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Art Gallery of Ontario

10 Museum Shows for a Cultured Spring



Abbas Kiarostami’s exhibition, Doors Without Keys, continues at the Aga Khan Museum through to March 20 (photo: Craig Moy)

The permanent collections at Toronto’s major cultural institutions are always worth exploring, but this season their limited-run shows are also very compelling. From two distinct displays of doors to an anthropological examination of tattoo art, there’s something for everyone at these unique new museum shows.


Q&A: Renée Bellefeuille, the New Executive Chef at AGO Resto FRANK


Frank Art Gallery of Ontario

FRANK executive chef Renée Bellefeuille

The Art Gallery of Ontario has been on quite a roll of late. Over the past few years it’s hosted celebrated exhibitions on everyone from Jean-Michel Basquiat to David Bowie, from Frida Kahlo to Ai Weiwei to J.M.W. Turner. The art-star shows have been so notable that it’s become easy to overlook some of the institutions (many) other elements—its multifaceted permanent collection, of course, but also things like its well-regarded educational programming, designer gallery shop, and its locally focused yet globally inspired restaurant, FRANK. The latter has been undergoing a bit of a revamp. Special-event dinners have become more frequent, a snacks-and-cocktails menu was recently launched, and a new executive chef, Renée Bellefeuille, has taken the reigns in the kitchen. Below, chef Bellefeuille reveals her culinary philosophy and hopes for FRANK going forward.


The Art Gallery of Ontario Sheds Light on J.M.W. Turner’s Final Years


JMW Turner Art Gallery of Ontario Tate Britain

J.M.W. Turner’s Snow Storm—Steam Boat Off a Harbour’s Mouth is among the works to be exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario (photo: Tate Photography)

OCTOBER 31 TO JANUARY 30  Before contemporary-kitsch painter Thomas Kinkade styled himself the Painter of Light, there existed a true master of illumination: J.M.W. Turner. The Romantic-era icon, a giant of the British art world, was known for his intensely atmospheric depictions of stormy seas, battlefields, Roman and Venetian landscapes, and more. Though Turner was active for the entire first half of the 19th century, it’s the final 15 years of his career that are the focus of a significant exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Organized by Tate Britain, “Painting Set Free” boasts more than 50 evocative late-period oil and watercolour paintings, which, though controversial in their day, proved to be influential precursors to the works of Claude Monet and other Impressionist artists.  —Craig Moy


• Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St. W., 416-979-6648; ago.net
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Discover the Americas at the Art Gallery of Ontario


Art Gallery of Ontario Picturing the Americas

Félix Emile Taunay’s Baia de Guanabrara Vista de Ilha das Cobras (photo: Instituto Ricardo Brennand)

JUNE 20 TO SEPTEMBER 20 It’s never been easier to travel the length (and breadth) of the Western hemisphere—from Alaska to Newfoundland to the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and far beyond—but how closely do we really look at where we’re going? Just in time for July’s Pan Am Games, the Art Gallery of Ontario presents “Picturing the Americas,” an exhibition of landscapes that capture not only scenic vistas, but also the history, politics, culture and traditions associated with places like Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay, California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, Canada’s far north and the Tierra del Fuego in southern Chile and Argentina. The display boasts approximately 80 exquisite works in all—more than enough to inspire some serious wanderlust. —Craig Moy

• Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St. W., 416-979-6648; ago.net
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Toronto Museums Have the Best Views in the City


Toronto Museums Royal Ontario Museum

The Gallery of Chinese Temple Art, Gallery of the Age of Mammals, and Teck Suite of Galleries: Earth’s Treasures are among the Royal Ontario Museum’s many unique permanent exhibits (photos: Royal Ontario Museum)

It can be easy to take the Royal Ontario Museum for granted. If you’ve visited Toronto for any length of time, you’ve probably wandered through the museum’s halls and examined its vast holdings at least once. After all, the ROM has now stood for 101 years. No matter, though—if this is your first visit or, well, your one hundred and first, there’s always something to discover. Most patrons (especially those with children) make a beeline to the Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs on the second floor of the stark Michael Lee Chin Crystal, but we think you’ll find equal enjoyment examining the museum’s stunning assemblage of minerals and gems, and its vast holdings of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and South Asian art. Unique among Toronto museums, the ROM’s purview includes both natural and human history. Feel a bout of museum fatigue coming on? The fourth-floor contemporary gallery is usually a little quieter (though right now it’s hosting a big Douglas Coupland show), or just take a minute to stand in the ROM’s historic rotunda: its domed ceiling is composed of more than one million Venetian glass tiles, arranged in pictographs representing the world’s natural and cultural histories.


