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What it sounds like when 500+ voices of Choir! Choir! Choir! lift up David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in Walker Court.

January 18th, 2016

On January 10, David Bowie passed away at the age of 69, just a few days after releasing a new album. We were shocked and saddened to lose an artist who inspired us all; and we were warmed by your Starman memories and David Bowie is exhibition tributes. So on January 16, we teamed up with drop-in choral group Choir! Choir! Choir! to honour Bowie’s legacy with a one-of-a-kind performance of his legendary cosmic opus, Space Oddity. More than 550 people took their protein pills, put on their helmets, and gathered in the Gallery’s Walker Court to belt out the classic song in three-part harmony. It was emotional, surreal, and uplifting, and we saw this in the expression of every singer.

What we didn’t know at the time: the world was also listening. Our live Periscope broadcast was made a featured video on the streaming site, shared hundreds of times, gathered 90,000 views and over 1,000,000 likes, and caught the attention of Twitter VP Kirstine Stewart and Twitter CEO and Co-founder Jack Dorsey (to name a few). We’re so glad we were able to share this not only with Bowie fans in Toronto, but with Bowie fans across the globe. And we think Major Tom heard us.

Four tips to get your group talking about art

March 26th, 2015

“I just don’t know how to talk to my groups about art!”

We often hear this refrain from organizations who are considering bringing their clients to the AGO for self-guided tours. They tell us that they and their clients worry that you need a deep understanding of art history to appreciate art the “right way.”

The truth is there is no “right way” to experience art. Art is for everyone, and there are many experiences with art as there are people who enjoy it. Some of us like a lot of facts to better understand the work and its context. Others prefer a story or an interpretation. Others like to experience the emotions that encounters with art can provoke.

We recently held an open house for the AGO’s Community Access Initiative members and took them on a tour to help them guide their clients – many of who have never visited an art gallery before – through the AGO.

The AGO offers two ongoing community access programs to organizations serving marginalized communities: our Neighbourhood Access Program (NAP), which allows community organizations to book free self-guided visits to the AGO; and our Community Membership Program (CMP), which provides community organizations with four AGO membership cards (each card admits two adults and as many as five youths under age 18) to lend to their clients. Through these two programs, we serve more than 300 community organizations across the GTA.

These organizations allow us to introduce art to people who may never have set foot in a gallery. We work hard to embody our “art matters” motto — an assertion that art makes a difference in people’s lives — and part of that is making everyone to feel welcome and excited to experience it for themselves.

Here are some of the tips and tricks we shared with our Community Access Initiative members:


Invite people to take a close look and provide a timeframe for them to look. Doing this allows people to take a “visual inventory” of the work and focus. On average, people spend only nine seconds looking at an artwork – taking your time allows you to notice more details and think about digest what you’re seeing.


Describe the work as a group to establish an understanding of what is being seen. It may be useful to start by listing what everyone sees. Some things you can touch on include:

  • Line and shape: for example ask, “What lines and shapes do you see in this drawing?”
  • Colour: “Does any one colour dominate this painting?”
  • Composition: “Where is the figure in relation to the landscape?”
  • Material: “What do you think this sculpture is made of?”
  • Technique: “By looking closely at this painting, can you describe the brushstroke?”
  • Subject matter:”What objects do you see in this painting?”


This is about giving meaning to the artwork. Responses can vary widely, so encourage different views and use ideas generated to expand on the conversation. Let people come to their own conclusions. Some things you can touch on include:

  • Time and place: “What season is suggested by this painting?”
  • Narrative:”What is happening with these two people?
  • Mood or psychological effect: “What is the overall mood of this photo?”
  • Artist’s intention: “Why do you think the artist decided to use these objects to create this sculpture?”
  • Artist’s biographical information: “What possible influence do you see of this artist’s homeland in this drawing?”
  • Historical and social context: “This painting was done in 1960. Are there things in the work that you associate with that time?”


Encourage members of the group to connect the works to their own life experiences. This will help them gain new insights and will make the works more relevant. Ask if they like the works, and feel free to share your own opinions. Here are some ways to make connections:

  • Personal life experience: “Does this look like the Toronto of today or the Toronto of when you were a child?”
  • Psychological and emotional effect: “How does this painting make you feel?”
  • Personal opinion: “Do you like this sculpture?”
  • Cultural changes and world events: “Does this war scene remind you of any specific conflict in the news?”
  • Other artwork: “How does this drawing of a landscape compare to the painting next to it?”

