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Archive: June, 2016

In the Ward: Lawren Harris’ Toronto

June 29th, 2016

How well do you know Toronto’s old Ward neighbourhood? Andrew Hunter, the AGO’s Fredrik S. Eaton Curator of Canadian Art, explores the historic Toronto of Lawren Harris: a city, in the 1910s as today, of great diversity and dense urban growth. Harris often painted in the Ward (St. John’s Ward), a downtown neighbourhood bordered by College and Queen, University and Yonge streets. The Ward was of deep significance to First Nations communities; it marked the end of the Underground Railroad for many fugitive slaves; it housed the city’s first Chinatown; and was home to the immigrant poor of Europe and the United Kingdom.

Interested in discovering more? Click here to learn more about Andrew’s talk on The Ward, July 15 .

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris, opening July 1.


Watch Cynthia Burlingham on the Drawings of Lawren Harris — live at 6pm

June 24th, 2016

Lawren S. Harris, Isolation Peak, 1929. Graphite on paper, 19.2 x 25.1 cm. Purchase with assistance from Wintario, 1978 © Estate of Lawren Harris

Lawren S. Harris, Isolation Peak, 1929. Graphite on paper, 19.2 x 25.1 cm. Purchase with assistance from Wintario, 1978 © Estate of Lawren Harris

A founding member of the Group of Seven, Lawren Harris is best known for his majestic and modern painted landscapes of Canada’s north that seem to have sprung, fully formed, from the artist’s mind. But behind every painting was a sketch — or in some cases, hundreds of sketches. To celebrate the opening of The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren HarrisCynthia Burlingham, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Hammer Museum, joins us for an intimate and rare look at the drawings of Lawren Harris. While her talk is currently sold out, you can watch the action live at 6pm on Friday, June 24 below, (or rewatch anytime!).

AGOxInstagram: May 2016

June 21st, 2016

We’re lucky: Our visitors are some of the best photographers in the city, and we are constantly marveling at your views of the AGO. Inspired by you, we’ve created a monthly round-up of favourite AGOxInstagram shots. May 2016 saw more striking architecture photography, snaps from our current exhibition Thomas Ruff: Object Relations (including our favourite #ArtSelfie spot: Sterne (Stars), in the middle), and quiet moments of art appreciation.

Want to take part? Keep sharing your Instagram and Twitter photos with us by tagging @agotoronto or #agotoronto.

AGO instagram

Photos (by row, left to right): @ohexposure, @_juliajuliajuliajulia, @fajomagazine, @alexlisman, @dancingphil, @jess.szeto, @katusha666, @minamisaeki, @pirrrate

Hive Mind

June 18th, 2016

Sherry Phillips, Conservator, Contemporary Art, shares her insights on preparing Pierre Huyghe’s “Untilled (Liegender Frauenakt)” — a statue that contains live beehive — for display during Luminato Festival 2016.

(Untilled (Liegender Frauenakt), 2012, Concrete cast with beehive structure, wax sculpture: 75 x 145 x 45 cm, Beehive dimensions variable, Collection Art Gallery of Ontario, Purchased with the assistance of the David Yuile and Mary Elizabeth Hodgson Fund, 2013)

(Untilled (Liegender Frauenakt), 2012, Concrete cast with beehive structure, wax sculpture: 75 x 145 x 45 cm, Beehive dimensions variable, Collection Art Gallery of Ontario, Purchased with the assistance of the David Yuile and Mary Elizabeth Hodgson Fund, 2013)

When Kitty Scott, Curator of Contemporary and Modern Art at the AGO first mentioned we would be acquiring Untilled (Liegender Frauenakt) by Pierre Huyghe, I was intrigued. Containing a living system, this sculpture required a new way of thinking, and so began a fascinating and inspiring two-year process to prepare Untilled for its public display in Toronto.

Read the rest of this entry »

Watch our onstage Q&A with Stephan Jost — live at 7pm

June 15th, 2016

Stephan Jost

Stephan Jost

Tune in at 7pm tonight to watch Stephan Jost, the AGO’s new Michael and Sonja Koerner Director, and CEO, in conversation with Sean O’Neill, AGO Associate Director, Adult Programming & Partnerships. You’ll hear about the experiences that led Stephan to the AGO, his perspectives on Toronto, and how he envisions the future of art museums in the 21st century.

Or, catch the talk in person! RSVP here for free tickets or pick them up tonight.

Got a question for Stephan? Tweet them to @agotoronto before 7pm tonight and we’ll pass them on during his Q&A.


Ways to celebrate dad this Father’s Day (June 19)

June 14th, 2016

Father’s Day is just around the corner, and you’re probably still hunting for that elusive perfect gift. Lucky for you, we’ve come up with some unique and artful ways to impress him this year.


(Lawren Harris, Lake and Mountains, 1928, Oil on canvas, 130.8 x 160.7 cm, Art Gallery of Ontario, Gift from the Fund of the T. Eaton Co. Ltd. for Canadian Works of Art, 1948 © Estate of Lawren Harris)

(Lawren Harris, Lake and Mountains, 1928, Oil on canvas, 130.8 x 160.7 cm, Art Gallery of Ontario, Gift from the Fund of the T. Eaton Co. Ltd. for Canadian Works of Art, 1948 © Estate of Lawren Harris)

Tickets to The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris 

The snow-capped mountains of Lawren Harris’ paintings just might be an outdoorsman’s dream. Combined with a fascinating exploration of Toronto’s historic Ward neighbourhood — and the fact that comedian, art enthusiast, and dad-friendly name Steve Martin is one of the show’s co-curators — makes this exhibition a must-see.

