I have to say I had one of my better art viewer experiences at the new AGO. Many notable modern pieces like a hyper-realistic silicon sculpture of a stretched man's face, General Idea works on AIDS and totem poles made from golf bags. Most fascinating to me was the brilliant curation work done in particular salon collection documenting Victorian socialites of Toronto. What was brilliant is that a 2008 painting by Kent Monkman, a queer Cree photographer, director and painter questions the historical relevance of the works by colonialist British painters. His dense and cheeky re-revisionist historical painting turns the somewhat boring and routine viewing of European colonial portraits and landscapes into a fun sort of Where's Waldo affair. The density of the viewing experience was really engaging. Where layers of art history and controversy are layered together like a big art submarine sandwich with all the toppings.
It was certainly proved to me that the new AGO is more than the building. But, oh, the new building! Frank Gehry has really outdone himself with this one. The restraint and thoughtfulness towards to viewing of art, the neighbourhood and I'd even say the climate and culture of Toronto is laudable. Most people are familiar with his iconic Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. This is a different take on his style that seems really tailored for the AGO, Toronto and Canada. I'll let other people's photos speak for themselves. I forgot my camera, as I am apt to do lately, on my trip with some dear friends to the AGO this Saturday past. So here are some pics I dug up on flickr.
Above: From the street the new Frank Gehry "intervened" Art Gallery of Ontario Like a glass ship coasting down Dundas Street past old Victorian homes. The structural timbers of the glass façade like the wooden ribs of a sailing ship.
Below: Looking from the rear in Grange Park the blue titanium can float in the air when there's a blue sky.
Above: The Interior "Galleria Italia" is all about wood. And light. As the primary access concourse for the original 2nd and 3rd floors of the gallery it provides a lovely interlude and intermission between those collections. The love of wood as material for art and architecture is nothing short of patriotic.
Below: The use of ply-wood and leather are a dead give away that Gehry designed this furniture for the building as well. Surprisingly the leather ply is padded despite it's outward rigid appearance. Not designed for lounging however it's still comfortable relief when you're on your feet on a long visit. Screw the Wiggle Chair, I want these!
Above: The stairs in the Walker court weren't available to the public yet. But there was a contest to guess how many stairs were in them!
Below: The other stairs above Grange Park were however available. The view of Grange Park, CN Tower, OCAD Sharpe Centre and the rest of the city is sorta stunning. Also the stairs wiggle a bit which is unnerving.