If you know of a deserving community organization that might benefit from one of our programs, please share this post! Have questions about Community Access at the AGO? Ask us in the comments below.

#AGOfieldtrip: Pascal Paquette’s Instagram tour of new Toronto street art

September 16th, 2014

We handed over our Instagram account to Toronto artist Pascal Paquette last week, and from Sept. 10 to 13 he travelled around Toronto’s street and alleys capturing new street art and graffiti work, both commissioned and sanctioned, along with classic works from recent years. The 15 photos he shared with our followers are evidence of Toronto’s thriving street art community, which provides fertile ground for Toronto talent and attracts accomplished artists from around the world. Many thanks to Pascal for the tour and to all the artists who’ve brightened our city’s streets with these projects.

Pascal Paquette is primarily a fine art painter, and also uses street art, graffiti and photography in his site-specific projects. His art has been exhibited, commissioned and published internationally and locally, notably at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) and the AGO in 2012, when he and Sean Martindale presented their collaborative installation NOW. He lives in Toronto, Canada, and posts to Instagram at @pascalpaquette.

Instagram takeover: Pascal Paquette presents new Toronto street art

September 8th, 2014

Chou (aka Pascal Paquette) on Camden Street, Toronto.

Chou (aka Pascal Paquette) on Camden Street, Toronto.

Toronto artist Pascal Paquette is taking over our Instagram account from Sept. 10 to 13. He’ll be roaming Toronto streets to post pics of street art and graffiti, both commissioned and sanctioned works produced mainly this summer, along with classic works from recent years. Follow @agotoronto and #agofieldtrip to see the photos, then find the geo-mapped locations and experience the pieces in person.

Pascal Paquette is primarily a fine art painter, and also uses street art, graffiti and photography in his site-specific projects. His art has been exhibited, commissioned and published internationally and locally, notably at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) and the AGO in 2012, when he and Sean Martindale presented their collaborative installation NOW. He lives in Toronto, Canada, and posts to Instagram at @pascalpaquette.

Drawn to comics? Join the AGO at TCAF for a special panel this Saturday

May 9th, 2014

Comics Curation
Saturday, May 10, 2014
1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel, 90 Bloor St. E., Toronto (map)

Comics are having a moment here at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Together with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, we invite you to join Andrew Hunter, the AGO’s Frederik S. Eaton Curator of Canadian Art, as he discusses the AGO’s inclusion of cartoonists and their work in programming and exhibitions. Joining him will be two lauded Canadian cartoonists who have recently collaborated with the Gallery: Chester Brown, currently featured in Chester Brown and Louis Riel, and David Collier, who has produced an eight-page comic that will accompany our upcoming exhibition Alex Colville. Finally, the panel will touch on our just-announced Art Spiegelman’s CO-MIX: A Retrospective.

Art Spiegelman, Self-Portrait with Maus Mask, The Village Voice, cover, June 6, 1989. Ink and correction fluid on paper. Copyright © 1989 by Art Spiegelman. Used by permission of the artist and The Wylie Agency LLC.  Courtesy Drawn + Quarterly.

Art Spiegelman, Self-Portrait with Maus Mask, The Village Voice, cover, June 6, 1989. Ink and correction fluid on paper. Copyright © 1989 by Art Spiegelman. Used by permission of the artist and The Wylie Agency LLC.
Courtesy Drawn + Quarterly.

About Art Spiegelman’s CO-MIX: A Retrospective
Art Spiegelman’s comics have been redefining a genre for more than 50 years, and this December the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) will pay homage to the Pulitzer Prize–winning artist with an exhibition highlighting the breadth of his career. Art Spiegelman’s CO-MIX: A Retrospective opens on Dec. 20, 2014, and runs to March 14, 2015. A tireless innovator who is unafraid to tackle difficult subject matter, Spiegelman has drawn inspiration from a wide range of sources in his work including politics, the Holocaust, Cubism and hard-boiled detective fiction. Maus, a two-volume graphic novel that recounts his parents’ life in Nazi-occupied Poland and later at Auschwitz, was the first and only work of its genre to win the Pulitzer Prize, in 1992. The exhibition also features 300 works on paper ranging from trading cards to magazine covers.

