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Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde: 10 tips for a great visit

December 9th, 2011

Planning to visit Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde at the AGO over the holidays? Here’s ten of our top tips for making your visit truly memorable. Show closes January 15, 2012.

1. Meet the Russian Avant-Garde
For an amazing introduction to the exhibition check out Creating a New World: An intro to Chagall and the Russian Avant Garde. Presented by our interpretative planner David, this audio guide is just under an hour long and will give you a great overview of what you can expect to see. It’s full of fascinating insights into Chagall’s work as well as introducing many of the other artists in the show. It’s a perfect listen for a long commute.

. Pick a time that suits you best
Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde is a time-ticketed exhibition. This means you can pick a morning, midday or afternoon slot depending on your schedule. You can enter at any time during the slot you choose and you can stay in the exhibition as long as you like – we encourage you to take your time! If you want to beat the crowds weekday afternoons are a good bet. If you want a buzzy atmosphere and a great bargain visit us on Wednesday evenings. We’re open late and up until December 21 you can see Chagall from 6-8pm for just $12.50.

Getting here
We’re not going to lie, parking in downtown Toronto can be tricky. To make things a little bit easier we’ve got a list of nearby car parks for you to choose from right here. You’ll also find information about cycling, taking the subway and other public transport so that however you want to get here, you can do it quickly, easily and safely. GO customers will receive a special 20% discount on admission to Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde: masterpieces from the Collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris by presenting a GO ticket, Go pass or PRESTO card at the AGO box office.

4. Check in for great offers
Use Foursquare? Check-in when you get to the Gallery and you’ll unlock great tips, earn points and access some very special winter deals! Don’t forget to leave a tip of your own to share your experiences with future visitors.

Have a surf 
We’ve got free wifi throughout the building for our visitors to use. Bring your laptop, tablet or save your smartphone data allowance by logging in. The network is called ‘AGO FREE WIFI’ – why not send us a tweet using the #ChagallTO hashtag whilst you’re online? There’s plenty of serene spots in the Gallery that are great for doing a bit of work or catching up on emails. We especially like the Espresso Bar, on the top level of the new Centre for Contemporary Art, as it gets loads of natural light.

6. Talk back to us
As you wander through Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde you’ll come across one of our ‘talkback stations,’ stocked with paper and pencils. At the station you’ll find a thought-provoking question related to the exhibition – it’s a great chance to document your immediate reaction to the show and we absolutely love reading your responses. See what some previous visitors have left us.

7. Stay fuelled

Looking at mindblowing art can be hungry work. Enjoy the Chagall-inspired Prix Fixe Menu in FRANK Restaurant. Reservations are recommended. For a relaxed, family-friendly environment, visit caféAGO. Want to find out how we created a menu inspired by Chagall? Check out this great interview with Executive Chef Anne Yarymowich in which she talks about the process of creating a menu that’s as creative as the art.
Plate of delicious food inspired by Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde at AGO's FRANK Restaurant

8. Keep exploring
We think that Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde is a great introduction to some of the most important moments in Russian art history. If you’re left wanting more, head downstairs to Chagall’s sister exhibition, Constructing Utopia: Books and Posters from Revolutionary Russia, 1910–1940.   Containing rare books and posters from revolutionary Russia, it’s a chance to explore two exciting branches of graphic design: futurism and constructivism, and learn about how these ground-breaking art movements sffected the everyday visual culture of Soviet Russia.

. Cross some items off your holiday shopping list
For the most unique merchandise in Canada, be sure to stop in at shopAGO, located just inside the main entrance to the Gallery. There’s also a satellite location at the Chagall exhibition exit. Artist prints, artisan jewellery and home-ware, toys and books are all available. Check out our Top 10 holiday gift ideas for culture vultures blog post to get some inspiration!

10. Have fun!
Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde is a riot of colour and imagination. As much as it’s an amazing space to learn about art, it’s also a great spot for daydreaming, for discussion or for creative inspiration. How you experience the exhibition is up to YOU – we encourage all of our visitors of all ages to interact with the art in a way that makes them happy. There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy a show like Chagall – just make sure you manage to visit before it leaves town on January 15, 2012.

How To Create A Chagall-Inspired Menu

November 1st, 2011

We go behind-the-scenes with the AGO’s Executive Chef Anne Yarymowich  to find out where she gets her ideas for a menu to complement a show like Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde and to find out about some of her favourite dishes from shows past.