Take the Father’s Day Tour

Sunday, June 19, 2016, 11am–5:30pm
Artful discussion and themed tours of the AGO’s collection — what’s not to like? In the company of a knowledgeable and engaging AGO Gallery Guide, you’ll visit masterworks that explore themes of family and fatherly love. Highlights include works by Hurvin Anderson, Claes Oldenburg, Alex Colville, Jack Chambers, Anthony van Dyck, Norval Morrisseau and Bernini.

1-Hour Highlights Tours (every one is different!): 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm. Meet in Walker Court, Level 1 (If you need directions, head to the Info Kiosk at the entrance.)

On the Dot Tours: Quick, 10-minute art chats. Meet in front of the work On the Dot (check back for final list, coming soon!)


Gift of Membership

Give the gift of a 1-year membership

Treat dad to a whole year of visits. An AGO Membership includes free admission to the Gallery and special exhibitions (including The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris), Member Preview Days, Gallery-wide discounts, complimentary coat check, access to the Grange Members’ Lounge (including Afternoon Tea), and too many perks to name!

shopAGO for Father’s Day Gifts

For fathers with great taste (and a sufficient number of ties), try these alternative gifting ideas. Plus: Members enjoy a 10% discount.



FRANK Brunch

FRANK’s hearty brunch dishes will lure dad out of bed in no time. Menu items include Jacked-Up French Toast, Fried Chicken, Clam Bake & Frites, Monte Christo, and a selection of mouth-watering sides like Sticky Pork Belly Rashers. Book your table right now!

Conservation Stories: From Vault to Wall

June 6th, 2016

Sherry Phillips, Conservator, Contemporary Art, reveals the behind-the-scenes process of getting artwork out of the vaults and into the gallery.

How does it all begin?

It usually starts with a wish list. A curator will develop an idea for an exhibition and choose artwork or documents they think best explore and explain their concept. That list is then sent to conservators, who evaluate the condition and installation details of each object by heading downstairs… to the vaults!

Descending into “the vaults” sounds incredibly mysterious (and a bit frightening). What’s it like down there?

Well, I’ve been asked on many occasions if the AGO vaults resemble the final scene of the film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. In some ways, yes they do! We have large rooms filled with racks or shelves that are hung with paintings or stacked with boxes.  One of my favourite things about working at the Gallery is spending quiet time in the vaults, just looking at and thinking about the artwork.  The layers of concepts and expectations about an artist or artwork are almost absent here. Simply by rolling out screens of paintings, I find myself enjoying the works and making unexpected associations with those works nearby — which offer an interesting blend of themes, colours, eras. We also have vaults filled with large wooden crates, stacked almost ceiling high, containing artwork in various stages of assembly. As the contemporary art conservator, many of the objects I look after are stored as separated component parts. And many of the objects haven’t been assessed in several years.

When assessing if an artwork is ready for display, what sorts of questions are you asking?

There are a range of questions, each of which can easily fit into a typical flow chart.  Is it ready to install? If yes, then there is a relatively short path to the gallery space; minor treatment, mount or frame, if any, and scheduling an installation date. If it’s not ready to install, the path of processing the artwork to the gallery space becomes much more complicated, and may not happen at all. Does it need treatment to repair or restore? Is the treatment complicated? Do we have the resources and can it be done in a reasonable amount of time, and in time for the exhibition?

Sometimes the original wish list becomes a much more complicated document, with more questions added than answers. One of the interesting features of contemporary art objects is an artists’ exploration of non-standard materials, like plastics or electrical components. These materials may be the primary material or used in combination with other traditional materials, like wood or paint.  Electrical components for example may need careful evaluation to ensure they meet parameters laid out by the Ontario Electrical Safety Association. Part of my job is to devise how to meet safety standards while honouring the artist’s original intention.

Sherry Phillips at work

Sherry Phillips at work

And what about object research — do you have to check out its history?

Absolutely; and the best way to start is with the object’s record. Every object in the collection has an associated permanent record. Some files are surprisingly scant, maybe a page or two, handwritten or typed several decades ago. (Interestingly, the paper files can be fascinating artifacts containing carbon copies and other types of early copying technologies, old letterheads and charismatic signatures.) There may be a brief note about the object’s condition when acquired or nothing at all. The internet has proven to be a powerful tool to begin the search for more information , but our library and archives, the artist or estate and even oral history gathered from people who knew the artist or artwork when originally installed, are essential to piece together the history of an undocumented artwork.

In conversation over coffee one day, Greg Humeniuk, Curatorial Assistant, recounted a recent visit with the daughter and granddaughter of a prominent Canadian artist about some artworks that were offered to the AGO from an estate. By speaking with the family, Greg learned about the artist’s practice and gained insight into his life and personality — things that aren’t generally discussed in existing literature. Oral history is an invaluable source of information that reinforces the complexity and nuanced nature in all of us. Curatorial and conservation practice in turn benefits from greater insight and new avenues of consideration and presentation.

What are some difficulties you’ve come across when readying artwork for display?

Ensuing conversations with the curators and others members of the installation team may lead to difficult choices — like if we have to substitute one artwork for another already in “exhibition ready” condition. But, at the centre of the discussion is a desire to showcase the best of an artist’s career and the AGO collection. Inclusion on the list may be the first opportunity in a long time to schedule conservation treatment. If one or more artwork must be removed from the wish list however, at the very least we have a much better idea of the current condition, and one or more artworks are added to my long term to-do list.

Signature Partner of the AGO’s Conservation Program