Chester Brown, Portrait of Louis Riel (2003), ink on paper, collection of the artist.

Chester Brown, Portrait of Louis Riel (2003), ink on paper, collection of the artist.

About Chester Brown and Louis Riel
For more than two decades, Chester Brown has been one of Canada’s leading cartoonists. His innovative and influential Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography, which expanded the audience for Canadian cartooning, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013. A selection of original drawings from the publication is now on view at the AGO. The works feature the Manitoba politician and Métis leader Louis David Riel fleeing from Fort Garry (now Winnipeg), and his subsequent hanging for treason. Brown’s work combines bold imagery, stark compositions and simple texts to convey a complex Canadian tragedy that remains, for many, controversial and unresolved.

About Alex Colville
More than 100 works by Canadian icon Alex Colville (1920-2013) will be presented at the Art Gallery of Ontario starting in summer 2014, marking the largest exhibition of the late artist’s work to date. Curated by Andrew Hunter, the AGO’s curator of Canadian art, the exhibition will honour Colville’s legacy and explore the continuing impact of his work from the perspectives of several prominent popular culture figures from film, literature and music.

Early Access to Art Toronto 2011

October 26th, 2011

Art Toronto 2011

It’s that time of year again. The nights are drawing in, the weather’s turning chilly and once again Toronto is once again playing host to Canada’s only modern and contemporary international art fair.

Art Toronto, now in its 12th year, is a four-day art exhibition and sale. Featuring over 1000 artists from 109 leading and emerging galleries, it’s a chance to see some of the art world’s top talent and grab some new pieces for your collection. Representatives from the AGO will be there tomorrow night and we’ll be looking for some new pieces to add to our permanent collection.

If, like us, you want early access to the art and a chance to mingle with the artists, you should join us for the Opening Night Preview. It takes place tomorrow night from 6.30pm – 10pm and is a fundraising event to support our operations and educational programs. You’ll get to see the fair before everyone else as well as enjoying cocktails, nibbles and an electric atmosphere.

Toronto artist Derek Liddington will be presenting the installation Dandy Gangs: A Working Class Art Story.

“The Fluxus-gang-dance will engage Art Toronto guests, as two groups of dancers interact through choreography based on early Fluxus happenings, scenes from West Side Story and operatic interpretations of rock n’ roll and hip-hop ballads,” said Derek.

“Viewers will watch as opposing dandy-gangs entangle in scenarios of territorial misunderstanding, conflict, tension and resolution… Gang members will be presented as caricatures melding fashions and attitudes borrowed from the flâneur, Russian Constructivist’s, dandy and punk; likening the performers to the portrayal of gang culture and conflict in the futuristic film The Warriors, as well as the cultural phenomenon of flash-mobs.”

Our Artist-In-Residence Paul Butler will be hosting one of his infamous collage parties in The Collage Party Pavillion. Collage Party is a performative collage-making event that has taken place in cities around the world for over ten years. Over the 4-day period of the fair, the Collage Party will produce objects and situations in a wide-range of media, from complex, mixed-media performance art events to the most sublime, intimate form of cut-and-paste collages using nothing more than mass media publications, scissors and adhesives. And on Saturday afternoon he’ll be staging a takeover of the AGO Twitter account to bring you a first-hand artist’s eye view of Art Toronto.

For more information about Art Toronto 2011 please visit
To book tickets for the Opening Night Preview click here.

How to become a zombie Andy Warhol: Everyone gets their 15 minutes of BRAINS

October 19th, 2011

Did you catch zombie Andy Warhol lurching around outside the AGO yesterday?  With Halloween just around the corner and the fantastic Toronto Zombie Walk just days away, we thought we would teach you how to recreate the look using easy-to-find tools. Now you too can be the coolest zombie out there, and make amazing jokes about ’15 minutes of fame/brains.’

Andy Warhol 11

We think Warhol would have approved too – in 1984 he was turned into a zombie himself by famous make-up artist and scare-man Tom Savini!

We invited the amazing Cassandra Carter from Sculpture Supply Canada to demonstrate how to create the look. This is a basic tutorial, suitable for wannabe zombies of all abilities.

First, here’s your shopping list:

Costume – we got everything apart from the wig from a thrift store.
Black turtleneck sweater
Black pants/jeans
Black shoes
Blonde wig

Makeup – available from Sculpture Supply Canada or similar store.
Smooth-On Ultimate Wound Kit
PPI Illustrator – FX palette & Zombie palette
Fleet Street Drying Blood – Dark
Ben Nye Blood – Fresh Scab
Ben Nye Character cream foundations – Blue Spirit, Cadaver grey, Black
Neutral setting powder
Red lip liner
Black eye liner
Latex wedge sponge
Black stipple sponge
Small makeup brushes

Step One:

Start by attacking your blonde wig with a comb and scissors to recreate the iconic Warhol look. We found turning the wig backwards worked really well! One you’ve created the shape you want, put the wig to one side so you can start to do the make-up. Now is also a good time to make sure your model is clean shaven (men), exfoliated and moisturized.

Warhol Zombie 1

Step Two: Wounds

Time to crack open the Wound Kit. This kit isn’t too expensive and contains everything you need to recreate realistic gory wounds. There’s even detailed instructions in the box. It helps to draw out the kind of wounds you want beforehand or use pictures for reference. We went for some detail around the mouth and nose – the key with silicon is that less is more. It sticks to itself, so it’s better to start small and build up. Keep your wounds asymmetrical and they’ll look more realistic. Once you’ve used the silicon to create the shape of the wounds you can then start adding makeup.

Zombie warhol 2

Step Three: 

Apply the base colour you want to the face, not forgetting to work it into the hairline. We used  Ben Nye blue spirit for a grey, undead-ish tone. Apply contour shades and highlights, building up darker tones around the eyes, nose and mouth. Then use powder to set the makeup.

Step four:

Once the base is done you can start adding the finer details. The FX palette can be used to create veins, capillaries, rotted skin, fungus, bruises or anything else you can think of. Add distress marks around the eyes, nose and mouth to give a sense of decay. Use the red lip-liner in the water lines of the eye to make them look bloodshot. You can also use the black stipple sponge and a darker cream foundation in various areas to make the face look even more rotten. The trick here is not to get too carried away with too many colours or things going on – keep it simple! Use the black eyeliner to recreate Andy Warhol’s dark, bushy eyebrows. If you make a mistake, use Q-tips to fix it.


zombie_andy_warhol1Step Five

Blood time! Grab your fake blood. We kept our blood subtle (we didn’t want to drip on the artwork) but if you wanted to go wild here, you could. It’s really up to you! Once you’ve added the fake blood all you need to do it add in the wig and glasses. One zombie Andy Warhol!




Some top tips to remember:

  • Keeping your makeup A-symmetrical is key
  • Use reference pictures while applying your makeup
  • Take your time
  • Draw it out beforehand
  • Give yourself time to practice
  • Don’t get too carried away with too many colors or too many things going on.
  • Keep it simple and effective
  • Have fun!

Happy Halloween everyone!


A Heart To Art Chat with the AGO: Co-creating ideas for the Gallery

August 22nd, 2011

On Saturday August 13 2011 over 60 people took part in ‘A Heart to Art Chat at the AGO’. It was a special event for people to listen, learn and co-create ideas for the Gallery.

The event took place in our new Weston Family Learning Centre –a first chance for most of the attendees to spend time in the space. Taking part were members, casual visitors and even people who had never visited the Gallery before, people from a wide range of ages and from a diverse mix of backgrounds. Those who wanted to join in the conversation online were able to take part on Twitter using the #AGOChat hashtag.

The day was structured like an Unconference – an event that lets the people taking part decide what should be talked about. We asked people what community groups they identified themselves with and what they would like to see at the gallery. They shared their answers on brightly coloured sticky notes which were then sorted to identify common themes.

The following sessions covered a wide range of themes including:

  • Community Outreach & Accessibility
  • Artist & Gallery Talks
  • Web, Social Media and Online Events
  • Evening Events

People talked passionately about their ideas for their AGO. From date nights and reality TV shows to longer opening hours and more events for adults the ideas flowed thick and fast all day. We also managed to get #AGOChat trending in Canada, so a big thank you to everyone that tweeted throughout the day.