FRANK Food Chagall 1


Anne collaborates with chef de cuisine Martha Wright to create contemporary comfort cuisine: food that is warm and inviting, prepared with honesty and integrity. FRANK’s menu showcases an exclusively Ontarian wine list and seasonal ingredients, striving to support local producers with a dedication to global concepts of sustainable farming and slow food. But a meal at FRANK or in our cafe is about more than just tasty eats . As Anne explains, it’s all about enhancing the visitor experience by creating a relationship between the art and the food….

“When I’m planning a menu based on a show at the Gallery my inspiration comes from a number of places. One is the point of origin of the artist or the place that he or she worked. For example, Matisse is French but his work, such as his Odalisque pieces, has Moroccan content from when he visited the French North African Colonies. I also look to the subject matter of the paintings. Sometimes we go shopping for specific vessels, like tagines for Morocco.

In Chagall we have a Russian Jew working in Paris so there are many rich sources of inspiration. We always ask ourselves (of the show) ‘is it food friendly?’ I’ve got a vast collection of cookbooks and magazines that I can turn to for ideas and inspiration, including a great book on Jewish cuisine.

We wanted to make sure that the menu for Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde was respectful of Jewish culture. We’re not a kosher kitchen but we chose a menu that didn’t use any pork or shellfish.

We always do lots of background research when preparing for a show like Chagall.  Luckily this time we had done lots of the groundwork already when researching for Catherine The Great: Arts for the Empire – Masterpieces from The State Hermitage Museum, Russia. I was also able to draw from my own heritage – my background is Ukranian and there is definitely crossover between Ukranian and Russian cuisine.

FRANK Chagall Food 2

Then there’s Paris, where Chagall such a crucial period of time. It’s a great culinary destination and one we can invoke with food like croissants and confit – the kinds of food Chagall might have eaten at that time.  It takes about a month to brainstorm, test and mull over new concepts for our menus.

We try to stay true to the Frank brand, but with tweaks and nods to what’s going on in the Gallery. Our ultimate goal is to enrich the visitor’s experience of the show. Using tastes and sounds and bits and bites we help to create an immersive experience for the visitor that uses all of their senses. For example, when we had the William Wegman show made up exclusively of pictures of his Weimarner dogs we decided to do ‘dog biscuits’ for the café. I definitely think of the food as part of the Gallery as a whole, as another way of enhancing the guest experience.

I really enjoy Eastern European cuisine as it’s close to my heart. There are so many different expressions of a borscht, and thinking about that tradition reminds me of my mother and grandmother. I’m actually judging a borscht contest soon called ‘Not Your Baba’s Borscht’ as part of a charity fundraiser.’

I also look for food in the images of the shows. Once in a while there will be a still life with an eggplant in it that we can use. Inspiration can come from the work itself, the style, the title or the content. When we had our Surrealism exhibition we showed Magritte’s famous The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images) – the picture of the pipe with the text below it, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe (this is not pipe). So to complement that piece we served a chocolate dessert with the words ‘c’est ne pas à pied’ written in chocolate sauce below it. It means, this is not a pie.

Food can be very whimsical and tongue in cheek. It’s nice to be playful – when we brainstorm a show everyone in the kitchen will get together with a load of food magazines and swap jokes and banter whilst we come up with ideas.

Art is very sensual and so is food. Both are visual, visceral experiences that use colour, viscosity and textures. We want our guests to feel that relationship.  We also know we have to cater to today’s palette and part of the challenge is picking dishes that are exciting but also have that popular appeal. “




Russian-inspired borscht featuring Ontario beets


Pan-fried stuffed egg with horseradish and caviar on a salad of baby arugula, baby beet greens, pumpernickel croutons and Dijon vinaigrette


Pan-seared steelhead trout fillet on buckwheat blini, with roasted baby carrots and lemon-chive sour cream sauce


Braised beef brisket with caraway rye bread pudding, choucroute and caramelized onion


Mushroom barley stuffed cabbage rolls with truffle cream sauce and roasted wild mushrooms


Apple charlotte russe with brandy Alexander sauce and brandied damson plums


Chocolate rum baba with poached pear


You can join us for dinner at FRANK Restaurant for a Chagall-inspired prix fixe menu. To order call FRANK Restaurant at 416 979 6688 or book online.

$65* Chagall & FRANK Restaurant Package:

  • 3-course prix fixe dinner at FRANK
  • 1 adult admission to Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde
  • 1 audio guide

Available October 18, 2011 through January 15, 2012.
Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30 – 8:30 pm**

* Price includes taxes but excludes alcoholic beverages and gratuities. The FRANK prix fixe dinner is also available on its own for $50.

