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Archive: August, 2010

The Grange Staircase

August 30th, 2010

The Grange Stairs - Historical

The Grange Stairs - Contemporary

In the main hall of The Grange today (the first home of the AGO), visitors can appreciate the elegant lines of the staircase that sweeps up to the second floor. However, this staircase was not original to The Grange when it was built in 1817 for the family of prominent local lawyer and politician D’Arcy Boulton.

In 1885, Harriette Bolton Smith and Goldwin Smith replaced the Georgian style staircase in their main hall, with a heavy, angular Victorian staircase. By the late 1960s, The Grange was restored to how it would have looked in the 1830s. The restoration architect replaced the Victorian staircase with the current free-standing style, reinforced with steel and decorative brass balusters.

More information on The Grange can be found here.

The Grange Prize Videos: Kristan Horton on Becoming an Artist

August 27th, 2010

The Grange Prize web series continues with artist Kristan Horton, who shares the story of how he became an artist, and reflects upon why he chooses to work in photography. Take a look!

Stay tuned to over the next few weeks, where we’ll be regularly posting new videos and content featuring all four of the shortlisted artists – Americans Josh Brand and Leslie Hewitt, and Canadians Moyra Davey and Kristan Horton -, giving you the chance to get to know each of them before choosing whose work will gain your vote on September 22, when voting opens at!

This week at The Grange

August 27th, 2010

An update on the ongoing repairs at The Grange.

Portico Assessment

One of our concerns is that the front portico is shifting. The spaces between the treads of the steps has increased and some of them are sloping slightly. Ten years ago, we investigated the front of the portico and found that it was sitting on old brick. We were able to stabilize the steps then, but knew that more work would have to be done. The original portico was made out of wood and was replaced with the present stone version in 1885.

Being a designated heritage site means that we are required to do archeology before we do any excavation. Archeological Services Inc., with a team led by archeologist Eva MacDonald, dug two pits, each 1 meter square and 4 meters deep, at the side and the front sections of the steps. They found that the area had been too disturbed during previous construction of air ducts and service lines to be informative. Other than a few shards of glass and pottery and a 1961 penny, no artifacts were found. This cleared the way for Heritage Restoration to excavate the test holes further so that we can assess the foundations and make a decision on the best way to proceed. What we found was that the portico is sitting on a stone foundation. At one point, the stones were mortared with a lime rich mortar; however, over time, the lime has leached out leaving only sand. Given the condition, it was decided that we would restore the stone foundation rather than remove it and pour a concrete one. This, while being more time consuming, is the appropriate approach as it maintains the heritage integrity of the portico.

Our Heritage Architect—ERA Architects Inc.

ERA Architects Inc., has been in business for over twenty years and is based in Toronto and Prince Edward County. With a staff of 30, the firm specializes in heritage architecture, landscape and planning, and provides services for both the public and private sectors. Recent and ongoing architectural projects in building conservation and adaptive re-use in which ERA has been involved include Toronto’s Distillery District, 51 Police Division, Renaissance ROM, Transformation AGO, the Evergreen Brickworks, the Artscape Wychwood Barns, Union Station and Bridgepoint Health (the Don Jail).

Edwin Rowse, the founder, developed his interest in heritage architecture while studying at the University of Edinburgh. Walking the narrow winding streets of the medieval city, he became fascinated with the idea of how to introduce new uses into old buildings. A passion that has continued.

ERA’s core interest is in connecting heritage to wider considerations of urban design and city building, and to a larger set of cultural values that provide perspective to their work at every scale. Their core values are in generating professional integrity and expertise through research, education and mentoring. To that end ERA frequently works collaboratively with other firms to engage in city building, conserving heritage architecture and improving the built environment. They also generate publications and exhibitions related to Toronto and to Canada’s built environment.

A Heritage Construction Moment

I spoke to Andrew Pruss, our architect on the project, about when someone should hire a heritage architect. He noted that anyone with a listed or designated building should definitely choose a heritage architect. Other than that, it really depends on what the owner is planning. Today’s architects focus on the most up-to-date practices and standards whereas a heritage architect must look to the past for standards. While we no longer build with heavy masonry supports or wooden timbers, houses that have these need to be restored or repaired using the same techniques as in the past. An example with The Grange is replacing the portland cement mortar with lime mortar to protect the softer bricks. Heritage architects have a love of the older building techniques and understand traditional construction methods.

Generously sponsored by:

Work in Progress: See you at the show!

August 27th, 2010

Kendra Ainsworth is a Masters candidate in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto, and is an Interpretive Planning intern at the AGO.

Well, the time has come for my internship here at the AGO to draw to a close, which unfortunately means that my blog posts about the upcoming exhibition At Work: Hesse Goodwin, Martin will have to end also. But don’t worry, you’ll only have to wait a few short weeks before the exhibit opens, and you can see first hand everything I have been writing about!

