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Art Gallery of Ontario's Picasso exhibition a blockbuster success
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973), Deux femmes courant sur la plage (La Course) (Two Women Running on the Beach[The Race]), 1922. Gouache on plywood, 32.5 x 41.1 cm. Pablo Picasso gift-in-lieu, 1979, MP78. Musée National Picasso, Paris.© Succession Picasso, 2011. ©RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi.

TORONTO, ON.- Picasso: Masterpieces from Musée National, Paris, the hit exhibition that made the only Canadian stop on its world tour at the Art Gallery of Ontario, drew 308,582 visitors during its 17-week run, ranking as the fourth highest-attended exhibition in the AGO’s history.

Hailed as “a genuine blockbuster” by the Globe and Mail, the travelling collection of “Picasso’s Picassos” was on view at the AGO from May 1 to Aug. 26, 2012. The busiest day of the run was Wednesday, Aug. 22, which logged 6,055 visitors.

“This exhibition was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO’s director and CEO. “It was a delight to have shared this rare opportunity with our members and visitors, and to see them respond with such enthusiasm. I would like to extend my gratitude to the Musée Picasso as well as to our lead sponsor, BMO Financial Group, for helping the AGO bring such a thrilling venture to life in Toronto.”

Due to the enthusiastic response from GTA residents and visitors to the city, the AGO extended the hours of Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris during its final week to meet the demand. Normally closed on Mondays, the Gallery made two special exceptions, opening on Aug. 6 and Aug. 20 to give visitors one last real-life glimpse of Picasso’s masterpieces before they were transported to Milan for their last tour stop before returning to Paris.

The number of visitors who attended Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris ranks the exhibition as the fourth highest-attended in AGO history, after the monumental King Tut exhibition of 1979, The Barnes Exhibit in 1994, and King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs in 2009. It has knocked the 1998 exhibition The Courtauld Collection at the AGO into the number five position.

Special promotions related to the exhibition proved popular. Thousands of diners at FRANK restaurant, caféAGO and the brand new Galleria Italia Café enjoyed Spanish-inspired culinary delights, designed by executive chef Anne Yarymowich. Retail sales at shopAGO were also strong, with many Picasso catalogues and other exhibition-related merchandise sold.

The 141-work exhibition resonated with adults and kids alike. A specially created children’s audio tour included seven designated stops with kid-friendly programming and received rave reviews from youth and parents. There were also kids’ menus to be enjoyed at caféAGO and a Family Creativity Lounge in the Margaret & Jim Fleck Gallery that provided visitors of all ages a space to stop, rest and have fun.

The closing of this summer’s exhibition paves the way for the AGO’s next large-scale exhibition, Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting. Opening Oct. 20, 2012, the exhibition features over 150 works and objects by and about the two artists, highlighting their lives together and apart, their politics and relationship to society.

The AGO recently announced a major exhibition set for spring 2013 in partnership with the J. Paul Getty Museum. Revealing the Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Early Florentine Art will feature more than 90 key pieces from the first half of the 14th century, opening March 16, 2013.

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