**Bookings subject to availability. Exhibition Viewing and Dinner must occur on the same night. Offer not transferable to other promotions.


Creating a New World: An intro to Chagall and the Russian Avant Garde (Audio)

October 18th, 2011

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Duration: 00:51:00

This talk is a personal look at the life of Marc Chagall and his art during a time of enormous social and political upheaval – World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917. The talk offers a glimpse into Chagall’s youth and Jewish upbringing, his search for a powerful new language of expression, his obsession with the village of his childhood and six decades of creative activity in exile. It also explores Chagall’s friends and rivals – the Constructivists – who created radical forms of art to capture their vision of a new, idealized world of social equality. David Wistow is an Interpretive Planner at the AGO.

Chagall Media Preview: Liveblog

October 12th, 2011

This morning I’m going to be blogging from the media preview of Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde, the AGO’s new major show which opens on October 18. Opening remarks from the AGO’s Matthew Teitelbaum (MT), Elizabeth Smith (ES) along with Angela Lampe (AL), the Curator of Historical Collections, Musée national d’art moderne in Centre Pompidou. We’ll be kicking off at 10.20am EST. – Holly, Internet & Social Media Content Coordinator.

Chagall Press Preview 2

Yum. Mini buckwheat pancakes with caramelised apple and maple syrup.

Chagall Press Preview 1

I love this logo - so colourful!

09.55 Members of the press are arriving in Baillie Court, the Gallery’s event space. (Also available for weddings by the way!)

10.20 MT is on the stage. ‘There are 118 works by more than 20 artists. The exhibition is divided into five themes – In Search Of Roots, Artistic Advances in Paris and Russia, Return to Russia, Art and Revolution and Chagall’s World of Theatre and the Circus.’

10.20 MT thanking sponsors for coming together and helping us to achieve something we otherwise couldn’t have done and talking about our three shows that examine ‘great moments in 20th Century art.’ First Abstract Expressionist: New York, now Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde followed by Picasso in 2012.’

Chagall Press Preview 3

View from the back - Elizabeth Smith, Matthew Teitelbaum, Angela Lampe

10.23 ‘This exhibition says alot about roots, homes and artistic influence.’

10.25 ES ‘One of the most impressive things about this show is not only the iconic Chagall paintings, but works by figures like Kandinksy and others.’ (The show also features works by Deluaunay, Gontcharova, Malevitch and Rodtchenko – HK)

10.27 AL is talking about Chagall’s sources of inspiration, ‘Chagall was not an artist living in complete isolation from his peers… New abstract forms inspired his own art.’

10.30 ‘All the Chagall works you see in the show are from his own personal collection.’

10.32 MT ‘What was it about Paris that was so appealing for artists?’

10.33 AL Before World War One Paris was really the capital of art. In Paris there lots of possibilities to have studios, lots of social and cultural life.’

10.37 ES is talking about how the exhibition was set up, the ‘choreography of the display’. ‘We had to acknowledge that our space is very different, and a big emphasis at the AGO is on audience. We try and provide as much interpretive material as possible.’ Also talking about Constructing Utopia: Books and Posters from Revolutionary Russia (1910-1940), a show built from our own prints and drawings collection as a complement to Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde.

Chagall Press Preview 4

Amazing image from Constructing Utopia

10.41 Question from the audience – When did Chagall start doing stained glass windows?

AL ‘HE started in the 1960s, in France. He was already an acclaimed international artists.

10:42 MT ‘Picasso said that after Matisse died Chagall would be the great colourist.’

10.44 That’s it for the remarks – Everyone is heading down to the exhibition to see the artworks. Thanks for tuning in to the liveblog!

Chagall and the Russian Avant Garde opens on October 18. For more information please visit our Chagall microsite.

Chagall’s Got Talent

October 3rd, 2011

Kseniya Simonova, a contestant on Ukraine’s Got Talent, shows us that Chagall continues to inspire artists of all kinds. She is a performance artist who works in sand and this piece, titled You Are Always With Us, tells the story of a young couple separated by war. Simonova went on to win the competition and one million hryvna (around $110,000).

Have you seen any unusual Chagall-inspired artwork? Leave your links in the comments section below so we can check them out!

Five fun Chagall facts

September 29th, 2011

From the drab surroundings of the Jewish quarter (or “shtetl”) in the city of Vitebsk in Belarus, Chagall created a highly personal style of modern art. Yet his themes of love, loss, joy, memory and family are universal. Chagall combined real and dream worlds into richly coloured fantasies where people fly and animals cavort.

