The Art Gallery of Ontario (also known as AGO or Art Gallery Ontario) is Toronto's largest and most impressive art museum. If you're only going to have time to visit one gallery in Toronto, make it this one.
At AGO, you'll find approximately 4,000 works of art on display at any one time. This is out of a total of 68,000 in its permanent collection.
So don't think you're going to see everything in one visit, even if you're immune to museum fatigue and plan to stay all day.
The AGO's collection of Canadian works includes pieces by the Group of Seven, Tom Thomson, Cornelius Krieghoff, Emily Carr, James William Morrice and other big-name historical figures. One gallery shows 19th century Canadian oil paintings clustered together like a huge puzzle, virtually blotting out the walls.
In addition you'll find more recent artists such as Norval Morriseau, Genevieve Cadieux, Michael Snow and Kent Monkman. It's nice to see that more of the Inuit sculptures are upstairs now too, and both historical and contemporary pieces are shown (look for the plane!).
Picasso, Monet, Renoir… A large room of 17th century Dutch paintings, another of French Impressionism. A room devoted to surrealism (most of it European). Exquisite silver and ivory work.
Nothing says drama like an entire room of bone-like Moore sculptures. The Art Gallery of Ontario boasts the biggest public collection of Moores in the world. Don't forget the one outside too! (see photo above) It has recently been moved to the park in the back yard of the gallery.
Sculpture, masks, shields. An amazing wall-hanging that looks like gold cloth that is really made of bottle-caps sewn together.
No matter which sections you chose to see, one thing that you shouldn't
miss is the new "Galleria Italia". This to me is the best part of the
new expansion. On the second floor, this long, narrow, curving gallery
space with wall-to-ceiling windows overlooking Dundas Street is a
wonderful surprise. I heard several people actually gasp as they entered
the space. It vaguely reminds me of a cross between the great hall in
the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the BCE Place Galleria in
downtown Toronto. Buy a coffee or cold drink if you can find a space at one of the tables.
The usual museum gifts and books and prints. Fancy (and pricey) restaurant on the main floor facing Dundas Street – if you want to see and be seen. Cheaper (but not cheap!) option for us common folk downstairs (of course) serving sandwiches, coffees, snacks. Better bet: go outside, walk a few blocks to Baldwin Street (see below – In the Neighbourhood).
The gallery is the most expensive one in the city. Special exhibits will usually set you back around $25. Regular admission alone (to the permanent collection) is around $20. If you're on a budget, check out their discount nights and other ways to save money. For current details see the gallery's web site at www.ago.net.
Baldwin Street – A few blocks north of Dundas Street. A busy
little strip of restaurants and cafes. Includes Chinese, Indian and
Village by the Grange – Across the street from the AGO. A mall with a "taste of Toronto" food court: Japanese, Greek, West Indian, Eastern European, Thai, etc. You'll see lots of pierced facial parts here, as it's a hangout for the Ontario College of Art & Design which is just across the street.
Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) – Made the news a couple of years ago due to the unusual architectural design of its expansion. Pillars shaped like crayons or coloured pencils hold up the two-story addition. One of those buildings that you don't want to get too close to unless it falls down on top of you. Certainly a conversation piece, though.
Queen Street West – South of Dundas. Hip bars and restaurants and unique boutiques and smaller art galleries.
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts – Home of the Canadian Opera Company. Hosts ballet and concerts as well. A nice combination: a day at the gallery and a night at the opera?
City Hall old and new – Within walking distance. Skate on the ice rink. Join the crowds for concerts. Shop at the annual Toronto Outdoor Art Show.
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