Master Plans: Michelangelo’s Drawings at the AGO

Michelangelo's Plan for the “Pichola Libreria” of the Laurentian Library, 1525-1526, Casa Buonarroti. Photo courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Michelangelo’s Plan for the “Pichola Libreria” of the Laurentian Library, 1525-1526, Casa Buonarroti. Photo courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

TO JANUARY 11  Visitors flood into the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel daily to gaze in awe at the magnificent ceiling painted by Michelangelo. How did the celebrated painter, sculptor, architect and engineer bring his masterpieces to life? “Michelangelo: Quest for Genius” at the Art Gallery of Ontario offers insight into the Renaissance artist’s creative process through 28 drawings, once part of his personal collection and now on loan from Casa Buonarroti in Florence. Comprised of preliminary architectural and figural sketches and highly finished presentation drawings, these images collectively examine the concept of “genius at work,” revealing Michelangelo’s ideas, ambitions and even his frustrations. Some of his grander, unfinished plans are brought to life at the AGO with computer animation. The master’s important influence on Auguste Rodin is also explored, with 10 of the French sculptor’s works on display, including his ill-received final commission, Balzac. —Cara Smusiak

Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St. W., 416-979-6648
Map and reviews

Contact Photography Festival Daily Pick: Arnold Newman

Where Toronto brings you a new image for each day of the 2013 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, which runs throughout May with exhibitions at more than 175 venues across the city.

Today’s top Contact Photography Festival pick:

© Arnold Newman Properties/Getty Images

© Arnold Newman Properties/Getty Images

Photo: Henry Moore, Much Hadham, England, 1966-72
Artist: Arnold Newman
Exhibition: From May 2 to October 20, the Art Gallery of Ontario highlights its photographic collection—which began with the 1977 purchase of Newman’s collage portrait shown above—with an exhibition entitled “Light My Fire: Some Propositions about Portraits and Photography.” As its title suggests, the show considers a number of philosophical and artistic propositions about image making, and features more than 200 works by such photographers as Edward Steichen, Richard Avedon, Liz Magor and many others.

Check back daily for more Contact Photography Festival coverage, and visit scotiabankcontactphoto.com for more information about this exhibition!

The AGO Stages a Patti Smith Show

Patti Smith AGO

Patti Smith’s Scripture, Glasgow Cathedral is one of many of the artist’s intimate images at the AGO (photo: Robert Miller Gallery)

FEBRUARY 9 TO MAY 19  If modern culture has a renaissance woman, it’s probably Patti Smith. Over a four-decade career, the American musician, poet, artist, author and activist has crafted an acclaimed body of work and influenced countless peers and disciples. Smith has played Toronto concert stages large and small; the Art Gallery of Ontario, however, is a new venue. In an exhibition titled Camera Solo, the museum presents Smith’s photographs for the first time in Canada. Featuring around 70 images shot with a vintage Polaroid and juxtaposed with her personal effects—as well as a Smith-directed film—the display is an intimate portrait of an artist who’s found success following her own muse.  —Craig Moy

>> Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St. W., 416-979-6648; ago.net
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Where Loves: the AGO’s 1st Thursdays and Toronto’s Emerging Art Parties


AGO 1st Thursdays

Art gallery or party space? The AGO becomes both on the first Thursday of each month (photo courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario)

Picture an art gallery: paintings in gilded frames, a sculpture or two sitting on pedestals, a couple strolling slowly from piece to piece, footfalls echoing off the hardwood. How long has that stereotype endured? How long has it been utterly inaccurate?

Instead, you ought to imagine perusing masterpieces with your friends, cocktails in hand. You ought to see yourself dancing the night away while surrounded all manner of art and art lovers. At least, that’s the scene at the Art Gallery of Ontario. On the first Thursday of every month, the venerable institution transforms to host an evening soiree of the highest order, bringing together young Toronto trendsetters with food, drinks, live music, dancing and art-making experiences. Running since last October, the events have proven so popular that tickets regularly sell out well in advance. This month’s edition is already full, but admission for March goes on sale February 8. (more…)

Where Loves: Peruvian Art and Artifacts at the University of Toronto


Peruvian Art Toronto

Richard Mamani and Hugo Champi’s 2002 sculpture, Madre Spondylus, gleams alongside more than 100 other silver artworks and artifacts at the UTAC’s Silver of Peru exhibition

Can silver imbue objects with a soul, with a life all their own? The ancient peoples of Peru believed it could. It’s hard not to share that belief when faced with the dazzling artifacts collected in Luminescence: the Silver of Peru, on now until March 9 at the University of Toronto Art Centre.

Curated by Anthony Shelton, director of the UBC’s Museum of Anthropology, the exhibition spans 2,000 years of Peruvian art and culture through the likes of pre-Columbian crowns, jewels and tunics, plus paintings and sculptures from the 16th century to today. All told, it’s the largest collection of silver relics currently residing in Canada. Most of the assembled artifacts have never before left Peru.


Hot Art: The AGO Welcomes Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego on My Mind) (image © Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust/Artists Rights Society)

OCTOBER 20 TO JANUARY 20  Experience the vibrant yet highly intimate artistry of two of Mexico’s most celebrated 20th-century painters as the Art Gallery of Ontario presents a major showcase of works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Kahlo’s highly autobiographical works exemplify her dedication to indigenous tradition, her controversial political leanings, and her volatile relationship with her husband Rivera, himself a prominent activist and founding figure of the Mexican school of painting. Among the 75 key pieces on display are Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Monkeys and Rivera’s Flower Festival: Feast of Santa Anita—Eva Voinigescu

You Are Here: Dundas & Spadina

By Ana Taveira

Courage My Love

The downtown section of Dundas Street West traverses Chinatown, Kensington Market and more.

AFFORDABLE FLAIR   Kensington Market institution Courage My Love is positively packed with kitschy finds from far off lands. Established in 1975, the venerable vintage boutique offers up all manner of one-of-a-kind items, including jewellery, sunglasses, gloves and inexpensive yet still highly fashionable apparel. Exotic beads, buttons and other items are popular amongst do-it-yourselfers, while a selection of retro home accessories rounds out the stock.

HOT DISCOVERY   A good thing is not always easy to find. At least, that seems to be the idea behind Cold Tea. Tucked down a hallway in a small, nondescript shopping concourse in the Kensington Market ‘hood, this hip watering hole might not be one of the city’s most accessible, but once you’ve found your way there, a good time is practically guaranteed—thanks to exciting Asian-inspired cocktails, dim sum nibbles and an inviting back patio with communal tables.

Ten Ren Tea

STEEP SHOP   This city’s location of Chinese tea chain Ten Ren Tea is a popular destination for picking up sachets and loose-leaf tins of high-quality oolong, jasmine, pu-erh and herbal teas, among many other varieties. If you’re on the run but still in need of a beverage, the shop is happy to oblige with take-away bubble tea and other tea-based specialty drinks.

FEAST YOUR EYES   In a sprawling yet still intimate building by top architect Frank Gehry, the Art Gallery of Ontario is downtown Toronto’s creative heart and one of the leading cultural institutions in North America. Here you’ll find thousands of works surveying the evolution of art over the past two millennia, from ancient Indigenous carvings to Renaissance masterworks to modern Canadian pieces. In-house restaurant Frank is a great meeting place before or after you explore the gallery.


CHEAP EATS   It may not be particularly pretty, but Swatow keeps Chinatown diners satisfied by doling out big portions of noodles, fried rice, sizzling meats and more for a very reasonable price. Open late and boasting speedy service, the bustling restaurant is renowned as a go-to spot for area chefs—Susur Lee is a longtime patron—who want to refuel after a night on the line.

ABSTRACT FOR ALL   The subtle beauty of minimalist art is highlighted at Lausberg Contemporary. Ensconced within a block of converted Victorian homes directly across from the AGO, gallerist Bernd Lausberg’s Toronto outpost (he also has locations in Düsseldorf and Miami) features a colourful array of works by such artists as Dieter Balzar, Harald Schmitz-Schmelzer and Douglas Allsop.