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Archive: January, 2006

What good are the arts?

January 31st, 2006

Book review of "WHAT GOOD ARE THE ARTS?" by John Carey, Oxford Univ.

In the Washington Post, reviewer Michael Dirda says "…doing art matters because it is in our very nature as homo faber to want to shape the ordinary into the special, that such activity can assuage the loneliness that is modern man’s particular burden, and that art mystically helps us to feel that we matter as individuals — that we, in effect, truly exist."

Read the full review here –

AGO Podcast #7 – Swing Space: Luis Jacob Artist Talk

January 30th, 2006

Comprised of furniture and décor from the 1970s and 1980s, Luis Jacob’s Habitat is a series of tableaux that is at once a commentary on the aesthetics of design and an interactive space intended for viewer inhabitation and use. In this artist’s talk, Jacob discusses Habitat within the framework of the philosophical and cultural possibilities of social interaction and the evolution of his past artistic practice. The exhibition dates are November 5, 2005 to February 26, 2006.

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Image: Preliminary installation of Habitat (detail), Luis Jacob, 2005. Photo: Miguel Jacob. (Clothing designed and modelled by Lydia K.) © 2005 Luis Jacob

AGO Invites Public to Get Creative with In Your Face!

January 25th, 2006

For the first time in the Gallery’s history the AGO is launching an exhibition created entirely by the public.

Opening July 1, In Your Face is an exhibition of portraits collected from the general public to celebrate the individuality and diversity of Canada. Submissions are now being accepted for the exhibition and the Gallery will be entering the completed project for consideration by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest collection of portraits ever assembled.

The arts and the election: Inform yourself

January 18th, 2006

Inform yourself and be heard on the future of culture in Canada. The upcoming election has sparked several web sites devoted to probing candidate positions on culture.

The Canadian Arts Coalition ( is advocating for continuation of the $306 million investment the current federal government committed to last November. This site provides information on the five-party platforms and their positions on continuation of this critical funding. The site also provides information on how your voice can be heard.

The Toronto Arts Coalition has taken the lead in clarifying election platforms as they relate to Toronto’s cultural wellbeing. This group has asked each of Toronto’s 88 candidates in the four major parties to address their position on the arts and funding. The candidates’ responses will be posted this week on

Arthur Lismer’s Saturday Morning Classes

January 12th, 2006

I noticed in "ARTMATTERS" that you are celebrating the Saturday Morning Art Classes started by ‘Arthur Lismer’. I was a member – chosen by my school to attend 3 years in a row. To this day – I have never forgotten what a wonderful experience it was. It influenced my entire life as I am still an artist and have been every day since those classes. I remember the rolls of paper that were rolled out along the floor in the basement and sometimes in the old centre marble court and sometimes on the floor of one of the gallerys — to paint what we saw. I remember all of us children lined up along University Avenue to watch and sketch the Santa Claus parade. I also remember the old man in the dark suit – not there very often – but sometimes. It was years later while studying art that I realized who he was and what a privilege it was to have attended Arthur Lismer’s Classes. And still a few years later meeting Doris McCarthy and her connection to those classes at one period of her career. We still are in touch periodically. Without that early introduction to art – Would I be an artist??

Earle Barr

Art and advertising

January 10th, 2006

From The Toronto Star Jan. 10, 2006.

Anti-advertising campaigners, offended by what they describe as a growing infestation of placards in Toronto buses and subways, want all the ads replaced with art.

In a clear case of wishful thinking, they argue commuters would accept a fare hike for the sake of culture.
Riders may have to swallow a fare increase, in any case, given the Toronto Transit Commission’s projected shortfall of $66 million and the budget crisis confronting all city operations. Under these circumstances, asking the public to pay to have ads replaced by children’s art, or have buses decorated in psychedelic hues, is blatantly unrealistic.

And even if the TTC could afford it, such a change might not be desirable in some cases. Members of the non-profit Toronto Public Space Committee insist that banning ads on the TTC, and tapping commuters for the lost revenue, would add only 4 cents to the cost of a ride. Pennies add up, however. The total bill for the riding public would amount to $13.5 million each year. But more than dollars are at issue in the group’s call to turn TTC vehicles and stations into "North America’s largest indoor art gallery."

The public space committee’s proposed ad ban is also open to challenge on cultural grounds. Some modern art is harder to bear than advertising copy. The artistic avant-garde often aims to break with tradition and shock complacent society. Commuters may not want to endure that every day. But if transit art pulls back, and plays it safe with displays of children’s daubings, does it truly advance the cause of culture?

Moreover, an element of "advertising" is evident even in revered masterpieces, such as Raphael’s Madonna of Foligno. Commissioned by the wealthy and powerful Sigismondo de’ Conti, and destined for the high altar of a church in Rome, the painting depicts the Virgin and Child and assorted saints — with none more prominent than Sigismondo himself, shown in the foreground.

Conversely, pieces of advertising are being increasingly recognized as art. One much-reproduced example would be Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s bold poster publicizing the Moulin Rouge dance hall. In short, art is sometimes advertising, and advertising is sometimes art. It seems absurd to allow one but not the other to grace the walls of Toronto bus shelters and subway stations.

How does art matter to you?

January 6th, 2006

Art Matters to Markville Secondary School

Grade 12 students from Markville Secondary school have been wearing Art Matters buttons and submitting their thoughts to the blog.

Transformation AGO is much more than a building expansion project – it’s about new ways of thinking about art. Our vision is to become a new kind of art museum, a place that brings art and people together in innovative and exciting ways. Transformation AGO truly embraces "New Art, New Building, New Ideas, New Future."

We are embarking on Transformation AGO because art matters. Art influences our lives every day, from the beauty of a sunset to the curve of a roadway. Everything we see inspires us to respond in our own creative ways, as we discovered this summer at the Canadian National Exhibition where more than 1,000 people told us why art matters in words and pictures.

We want to know what art means to you.