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Archive: May, 2008

Transformed AGO sets public opening

May 28th, 2008

On Friday, November 14, the fully-transformed Art Gallery of Ontario will open to the public with three days of free admission.

Celebrated architect and Toronto-born Frank Gehry’s first Canadian building, the new AGO will welcome the world to 110 light-filled galleries featuring more than 4,000 new and perennial favourite art works.

The public opening day begins with a special ceremony in partnership with Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony after which some of Canada’s newest citizens will be among the first to experience the AGO.

The Gallery’s opening celebration will be a distinctive statement of welcome to all – from people across Ontario to Canada’s newest citizens, from local artists to international art museum directors, from next door neighbours to tourists from around the world.

“Through Frank’s remarkable design, the new AGO declares itself and what it stands for – a joining of the art museum and the city, an open invitation to enter and participate in something memorable and exciting,” says Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO’s Michael and Sonja Koerner director, and CEO. “The architecture, the installations and the programming clearly say you can imagine yourself here, that we’re glad you are here.”

Signature elements of the new building include an iconic sculptural staircase emerging from Walker Court (the historic centre of the AGO), the celebrated Galleria Italia with its dramatic sweep of glass and Douglas fir that extends an entire city block along Dundas Street, and the new contemporary tower with its vistas of Grange Park and the city.

The unprecedented growth of the AGO’s permanent collection will be a focal point of the Gallery – from the much-loved Group of Seven to the art of world cultures, from David Altmejd’s monumental installation The Index to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, a highlight of the internationally acclaimed Thomson Collection. The late Ken Thomson’s unprecedented gift of more than 2,000 works will extend the visitor experience far beyond what was possible before our transformation.

"It is a gift for the ages,” says Teitelbaum. “Ken was steadfast in his belief that Transformation AGO was a journey to be shared by many – a gallery built by our community to serve our community. His vision will be realized when we open and his magnificent collection will be a legacy for generations to come.”

With the AGO’s opening, a number of new and expanded programs are planned, including free after-school admission for Ontario students ages 13-18. The AGO will also continue its popular free Wednesday nights and its free access partnership with the Toronto Public Library’s Sun Life Museum Arts Pass program, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s Cultural Access Pass program for new citizens, and the access program for all members of the Ontario College of Teachers.

“The Ontario government is proud to support this exciting new phase for the AGO,” said Culture Minister Aileen Carroll. “The transformed Gallery will be an extraordinary addition to our province and will draw visitors from around the world. I look forward to the opening festivities in November and welcome the news that the Gallery will be free to everyone for the first few days.”

The new AGO will offer an almost 50 per cent increase in art viewing space. Introductory “hubs” for each of the Gallery’s core areas (African, Canadian, Contemporary, European, Photography, Prints and Drawings and Education) will orient visitors, while galleries throughout will engage everyone from art experts to first-timers through interactive media, art-making activities, feedback stations and discussion forums. A casual-chic restaurant and family-friendly café, a two-level gift shop and a free contemporary gallery will be easily accessible from the street.

“When the AGO opens this fall, we will fulfill the promise of our transformation, signaling a remarkable new chapter in our 108-year history,” says AGO President Charles Baillie. “Now that we’ve set the date, we’re looking forward to welcoming the world to an extraordinary new home for extraordinary art. This will be their AGO.”

AGO announces new graphic identity: A conversation with Matthew Teitelbaum

May 15th, 2008

Today the Art Gallery of Ontario unveiled a distinctive new logo that will represent the Gallery well beyond its Fall 2008 opening.

Centered inside a black square, the Gallery’s new logo uses multiple typefaces and a wide spectrum of colours to create a unique effect reminiscent of light refracting through glass. By combining a strong iconic form – the black square – with a shimmering juxtaposition of overlapping coloured typefaces, the logo captures both the stability of the century-old institution and the forward-looking energy of the new Gallery.


In this 7:22 minute podcast, AGO staff discuss the work of Bruce Mau Design for the Gallery and the milestone of launching a new graphic identity as part of Transformation AGO.

Matthew Teitelbaum, Michael and Sonja Koerner Director, and CEO
Arlene Madell, Director, Marketing & Communications
Matthew Dawson, Creative Director

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Illustrated History

This exhibition looks back on the history of the AGO’s graphic identities since its founding in 1900. It features a selection of logos and wordmarks compiled from the Gallery’s archives.

See it on

Image: Art Gallery of Toronto seal, designed in 1922 by Alexander Scott Carter

AGO Staff Spotlight – Rochelle Strauss

May 8th, 2008

Photo courtesy AGO photographer Craig Boyko.

What do Al Gore and Rochelle Strauss have in common? Their names both appear on the American Library Association’s Booklist as authors of the top ten environmental books for youth.

In fact, Strauss’s recent book, One Well: The Story of Water on Earth, is a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year in its juvenile non-fiction category. The winner will be announced on May 29. Strauss’s first book, Tree of Life, was a runner up in 2004 for this prestigious award. One Well has also just recently won the Sigurd Olson Children’s Award for Nature Writing.

Strauss joined the AGO as interpretive planner for Canadian art in 2007, bringing with her both a museum and environmental studies background. At Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, she taught natural history classes, developed family programming and served as gallery coordinator for its hands-on biodiversity gallery. She also designed and developed numerous education programs on a freelance basis, and consulted on several international environmental projects, including a biodiversity museum in Panama and a national park in Canada.

For many years, Strauss had a growing interest in writing children’s books, but always assumed it would be in the fiction genre. In 2002 she submitted a proposal for a picture book to a Toronto publisher.

“I got a flat-out rejection,” said Strauss. However, the timing was right. “Instead, they were very interested in my environmental background, and asked me to write a book on biodiversity.”

Within two weeks, she had signed a contract with the publisher, and her first book, Tree of Life, was published two years later. One Well followed in 2007, and has already sold over 10,000 copies. It is available in six languages, including French, Korean, Spanish and Arabic.

Strauss was keynote speaker at Weaving Words in Lethbridge, Alberta in April. Her topic: – Changing the World: One Book at a Time. In her spare time – which, as the mother of four-year-old Oliver, is a rarity – she keeps busy with school presentations and book tours.

Stories continue to play an active role in Strauss’s work at the AGO. As this fall’s opening looms ever closer, her role as interpretive planner focuses on working to ensure that the stories of Canadian art will be told to our visitors in as many ways as possible.

For more information on Strauss’s books, please visit To access her recent Metro Morning interview, visit

Copycamp: Art, Technology & Law Break The Ice

May 5th, 2008

Last week I was lucky enough to participate in Copycamp 2008. The event brought together practitioners of art, technology and the law to discuss the current and future environment of creative production. It’s an "unconference," which means no set agenda, no stages, no stars – just discussion, communication and new ideas.

On opening night MC Misha Glouberman took the mic and randomly assigned everyone a number, forming strangers into groups. This, not to mention the whole event, was all about breaking the ice. Serendipity put in my group Ben Lewis, a former AGO New Media contributor who helped put together the Sounds Of The Grange project a few years back. In our circle were two musicians of mixed aboriginal descent, calling to mind Traditional Knowledge, a major theme of Copycamp 2006. But just as introductions were completed Glouberman wove though the room again with new random number assignments — new groups!

We offered our favorite things about the Internet. An advocate for creators’ rights loved the public-domain music freely-available from the Internet Archive, while a lawyer appreciated the wealth of reference material which has allowed him to free up physical space in his office. A computer programmer valued the immediacy of the web, but objected to my fondness for XML. His argument, I think, was that structure doesn’t necessarily mean compatibility. Glouberman took the mic again — new groups!

This time there were no numbers, just a directive to form circles with strangers. I met a recent OCAD grad who’s working at Vtape and Interaccess, and then the musician who focused the 2006 Traditional Knowledge discussion mentioned above. Talk turned to the legitimacy of domain registrations and how traditional or regional groups may be unable to secure their names if someone has beat them to the punch. And just as things were getting interesting, there’s Glouberman! The food had arrived, he said, and the bar opened.

Copycamp kicked into full swing the following day with participant-directed sessions on such topics as appropriation art, business models for artists, WIPO treaties, the future of P2P and more. Notes from the sessions are posted on the Copycamp wiki.

Creators’ rights collectives continue to grapple with contemporary and emerging technology; some have been shaken while others are finding new relevance. The conclusions reached by these groups will shape new definitions (and accompanying fee structures) of exhibitions. There is an opportunity now for the museum community to join this discussion, asking: Where does an exhibition end and its promotion begin? What is appropriation and what is fair use? How do mash-ups impact a creator’s moral rights?

It is clear from the sessions that working artists are awake to the promotional power of the web and use it to create communities in support of their practices. The physical object, the live show and personal contact with the artist are seen as methods for income to be realized from these efforts. I see opportunities for museums to support working artists by contributing the access and prestige integral to these aura-centered models.

Additionally, by making available using P2P technologies works for which they hold copyright, museums have the opportunity to join the current discussion of Net Neutrality. Museums can provide much-needed examples of the legitimate uses of technological breakthroughs and how emerging media can serve the public good.

Copycamp 2008 was an open-minded discussion, having moved from 2006’s statements of problems to the search for solutions. There has been great progress internationally on subjects like Traditional Knowledge, and more and more the various stakeholder tribes seem to be speaking a common tongue. I can only hope that this will continue, and look forward to next year’s event!