With this blog, and with the show, we wanted to focus on the hard work that is involved in any artistic endeavour, whether it is painting, sculpting, writing, or creating an exhibit. I hope you have enjoyed hearing about the amazing work of Eva Hesse, Betty Goodwin and Agnes Martin, and about what goes on behind the scenes here at the AGO. I know I have had a great time learning about, working on, and writing about this exhibition, and I hope I have been able to communicate some of that excitement to you! I look forward to seeing you all when the exhibition opens on September 22nd.

This Weekend: Come visit us at the Chinatown Festival

August 26th, 2010

The AGO’s community ambassadors continue their schedule of summer festivals at the Chinatown Festival. Come visit us  this Saturday, August 28th, from 12pm to 4pm, and check out our booth themed around our upcoming exhibition, Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, opening November 20, 2010.

You can also learn more and share your stories and ideas by posting here on our blog, or by emailing us at

This show is organized in collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The Storyteller: “The Battle of Orgreave” by Jeremy Deller and Mike Figgis

August 26th, 2010

Last chance: Jeremy Deller and Mike Figgis’s video work The Battle of Orgreave closes this Sunday at the AGO!

Jeremy Deller and Mike Figgis, The Battle of Orgreave

Jeremy Deller and Mike Figgis
The Battle of Orgreave, 2002
Single-channel DVD video with color and sound
62 minutes
Courtesy of Artangel, London and Channel 4

Jeremy Deller is a British artist whose work typically involves collaborations with large groups of individuals from diverse backgrounds.

On June 17, 2001, in Orgreave, South Yorkshire, Deller staged an historical reenactment of the violent clashes that took place in June 1984 between strikers from the Orgreave coking plant and the police. The battle marked a turning point in the Thatcher government’s efforts to overcome the political opposition posed by the trade-union movement. Many of the people who were part of the original clash—both striking miners and policemen—participated in the reconstruction (although sometimes in reverse roles), which was recorded by filmmaker Mike Figgis.

Figgis’ documentation, combined with filmed interviews with the participants and photographic stills of the original event, form the basis of the video Battle at Orgreave. The piece is a kaleidoscopic representation, wherein a new vision of a landmark event in modern British social history emerges from a multitude of individual takes.

The work is on display at the AGO as part of The Storyteller exhibition, which closes this Sunday, August 29, 2010.

Drama and Desire: A Feast For The Senses!

August 24th, 2010

Alex Dault

Alex Dault

What would you do in an art gallery if you couldn’t see? We each see art in our own way. This could not be truer for our visually impaired visitors, for whom ‘seeing’ is a multi-sensory experience.

For the past few months I have been one of the participating gallery guides in the development of multi-sensory tours for the visually impaired. In these tours we are aided by a briefcase of tools (e.g. raised paintings and musical clips) that make use of our sense of smell, hearing and touch to explore our collection. Drama and Desire is its own briefcase! My fellow guide, Myra, and I were able to lead a multi-sensory tour for a group of visually-impaired teenagers using many of the exhibition’s special features to help them see the art by way of their sense of hearing and touch.

Having our visitors feel with their hands the structure of the arches and columns at the entrance of the exhibition, we explained the idea of ‘trompe l’oeil’ and discussed the methods by which artists create perspective in their paintings. We stood in front of The Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David., and reflected over the hard choice these three young men had to make. Our next stop was Antigonus in the Storm by Joseph Wright of Derby, where each visitor took a turn at creating a fantastic storm by spinning the wind and rain machines.

Our tour culminated in the unique experience of meeting our Drama and Desire actor, Alex Dault. He met us in front of Joseph Wright of Derby’s Romeo and Juliet where he transported us into the story through the emotion in his voice, as well as his dramatic interpretation of the prologue of the play. Alex also let our visitors feel the texture of his silk blue costume, the white lace of his shirt, the rich velvet of his hat, and the ticklish softness of his hat’s long white feather. In doing so they gained a better appreciation for the textures of the time period of the exhibition and the characters that come alive in it.

Alex finished with a beautiful vivid description of Paolo and Francesca by Gaetano Previati. After listening to the story all of our visitors agreed that Francesca had not made use of all her senses on her wedding night, or else she would have definitely figured out that it was Giovanni, and not Paolo that she was with. And this is one of the great lessons that our visitors and Drama and Desire taught me: we cannot limit our experience of art to our sense of sight.

In the words of one of our young visitors, for whom this was the third time at the AGO, “Drama and Desire is full-on awesome!” The next time you walk through our exhibit, take note of the rich textures of the theatre props that hang in each room; feel the emotion of King Lear as he banishes his daughter Cordelia; close your eyes and listen to the music in the Degas room as you imagine yourself sitting in the orchestra pit of the Paris Opera; watch a performance by Opera Atelier or Canadian Stage; and most importantly, use all of your senses!

