A virtual tour of the new AGO
We don't just go to an art gallery and leave it at that. We expect something back. I wasn't sure what that was for me prior to visiting Frank Gehry's reconfigured Art Gallery of Ontario, despite weeks of brain-busting media coverage. Once inside though I came across a panel of desolate-looking ink drawings by Seth, the Canadian cartoonist, one ending with text caption reading: "In these places and others like them, time is standing still." Time. That was it. I wanted that sense of stopping time as I looked at a picture. I needed a place to disappear into for part of a day. After all, isn't this precisely the sort of basic experience Matthew Teitelbaum has promised from his gallery, now with almost 50 per cent more space for art? Is it not to "take us back to the very basic question," as the AGO director put it, "what is art?" To that end, I have compiled an hour-by-hour diary of my first two AGO visits earlier this week and yesterday.
The Art Gallery of Ontario has extra money. Our suggestion: Build an AGO Modern
The Art Gallery of Ontario is expected to officially release today, Friday, a bit of news that it surprised journalists with at a media preview the day before. The gallery has â€” quietly, in the midst of its nearly completed renovations â€” raised $24-million beyond its stated goal of $276-million, which itself was a bump from $254-million. So, unless the AGO needed $300-million all along and wasn't telling, it now has money to spare. What if the gallery were to resist the temptation to literally spend it all in one place? As terrific as the renovated building is, Toronto could also really use a big, new contemporary art museum. Considering the fundraising muscle the AGO wields, it should either build the thing or get the ball rolling. Yes, so far, Frank Gehry's AGO appears to be as beautiful and well-thought-out as you've been hearing (ask us again in a year or so when we've had a chance to kick the vertical grain Douglas fir tires a little more). OK, ta-daa! It's done. Why keep pouring money into it?
Finished AGO puts Gehry's fears to rest
The Globe and Mail
Neighbourhood kid turned star international architect Frank Gehry had his creative spirit on full display yesterday as he spoke about transforming his native landscape on the eve of today's ribbon cutting at the revamped Art Gallery of Ontario. Mr. Gehry revealed a restless desire to tweak and refine his ever-shifting vision of the gallery, against the backdrop of a wooden staircase that wriggles above the AGO's Walker Court and boasts as many twists and turns as the architect's project. "I think it's a real Frank Gehry building. I mean, remodelling is tough. It's hard to pull parts and pieces together, and there's stuff I'd like to do still," he said. Mr. Gehry held court alongside gallery director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum and president Charles Baillie, who announced the completion of the AGO's $276-million fundraising campaign. "If we had a little bit more money, I'd go back and do a few things," Mr. Gehry said and, turning to Mr. Teitelbaum, added gently, "which we can talk about some day." His urge to drive change has transformed both the building and the early designs that he had to unveil before he was ready - to meet procedural deadlines. But Mr. Gehry's discomfort over the preliminary mock-ups, which represented the idea for the project in its infancy, gave way yesterday to pride in the finished product.
The Globe and Mail
If any doubt remains that the Toronto-born Frank Gehry is one of the world's great architects, his overhaul of the Art Gallery of Ontario, which opens today, should erase it. Mr. Gehry's AGO is a restrained masterpiece, and a reminder of the power of architecture to reinvent ideas, institutions and cities. The proof of Mr. Gehry's genius lies in his deft adaptation to unusual circumstances. By his standards, it was to be done on the cheap, for a mere $276-million. The museum's administrators and neighbours were adamant that the architect, who is used to being handed whole city blocks for over-the-top titanium confections, produce a lower-key design, sensitive to its context and the gallery's long history. Working mostly in glass and Douglas fir, Mr. Gehry has given us a thrilling series of spaces, from a 200-metre-long glassed-in sculpture gallery, suspended over a public street, to an elegant new centre for contemporary art high above a park at the rear of the AGO. The revamped museum is a fitting home for an excellent and growing collection, which now includes some 2,000 pieces donated by the late Kenneth Thomson. The city of Toronto is nearing the end of an unprecedented round of cultural construction. Some of its results - Daniel Libeskind's renovation of the Royal Ontario Museum and Jack Diamond's Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - opened to mixed reviews. A few, including a new film centre and a blockbuster museum of Islamic art bankrolled by the Aga Khan, are still to come. None is likely to engage Toronto as meaningfully as Mr. Gehry, who grew up a few blocks from the AGO before leaving to make his career in Los Angeles. His creation embraces the city, exposing gallery-goers to new views of the jumbled, multi-layered aesthetic that defines so much of it. But its beauty also challenges Toronto, a place that has never been concerned enough with looks, to do better.
We see ourselves in AGO - and we like it
In Toronto right now, all roads lead to the AGO. Which is as it should be: As remade by Frank Gehry, the new Art Gallery of Ontario is the kind of project this city dreams about having. Not only is the building casually though profoundly brilliant, it will be a magnificent home for art. It also engages happily with the surroundings, more connected to the city than its previous incarnations. But given Toronto's deep-seated feelings of inadequacy, the AGO must also serve another purpose, namely that of bolstering the sometimes fragile civic ego. We believe we are ignored, that the rest of the world has failed to recognize what we have accomplished here. In fact, the rest of the world holds Toronto and Canada in surprisingly high regard, higher than it deserves. Go anywhere â€“ Europe, America or Asia â€“ mention this city, this country, and the response is unabashed enthusiasm. Until Barack Obama was elected president of the U.S. last week, Americans travelled the globe pretending to be Canadians. No, it's not that the world doesn't love us, it's that we don't love ourselves. Given the overweening sense of entitlement we see, say, in the States, perhaps one shouldn't be too quick to complain about this.