Monday, June 4, 2012

Canadian Content at the AGO

Lawrence Harris, 1924
Last week while in Toronto for work I had the chance to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).  Despite having grown up within a reasonable drive or public transit trip to Toronto I had never been to the AGO before.

My visit was on a Wednesday evening during free night.  Wednesdays are the only evening that the AGO is open and they also happen to include free admission.  Free night runs from 6-8:30pm, I arrived a bit before opening time but a line had already been formed outside the entrance to the AGO.  Judging by the line-up and the traffic inside the gallery these evening hours and free admission times are well attended.

Free night only includes admission to the permanent exhibitions at the AGO.  However, it is possible to purchase tickets to special exhibits.  Currently, the AGO has an exhibit on Picasso and tickets could be purchased for $12.50 to gain entrance to this exhibit.   I opted not to buy a ticket and to spend my evening exploring the permanent collections of the AGO.

For me, the most remarkable part of the AGO's permanent collection is the Canadian Collection.  A large portion of this collection is made up of material created by the well known Group of Seven.  Like most people, I've often seen prints of Group of Seven material and I am fairly familiar with the general motifs of their work.  However, I found seeing the original paintings done by various Group of Seven artists to be awe inspiring, and far more moving than I had anticipated.

One of the galleries that stood out to me, contrasted the well known images of Canada created by the Group of Seven with works by their contemporaries, such as Emily Carr.  This juxtaposition raised the question about accurate portrayal and if paintings by the Group of Seven actually reflected the landscape of Canada.  I found this added context and relationship to history intriguing and something that I wish more art galleries included.  Overall, I really enjoyed my visit at the AGO - even if some galleries were crowded - and I would definitely visit the gallery again if I was back in Toronto.

1 comment:

Ontario-Travel-Secrets said...

If you're a fan of Emily Carr, the Art Gallery of Hamilton has a great exhibition of her work this summer. It's on loan from a museum in Vancouver.