What happens next?

  • We’re in the process of gathering all the information generated from the day. Once it’s ready we’ll be publishing it online so that everyone can see what we talked about and we can report back.
  • We think (and from reading your tweets we know you do too) that the Unconference was a fantastic way to share ideas and generate excitement for the Gallery and its programs.  The success of the Unconference has us looking at new ways to communicate and gather input and we’ll keep you posted on future opportunities.
  • Loads of great ideas came out of the social media session, like the adult sleepovers and the desire for a more conversational approach.  We’ll definitely be planning a tweet-up soon and we’re also going to be building a loyal army of Twitter followers who want to volunteer to help spread the word about what’s going on in the Gallery.

  • We want you to continue using the #AGOChat hashtag on Twitter to share your ideas as well as commenting on this blog post. We’re on Twitter @AGOToronto and you can also chat with our Social Media and Internet Content Coordinator Holly on Twitter or via email.

We are grateful to everyone who came out and shared their ideas with us. Thanks also needs to go to Celina Agaton who organized the event and all of the facilitators who ran the sessions: Marisa Gelfusa;  Marco Campana ; Aerin Guy; Darcy Higgins and Ramy Nassar.

The Weston Family Learning Centre Gallery School Hall of Fame: Who would you nominate?

August 8th, 2011

A Saturday Morning Class in the Laidlaw Gallery,  Art Gallery of Toronto during the 1930

The AGO’s Gallery School was started by Group of Seven painter Arthur Lismer in the 1920s. It has been a hub of art learning for millions of adults and children ever since.

We know from our blog post ‘Were you a gallery student‘ that you have lots of fond memories of visiting the Gallery School in the past. Do you know of any prominent Canadians, celebrities or artists who taught or took courses at the Gallery School? Perhaps they attended camp as a child? Perhaps they took an evening printmaking class as an adult?

We’re developing a Gallery Hall of Fame as an exciting way of sharing our history with our visitors. If you can think of anyone who should be on the list please get in touch or leave a comment below.

The launch of our brand new Weston Family Learning Centre is now just weeks away and our Fall Program Guide is out. Find out more about adult classes at the AGO.


No Ordinary Day at the Office

April 21st, 2011

9 to 5 opening soon at the Art Gallery of Ontario!

Anitra Hamilton  Graeme Patterson  Ed Pien

Exhibition Dates | April 27 to 29
Art/Work Symposium | April 30
Closing Reception | April 30, 6-9pm

Art is work. Hard work.

9 to 5 is an exhibition that lets visitors experience art in an unexpected way: by interacting with the artists while they make it! Running from April 27th to the 29th, 9 to 5 will transform one gallery at the Art Gallery of Ontario(AGO) into a live office space. For three days, contemporary Canadian artists Anitra Hamilton, Graeme Patterson and Ed Pien welcome AGO visitors to meet with them and enjoy a conversation about their artistic practice. Using the familiar setting of the office, 9 to 5 will create a space for collaboration, inspiration and a forum for new knowledge and understanding about the artistic process. In addition, the artists have been invited to select a work of their choice from the permanent collection to “decorate” their cubicle. Accessible and interactive, 9 to 5 is an experience not to be missed!

Want to know more about whats happening at the 9 to 5 office or ask the artists a question about their research process?  Visit the blog here.

Following the exhibition, on April 30th, will be a free, one-day symposium entitled Art/Work. The first half of the symposium will feature 9 to 5 artists and curators reflecting on the project, followed by a special presentation by curator, artist and educator Rebecca Duclos. Duclos will expand on the burgeoning topic of artists’ research.

Event Schedule:
9 to 5 exhibition, 2nd floor, Gallery 248:
Wednesday April 27, 1:00pm – 8:30pm
Thursday April 28, 10:00am – 5:30pm
Friday April 29, 10:00am – 5:30pm

Art/Work Symposium, Jackman Hall, AGO
Saturday April 30
1pm – 2:30pm — Artists & Curators reflect on the 9 to 5 project
3pm – 4:30pm — Rebecca Duclos keynote presentation

Facebook event: