Monday, 8 December 2008

Awed at the AGO. . .

Now that the crowds have died down somewhat, I recently went and spent a few hours exploring our newly renovated Art Gallery of Ontario. What a transformation! With a new design by Frank Gehry, the space seems enormous and the building is so airy with twisting staircases like this one, and hidden nooks and so much more wall space for its art. I wandered through the rooms, got lost, and found myself entering rooms I'd already been in, but from a different entrance, which somehow made the art look fresh again. It was really nice to see some extra space devoted to their large photography collection - there were some display cases that had German family albums of WWI photos that I'd never seen before - and I loved the many themed rooms where contemporary art hung side by side with older pieces to create many interesting dialogues. And it was fun to greet old friends, now hanging in new places. In particular, I was happy to see my favourite painting - Florence Carlyle's 1902 The Tiff - back in the burgundy salon, although now on a different wall. This painting has always seemed to sum up male/female relationships for me. What have they argued about? Is the young woman bored, tapping her fingers on the table, waiting for him to stop gazing out at the window/world? Or is she pissed off, all dressed up with nowhere to go? And I love that tiny, little bit of her skirt's underside peeping out - all fiery red, pointing to deeper passions lurking under her apparent demure nonchalance. I can gaze at this beautiful painting for a very long time; to me, there's a whole novel in it. I wish I could get a poster, but as with the work of so many lesser known female artists, obviously no one has thought a reproduction is worth selling.

Back to the building - one of the striking features is this jutting staircase pictured below (that silvery bit that looks like an eye sticking out of the back) which offers a wonderful view of downtown Toronto which I can't show you as I couldn't take pictures from within the gallery.

The AGO has also expanded their store which has a good selection of beautiful and unusual items that come in all price points. There's also a very nice cafe in the basement that has organic food and eco-friendly packaging. I had a very hearty chicken pot pie and they sell really delicious pastries. The expresso bar on the top floor wasn't yet open when I was there, but I'll definitely be checking it out when it is. I left completely inspired and feeling creative and most of all, very proud that Toronto truly has a world-class art gallery now. I'll be visiting many times, especially since every movie ticket I have from my Cinematique membership gets me in for free. Here are a few more photos of the front and side:

It now fits right in with the rest of the neighbourhood. The Ontario College of Art and Design's quirky and fun building designed by Will Alsop is just down the street.

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