We’ll be sharing a wealth of fascinating information about Chagall and his contemporaries over the coming weeks but just to get you started here are five facts about Chagall you can use to impress your friends and family.

  1. Chagall was born in 1887 and died in 1985 at the impressive age of 97. That means during his lifetime the Wright Brothers made their first flight in an airplane, the first man landed on the moon and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released at the cinema!

  2. Chagall, born Moishe Shagal, grew up in Vitebsk in Belarus and was the oldest of nine children.

  3. “The sun of art shone only in Paris,” Chagall once said. He moved there in 1911, settling in La Ruche (French for “the beehive”), a complex of more than 100 studios. There he lived alongside many immigrant Russian artists including Archipenko, Zadkine and Lipchitz.

  4. Chagall was fascinated by the circus and theatre. In the early 1920s he designed costumes, sets and murals for Moscow’s Jewish Chamber Theater. In subsequent decades he returned repeatedly to the theme of the circus for inspiration.

  5. Chagall’s famous Double Portrait With Wine Glass, a depiction of Chagall with his wife Bella, is the first time in the history of art that an artist chose to depict the groom balancing on the shoulders of his bride. This unique pose may refer to the Jewish wedding rite when the couple is carried and thrown into the air by their guests.

    Chagall and the Russian Avant- Garde opens at the AGO on October 18.  

Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde Opens October 18 at the AGO

September 21st, 2011

Masterworks from the Centre Pompidou make their only North American appearance in Toronto

(TORONTO – Sept. 21, 2011) The Art Gallery of Ontario brings the magic and wonder of modern painter Marc Chagall to Toronto next month with a major exhibition organized by the world-renowned contemporary art museum, Centre Pompidou. Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde: Masterpieces from the Collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris is on view from Oct. 18, 2011 to Jan. 15, 2012, and includes 32 vivid and imaginative works by Marc Chagall and eight pieces by Wassily Kandinsky, alongside pieces from other visionaries of Russian modernism such as Kasimir Malevich, Natalia Goncharova, Sonia Delaunay, and Vladimir Tatlin. A total of 118 works belonging to the collection of the Centre Pompidou comprises a broad array of media including painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography and film.

Early-bird tickets for the exhibition are on sale now and include a 20 per cent discount if purchased online before Oct. 18. Regularly priced tickets range from $16.50 for youth and student visitors to $25 for adult admission. Admission is free for children ages 5 and under. Tickets can be booked online.

AGO members enjoy FREE admission to Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde, and are invited to attend a special members’ preview of the exhibition on Sunday, Oct. 16, 10 am – 8:30 pm, and on Monday, Oct. 17, 10 am – 5:30 pm. Members of the Curators’ Circle can enjoy an exclusive talk and preview on Monday, Oct. 17 at 6:30 pm.

Read the whole press release

Coming in 2011: Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde

December 16th, 2010

This week, the AGO announced the two major exhibitions it will be hosting in 2011: Abstract Expressionist New York from The Museum of Modern Art, and Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde from Centre Pompidou-Paris. Michael Parke-Taylor, AGO curator of modern art, writes below about the power of Chagall and the new context in which this exhibition views his lush, colourful, and dreamlike work.

What makes this exhibition special? First and foremost, Marc Chagall has never been presented in-depth at the AGO. This show not only showcases 32 outstanding works by Chagall, but also presents him in the context of developments by other artists who formed the avant-garde in Russia.

Let’s focus first on Chagall. By the time he arrived in Paris in May 1911, he had already received training in his native Vitebsk and St. Petersburg and was able to express his Russian-Jewish heritage in highly original works of art. When in Paris, he absorbed the modernist lessons of Cubism, Futurism, Orphism and Expressionism. Upon returning to Russia in 1914, these elements may be identified in his work. At the same time, Chagall’s use of crude, bright colours, perspectival distortion and willful anatomical dislocation calls to mind Russian icons as well as Russian popular prints and naïve folk-art forms. Yet the show goes well beyond this so that visitors will also be struck by a later phase in Chagall’s career when he engaged with the performing arts — dance, theatre and the circus.

The foil to Chagall in this exhibition is found in the Russian avant-garde. Towards the end of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the abstract movement became increasingly political where art and life merged to build a new utopia for society. At the core of this section are works by Tatlin, Malevich, El Lissitzky and Rodchenko. I think visitors will be amazed to see artists working in so many different modes of representation simultaneously – a signpost of great creativity during political upheaval that marks this early period in Russian modern art.

Michael Parke-Taylor
Curator, Modern Art