Written by Jessica Duarte

Your Stories: Hamilton Artist P. Mansaram Remembers the Royals of Rajasthan

August 23rd, 2010

In Rajasthan, where I grew up, I had the opportunity of interacting with the descendents of the maharajas. Their palaces are still an integral part of Indian heritage. Their aesthetics, and the grace of the architecture, truly reflect the glory of that period. Even today, the subtle influence of the maharajas and their involvement with their ‘people’ has created a bond one can perceive and feel.

I was born in a small but beautiful hill resort, Mount Abu, where many maharajas had their summer palaces. As a child I was attracted to their architectural beauty and would sketch their façades. Each year, before the maharajas arrived for the summer, the palaces are made over. In the interim, the palaces would be open to the public to have a tour. As a child, I was given the responsibility to take our house guests to tour palaces like the ones belonging to the states of Bikaner and Alwar.

Mount Abu had thick forests. During the summer months, forest fires were a common phenomenon and cheetahs would sometimes come to the border of the town and attack its residents. Then, one of the maharajas would hunt the animal down. Later the dead cheetah would be displayed in front of the palace for public view, something I witnessed as a child.

After high school, I went to Sir J.J. School of Art in Bombay to pursue art as a career. There I met my future wife Tarunika; her younger sister later married the Prince of Chhota Udaipur in Gujarat. We became good friends and he used to talk about their seven-story wooden palace. He was also related to the Maharana of Udaipur.

I was fortunate to have been invited several times to Udaipur and its many palaces. The maharanas of Mewar (Udaipur) have always been trustees of the state and not rulers. Even now the current Maharana is playing that role extremely well.  In 1999, I was invited to the Maharana Mewar Charitable Foundation’s annual award ceremony.  It was an extraordinary three day event, full of great pomp and show with hospitality of the highest order. There were about a thousand people in attendance and the venues for the receptions were a different palace each day. The whole event was more like sequence from the fairy land. I have never experienced anything like it.

Another time, I conducted a three-day drawing workshop for the students of the palace school.  That privilege gave me an opportunity to visualise and see the glory and grandeur of the bygone era and which resulted in a series of paintings on Udaipur and were shown at a gallery in the city.

P. Mansaram is an artist living in Hamilton. You can see more of his work at the Colour and Form Society.

Do you have a Maharaja story? We’re on the prowl for your connections and we’ll be highlighting various anecdotes and memories that come our way. Share your story here. Or contact us at

AGO Youth Council 2010: Isabel, Cathy & Maral

August 23rd, 2010

It is our pleasure to introduce the members of the AGO Youth Council 2010. Find out about Youth Council projects and activities and how to get involved.



An eclectic fusion of Canadian Macedonian and Cuban, and four languages under her belt, Isabel is an outgoing person and very interested in social interaction, filmography, cinematography and most definitely… photography. She can be chatty, but at times very pensive, and quiet. Take time to talk to her and you’ll hear about her musician family, the crazy travelling experiences and her future plans. Culture, languages, and foreign people are her thing, but she can handle going for a nice walk under the snowy stars in Toronto with a camera in hand as well.



My name is Cathy, and I’m currently 16. I was born in China, and unwillingly moved to Canada when I was about 10. Now that I feel settled, I love to get myself involved in many different activities around, like the Youth Council. 😀 My interests and talents (I’d like to think so) go a very broad range, from being a makeup artist, flute, singing, web-designing, oil-painting, math (yes, I like math), reading, writing, to tarot cards and Kung Fu, and the list goes on. I am very energetic and spontaneous. I can get a bit emotional sometimes. I have a big mind, big imagination, and a big heart for art.

Maral H


Work in Progress: Getting to know Agnes Martin

August 20th, 2010

Agnes Martin was another prolific and dedicated artist whose work will be featured alongside Eva Hesse and Betty Goodwin’s in the upcoming exhibition At Work. Although born in Saskatchewan in 1912, Martin spent most of her life in the US after moving there as a teenager. Her time studying, living and working in the American Southwest greatly influenced her as a person and as an artist.

A deeply spiritual artist influenced by the Eastern philosophical traditions of Taoism and Buddhism, Martin wanted her work to represent the sublime. For her, art was about happiness, a happiness that comes from the perception of universal beauty in the world. Believing that this beauty existed in the mind, rather than in the physical world of objects, Martin renounced explicit connections to the material world in her painting by using simple lines and grids, and limiting her use of colour. While her paintings can be seen to refer to the natural world in their titles (The Rose, The Islands) and in their forms (lines perhaps representing the horizon, grids the division of farmers fields) Martin did not wish to dictate the interpretation of her work, instead wanting the viewer to come to terms with their own impressions of and feelings about her paintings. In keeping with that thought, listen to her speak for herself in this great interview:

Kendra Ainsworth is a Masters student in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto, and an Interpretive Planning intern at the AGO.