TORONTO.- On Friday, November 14, the fully-transformed Art Gallery of Ontario will open to the public with three days of free admission. Celebrated architect and Toronto-born Frank Gehry's first Canadian building, the new AGO will welcome the world to 110 light-filled galleries featuring more than 4,000 new and perennial favourite art works.
The public opening day begins with a special ceremony in partnership with Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony after which some of Canada's newest citizens will be among the first to experience the AGO.
The Gallery's opening celebration will be a distinctive statement of welcome to all — from people across Ontario to Canada's newest citizens, from local artists to international art museum directors, from next door neighbours to tourists from around the world.
"Through Frank's remarkable design, the new AGO declares itself and what it stands for — a joining of the art museum and the city, an open invitation to enter and participate in something memorable and exciting," says Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO's Michael and Sonja Koerner director, and CEO. "The architecture, the installations and the programming clearly say you can imagine yourself here, that we're glad you are here."
Signature elements of the new building include an iconic sculptural staircase emerging from Walker Court (the historic centre of the AGO), the celebrated Galleria Italia with its dramatic sweep of glass and Douglas fir that extends an entire city block along Dundas Street, and the new contemporary tower with its vistas of Grange Park and the city.
The unprecedented growth of the AGO's permanent collection will be a focal point of the Gallery — from the much-loved Group of Seven to the art of world cultures, from David Altmejd's monumental installation The Index to Peter Paul Rubens' masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, a highlight of the internationally acclaimed Thomson Collection. The late Ken Thomson's unprecedented gift of more than 2,000 works will extend the visitor experience far beyond what was possible before our transformation.
"It is a gift for the ages," says Teitelbaum. "Ken was steadfast in his belief that Transformation AGO was a journey to be shared by many — a gallery built by our community to serve our community. His vision will be realized when we open and his magnificent collection will be a legacy for generations to come."
With the AGO's opening, a number of new and expanded programs are planned, including free after-school admission for Ontario students ages 13-18. The AGO will also continue its popular free Wednesday nights and its free access partnership with the Toronto Public Library's Sun Life Museum Arts Pass program, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship's Cultural Access Pass program for new citizens, and the access program for all members of the Ontario College of Teachers.
"The Ontario government is proud to support this exciting new phase for the AGO," said Culture Minister Aileen Carroll. "The transformed Gallery will be an extraordinary addition to our province and will draw visitors from around the world. I look forward to the opening festivities in November and welcome the news that the Gallery will be free to everyone for the first few days."
The new AGO will offer an almost 50 per cent increase in art viewing space. Introductory "hubs" for each of the Gallery's core areas (African, Canadian, Contemporary, European, Photography, Prints and Drawings and Education) will orient visitors, while galleries throughout will engage everyone from art experts to first-timers through interactive media, art-making activities, feedback stations and discussion forums. A casual-chic restaurant and family-friendly café, a two-level gift shop and a free contemporary gallery will be easily accessible from the street.
"When the AGO opens this fall, we will fulfill the promise of our transformation, signaling a remarkable new chapter in our 108-year history," says AGO President Charles Baillie. "Now that we've set the date, we're looking forward to welcoming the world to an extraordinary new home for extraordinary art. This will be their AGO."
A reminder: Even as the countdown is underway, the AGO's Gallery School remains open at 60 McCaul Street, offering classes in drawing, painting, mixed media, photography, sculpture and more. Registration is underway for AGO Art Camp for ages 6-13. Also in operation are the AGO's Art Rental and Sales, at 481 University Ave, and Travel AGO program. For more information on AGO activities and options during the final months before opening, visit www.ago.net.
With a permanent collection of more than 68,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. The Gallery began an extraordinary chapter when it launched Transformation AGO in 2002. Multi-faceted in scope, Transformation AGO involves the unprecedented growth of the permanent collection, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, and the strengthening of the museum's endowment resources. As the imaginative centre of the city, the transformed AGO will dramatically enrich our visitors' experiences and provide greater access to the full vibrancy of the art museum.
Transformation AGO is generously supported by the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario through the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program. The launch of the transformed AGO is generously supported by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund.