Inside Frank Gehry’s New Art Gallery of Ontario

Aboriginal Art Directory | 26.03.10

Today’s media tour of the revitalized Art Gallery of Ontario did more than just showcase Frank Gehry’s architectural grace, at a cost of $300 million. It also displayed new artwork from the likes of the Group of Seven and Peter Paul Rubens.

Digital Journal — One of Toronto’s most venerable institutions finally revealed its seven-year $300-million facelift today, offering media a chance to soak in the new artwork and building design already attracting world attention. The Art Gallery of Ontario toured journalists through design guru Frank Gehry’s revamped building, and DigitalJournal.com was among the invited media amazed by the architectural masterpiece.

Attending the media tour were journalists from more than 300 media outlets, ranging from major dailies and architectural monthlies to prominent Toronto news blogs such as blogto.com.

The front facade has garnered the most attention and for good reason: wood and glass blend along 600 feet spanning Dundas Street from McCaul Street to Beverley Street. It does an excellent job at breaking up the bland streetscape with glittering glass that is bound to sparkle in the daylight.

Galleria Italia is Gehry’s 137-metre-long sculpture gallery, a highlight for any art fan. It lets visitors see onto Dundas while also allowing pedestrians outside view the artwork inside. So far, the initial exhibit will feature work by Italian artist Giuseppe Penone, but visitors will also be mesmerized by Gehry’s draping ribs of Douglas fir, which frame a shell of curved glass.

A feature stairwell is more than just a pile of stairs. Also known as the spiral staircase, this unique winding ribbon displays Gehry’s imaginative touches: when you mount the steps, you feel somewhat dislocated because the walls on either side of you rise or fall depending on your height.

Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO’s CEO, said, “Art meets architecture in Frank’s design, where spaces flow into one another and the works are installed to encourage a seamless journey.”

The redesign was all part of Gehry’s mission to make this project more personal than others; after all, Gehry grew up in Toronto. ‘

He said, “I wanted to create something that reflects Toronto and embraces the neighbourhood. I am proud of it, and I think Toronto will be proud of it too.”

Visitors to the new AGO (which is hosting free admission days from Nov. 14 to 16) will also enjoy 110 exhibits showing more than 4,300 works, 40 per cent of them never shown before at the AGO. Space for Canadian galleries in the AGO increased by 164 per cent and photo galleries surged by 242 per cent.

So what’s an art lover to do in this revamped gallery? You could check out the expansive Thomson Collection of signature works by Canadian artists such as Paul Kane, Tom Thomson and Lawren Harris. Portrait sculptures are also prominent in the gallery, starring Peter Paul Rubens’ recently rediscovered 17th-century The Massacre of the Innocents.

For sea-faring folks, a fascinating display of replica naval ships offer a museum-like experience to the AGO. The 130-strong fleet includes pieces ranging from miniature Royal Navy tall ships to D-Day landing craft.

African and Australian aboriginal art are on display in a powerful collection. Also, the new Fick-Eggert Archive introduces more than 300 works on paper written by early 20th-century artists who comprised the avant-garde Cologne Dada group.

But the new AGO is not just about the art and design; sometimes, it’s about time away from the gallery. The new restaurant Frank has space for 130 guests, while also keeping art on the minds of foodies with paintings displayed throughout the dining room. The menu is described as “contemporary comfort cuisine” and a full meal will set visitors back around $35.

Speaking of cost, the admission prices have increased because of the transformation. Adult admission is now $18, compared to $15 in 2007, and an annual membership is priced at $90, up from $75.

At the press conference, when Gehry was asked what he thought about the new admission prices, he said in his relaxed tone, with an edge to his reply: “Highway robbery.”

The Art Gallery of Ontario is located in Toronto at 317 Dundas Street West. Between Nov. 14 and 15, it will offer free admission. For more information, visit www.ago.net and more photos can be seen in the slideshow above, or by clicking here: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/262308


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