection, this installation will introduce some visitors to the featured works for the first time and prompt others to see them in a whole new light,” said AGO acting curator of Canadian art and Watch this Space curator Michelle Jacques. The installation includes both new acquisitions and more than 40 longtime collection favourites, including Gerhard Richter’s Scheune/Barn No. 549/1 and Ellsworth Kelly’s Blue White.

Through these works and others, the installation explores how artists employ colour, shape, line and image to create spaces, both psychological and physical, and asks whether we can make clear distinctions between the realms of inner and outer space or if the majority of our reality exists somewhere in between. Watch this Space runs from Feb. 11 through summer 2012.

Celebrating Toronto Artists

The AGO extends contemporary programming into its community gallery spaces early this year with two exhibitions from Toronto artists that call on visitors to participate in the work and raise questions about the implications of collaboration and participation in a community.

Team Macho: Axis Mundi
Axis Mundi,
a playful and interactive installation by local art heroes Team Macho, will transform the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre Community Gallery into a fully functioning art studio on Jan. 23., inviting visitors to occupy the space alongside the artists

The installation, which will include a series of studio structures, draws on themes brought forth in writer Northrop Frye’s Words with Power, along with ideas related to the history of artists working in collaboration, referencing the practices of General Idea and the Group of Seven, among others. Axis Mundi examines the manner in which these artists collaborated and supported one another, while developing structures that were both physical and personal to propel their individual practices. Team Macho comprises members Nicholas Aoki, Stephen Appleby-Barr, Christopher Buchan and Lauchie Reid, who share a studio in Toronto, creating work in a wide variety of media, with a focus on illustration. They have shown their work with solo shows at Narwhal in Toronto and the Optica Centre for the Arts in Montreal, and internationally in Los Angeles, New York, Detroit and Amsterdam. Axis Mundi, organized by Ann Marie Pena, continues into April 2012.

NOW: A Collaborative Project by Sean Martindale and Pascal Paquette
This do-it-yourself (or “DIY”) agency kicks off the Toronto Now series in 2012, challenging visitors to use the AGO’s fully accessible Young Gallery as a forum for pressing Toronto issues.

Pushing the idea of Toronto Now to its limits, Toronto artists Sean Martindale and Pascal Paquette appropriate the AGO logo and the NOW name in a creative space that encourages mindful action on local issues. The project, guest curated by Katherine Dennis and on display from Jan. 21 to April 1, reflects the artists’ interest in the tension between the rush and impatience of the average Torontonian’s current lifestyle and the benefit of slowing down and being mindful of environmental, political and cultural subjects. Running concurrently with NOW is the Martindale and Paquette’s Gift Shop Gift Shop, a store within a store featuring artworks for sale by local Toronto-based artists, designers and illustrators.

Toronto Now is a series of contemporary art projects that puts the focus on Toronto artists and displays their work in the free, street-facing Young Gallery. Artists previously featured in the series include Dean Baldwin, Will Munro, Allyson Mitchell, John Sasaki, Libby Hague, John Dickson and Paul Butler.

The Toronto Now series is generously supported by The Contemporary Circle.

All exhibitions are organized by the AGO. Contemporary programming at the AGO is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

The AGO acknowledges the generous support of its Signature Partners:
American Express, Signature Partner of the Conservation Program; and Aeroplan, Signature Partner of the Photography Collection Program.

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.

For more information on exhibitions and special programming, please visit www.ago.net.