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Art Gallery of Ontario: “Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh & more” (October 22 – January 29, 2017)


This fall, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) invites visitors to accompany some of the greatest artists of the 19th and 20th centuries on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. Organized in partnership with the renowned Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more breaks new ground by exploring the mystical experiences of 36 artists from 15 countries, including Emily Carr, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Vassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Georgia O‘Keeffe and James McNeill Whistler. This major exhibition, which features close to 90 extraordinary paintings and 20 works on paper, debuts on Oct. 22, 2016 and runs to Jan. 29, 2017, before opening at the Musée d‘Orsay in the spring of 2017.

The years between 1880 and 1930 were marked by rampant materialism and rapid urbanization. Disillusioned with traditional religious institutions, many artists across Europe and North America searched for an unmediated spiritual path through mystical experiences. They conveyed their feelings of unity with nature and the cosmos in some of the most famous landscape paintings ever created. Gauguin found inspiration in the faith of peasants in rural Brittany; Monet sought solace from the First World War through hours of contemplation beside his waterlily pond at Giverny; and van Gogh looked for consolation in the starry skies over Arles.

Mystical Landscapes was conceived and developed by Katharine Lochnan, the AGO‘s senior curator of international exhibitions, together with guest curators Roald Nasgaard and Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov, in addition to Guy Cogeval and Isabelle Morin Loutrel of the Musée d‘Orsay.

Over the five years it has taken to develop the exhibition, the AGO has been assisted by a multi-disciplinary advisory group drawn largely from senior faculty at the University of Toronto. Leading experts in the fields of theology, history, astrophysics, medicine and psychology have looked at nature mysticism and art through different lenses.

“These masterpieces convey experiences that cannot be put into words”, says Lochnan. The feeling of connecting with a deeper reality—a power much greater than ourselves—is a mystical experience. These experiences may reach any of us through the contemplation of nature and the cosmos. We are moved by the beauty of sunrise and sunset, the stars in the night sky, the reflections of the moon on lakes, the power of the ocean waves and the vision of snow-capped mountains. These paintings convey the artists “mystical experiences of something greater than themselves. It is primarily through the contemplation of nature that they have seen with greater clarity.”

Mystical Landscapes will take visitors on a journey through Europe, Scandinavia and North America, beginning on a path through the woods and ending with a view of outer space from a mountain top.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles from 1888, which prompted him to write about feeling ―a tremendous need of —shall I say the word—religion…so I go outside at night to paint the stars‖;

Paul Gauguin’s vivid Vision after the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) from 1888, painted during his sojourn in rural Brittany;

Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (Nymphéas) from 1907, which he painted after hours of Zen-like meditation beside his Japanese water garden;

Edvard Munch’s The Sun, created to inspire students in the wake of his well-publicized nervous breakdown between 1910-1913;

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Series I – from the Plains from 1919, showing the terrifying power of an approaching thunderstorm in Texas;

A series of mystical lithographs by the recently rediscovered French artist Charles-Marie Dulac, which illustrates St. Francis of Assisi‘s Canticle of Creation.

“We have been given extraordinary support for this project from institutions around the world,” says Lochnan. “Many of the loans are ‘magnets’ in their home museums and are very seldom lent. This unprecedented level of generosity reflects the very genuine excitement and commitment to the ideas explored in this exhibition which have never been fully addressed through art historical research.”

Lenders include the Musée d‘Orsay; Tate Britain; National Gallery of Canada; National Gallery of Scotland; National Museum, Stockholm; National Gallery, Oslo; National Gallery, Prague; Leopold Museum, Vienna; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Art Institute of Chicago; and many other institutions worldwide.

After stepping through its doors, visitors to the exhibition will feel an immediate sense of escape from the world outside. While designing the in-gallery experience, AGO Senior Interpretive Planner David Wistow has carefully considered ways to help audiences draw their own emotional connections to the art works. “We welcome people to contemplate the role of spirituality in their own lives, and their connection to a deeper reality,” says Wistow.   The artists’ mystical journeys prompt us to ask our own questions of, ‘Who are we, and why are we here?'”.

An illustrated catalogue will accompany this exhibition—one of the most ambitious publications in the AGO‘s history—and will be available in English and French. Featuring essays by 19 scholars and curators from across Europe and North America, including those who served in an advisory capacity, it will be for sale in shopAGO.

AGO members receive free admission to this time-ticketed exhibition. More information on the benefits of AGO membership can be found at http://www.ago.net/general-membership.

Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and the Etablissement public du musée d‘Orsay et du musée de l‘Orangerie, Paris.


The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris ( July 1 – Sept. 18, 2016) at the Art Gallery of Ontario


A founding member of the Group of Seven and a major figure in the history of twentieth-century Canadian art, Lawren Harris (1885-1970) remains largely unknown in the United States. This year the AGO is partnering with the Hammer Museum to introduce Harris’s iconic landscapes to audiences in Los Angeles and Boston. The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris will be the first major solo exhibition of his work to be shown in the United States, and opens  in Toronto in July of 2016.

The exhibition is curated by comedian, musician, actor and writer Steve Martin in collaboration with Cynthia Burlingham, Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs at the Hammer Museum, and Andrew Hunter, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator of Canadian Art at the AGO.

The AGO’s installation offers an expanded experience, curated by Hunter. It opens with a selection of Harris’ early paintings from the 1910s, many of which depict the complex and culturally diverse Ward neighbourhood in Toronto, where the artist spent his formative years. Visitors will then experience the core of the exhibition, followed by a special epilogue that explores the influence of Harris’ landscapes on Canadian identity (“the idea of north”) in relation to the city. The impact of Harris’ art and legacy can be seen through historical photogaphs by Arthur Goss in addition to the works of several contemporary Canadian artists including Nina Bunjevac, Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier, Tin Can Forest and Anique Jordan. Combined with the core exhibition, this enhanced presentation of The Idea of North features over 80 works in total.


Art Gallery of Ontario: ‘Outsiders: American Photography and Film, 1950s–1980s’

During a time of rapid change, when documentary-style photography and experimental filmmaking remained firmly on the periphery of the art world, an exceptional group of artists used lens-based media to capture images of American life in all its startling complexity and diversity. These glimpses into communities and individuals outside of the mainstream not only challenged conventional views of society, but allowed us to see ourselves more clearly.

This spring the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) invites visitors to experience this new vision of post-war America through the works of photographers Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Danny Lyon, Gordon Parks, Garry Winogrand and those who attended Casa Susanna, and filmmakers Kenneth Anger, Shirley Clarke, Marie MenkenRobert Frank and Alfred Leslie. Featuring over 200 photographs and four films, the visions presented in Outsiders: American Photography and Film, 1950s–1980s remind us that the world is not united by a smooth surface, but rather by a complex network of ideas and images, often in tension with each other.

Opening to the public on Saturday, March 12, and view through May 29, 2016 this special exhibition is co-curated by the AGO’s own Associate Curator of Photography Sophie Hackett and the AGO’s Manager of Publications, Jim Shedden.

Outsiders: American Photography and Film, 1950s–1980s is part of the AGO Year of Photography, and a key moment arrives in May as the Gallery becomes one of the official hubs for the 2016 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.


J. M. W. Turner: ‘Painting Set Free’ (October 31, 2015 – January 31, 2016) at the Art Gallery of Ontario

This fall the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) will host a major exhibition celebrating the experimental and contemplative works of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), a giant of British art. Opening on Oct. 31, 2015, J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free features more than 50 large-scale paintings and watercolours on loan from Tate Britain and makes the case that the radical works created in the final 15 years of Turner’s career, with their arresting use of light, represent a fulfilment of the artist’s upward trajectory.

Fiercely driven and radically experimental, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851) was a giant in the history of British art. Praised by critics across the U.K. as ―an exciting, entrancing show‖ (The Guardian) and ―sensational‖ (London Evening Standard), the acclaimed exhibition J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free opens in Toronto at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Oct. 31, 2016. Featuring more than 50 paintings and watercolours on loan from Tate Britain, the exhibition focuses on the artist’s later works, famous for their rich colour, textures and arresting use of light. Timed-entry tickets for J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free at the AGO go on sale Oct. 16, 2015. The exhibition is celebrated by the launch of the AGO’s permanent new hours of operation, featuring extended Friday nights with special Turner-themed programming throughout November.

Coordinated by Lloyd DeWitt, AGO Curator of European Art, J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free shows how Turner’s final years were a time of exceptional vigour, as he continued pushing the boundaries of his artistic practice while travelling across Europe to capture increasingly dramatic landscapes on canvas. Challenging the myths, assumptions and interpretations that have grown around Turner’s later works, the exhibition is organized thematically and takes a focused look at his travels, his fascination with classical history, religion and mythology, his love of the sea, and his preoccupation with atmosphere and light.

J.M.W. Turner is the best known British artist, but here are few fascinating facts you might not know:

•In the later years of his career his art became more radical and experimental, incorporating unusual materials like tobacco juice and stale beer, and was derided by conservative critics for his unconventional methods

•He did some pretty drastic things for his art, like having sailors tie him to the mast of a boat during a major winter storm to “experience the drama” of the elements during a storm at sea

•He wore wooden dentures and drank up to eight pints of rum a day

•His father lived with him for 30 years, serving as his assistant and mixing paints

Art Gallery Of Ontario

317 Dundas St. W | Toronto, ON | CANADA | M5T 1G4 | http://www.ago.net

Jean-Michel Basquiat: ‘Now’s the Time’ at the Art Gallery of Ontario

The radical vision of New York artist, musician and fashion-world icon Jean-Michel Basquiat arrives at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Feb. 7, 2015, and to celebrate the AGO is offering an unprecedented variety of related programming and events ranging from talks to film screenings and dance parties. Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time makes its only North American stop at the AGO and will run through May 10, 2015.

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) was one of the most innovative artists of the past century. Drawing, painting and collaging layers of images and text, he translated the world around him into a distinctive visual language that broke new ground in contemporary art. Rich with symbols and cultural references, Basquiat’s works explore potent themes: from personal identity and power to entrenched racism and inequality. Today, Basquiat’s art still reverberates. In all its beauty, complexity and urgency, this work continues to challenge perceptions, provoke vital dialogues and empower us to think critically about our world.

Basquiat was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. His mother was of Puerto Rican descent, and his father was from Haiti. Growing up in New York played a vital role in Basquiat’s artistic development. His mother took him to museums regularly, and through this early engagement it was evident Basquiat was artistically and intellectually gifted.

While Basquiat’s art historical knowledge provided a foundation for his practice, New York and its social politics informed his content. When Basquiat was a teenager, he and his friend Al Diaz began spray painting on the walls of Lower Manhattan under the pseudonym SAMO©. The socially provocative phrases they wrote near galleries and clubs challenged social norms and caught the attention of the downtown art crowd.

Basquiat soon began painting on paper and canvas, as well as objects he found on the streets of New York. His early success attested to both his artistic ingenuity and his inherent understanding of New York’s cultural climate. His work reached stylistic maturity almost immediately, and in his early twenties, after showing at a number of exhibitions, Basquiat found himself an established and internationally famous artist. He went on to work prolifically, producing thousands of powerful paintings, drawings and prints before his untimely death in 1988 at the age of 27.

On Saturday, Feb. 7, from 6 p.m. to midnight, the AGO will reverberate with the youthful sounds of B-boys and B-girls at the Basquiat Bash, a free opening-night event to celebrate the arrival of Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time. Two thousand free tickets were booked by 125 community and youth groups across Toronto, with the remaining 1000 free public tickets won via an online draw. Ticket holders on opening night will hear DJs playing Basquiat-inspired playlists and hear remarks by AGO director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum and special guests Jeanine Basquiat and Lisane Basquiat, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s sisters. Beginning at 9 p.m., visitors are invited to witness Breaking the Cycle Break Battle, a break-dancing competition presented in partnership with UNITY Charity, showcasing the best break-dancers in the city. Featuring over 30 top Toronto dancers, the two favourites will face off in a showdown in front of visitors and judges to compete for the chance to represent Toronto at the the Notorious IBE championships in the Netherlands this summer.

So you can’t get there tonight?  Check out these other cool events during Basquiat’s time with us in Toronto.


Every weekend, beginning Feb. 14 through May 3, 2015, the AGO will offer in-gallery performances by artist educators and youth members from UNITY Charity, an AGO partner organization that uses hip-hop culture and programming to empower youth. The performances will take place every half hour from 1:30 – 4 p.m. Beat boxing will take place on Saturdays and spoken word performances will take over on Sundays.


Every Wednesday evening beginning Feb. 11, join the AGO’s youth gallery guides for a free pop-up talk in the exhibition at 6:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. These discussion-style talks are aimed at youth and will highlight artworks.


GTA youth aged 14 to 30 are invited to submit original artwork on the theme of empowering the black community for the Scratch & Mix Project competition. Basquiat’s desire to address issues of social justice—including racism, materialism and exploitation—is the inspiration behind this unique youth arts competition, a multifaceted youth arts and community engagement project, organized in partnership with the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, the Environics Institute’s Black Experience Project and NIA Centre for the Arts. A jury will select up to 10 finalists, who will be awarded $1,000 and see their work featured at the AGO in an exhibition opening on April 18, 2015. That same day, the AGO will host a dynamic one-day youth solidarity forum identifying strategies to empower black youth to play a greater role in the community. This project is part of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation’s national 4th Wall: Make the Invisible Visible program, which collaborates with art galleries and museums across Canada to give voice to the invisible experiences of marginalized youth. For more details or to submit a proposal, please visit bit.ly/ScratchMix.


Combining music, video and art-making, visitors are invited to spend time in the interactive Basquiat Culture Jam Lounge, located just outside the exhibition. Visitors to the lounge can sit and listen to a curated playlist of Basquiat-inspired music and share their responses to the exhibition by recording their own personal message in the Basquiat video talk-back booth. Videos will be posted to BasquiatNow.com. In addition, visitors are encouraged to try their hand at street art by leaving a message on the chalkboard wall and to take photos of themselves with the oversized portrait of Basquiat and share with the hashtag #BasquiatAGO. The lounge is open during regular Gallery hours.


Toronto’s hottest art night out and annual AGO fundraiser Massive Party returns on April 23, 2015. In celebration of the Basquiat exhibition, this year’s theme is Hotbed and artistic director TALWST is out to prove that now is the time to be in Toronto, bringing together for one night only the city’s foremost underground artists and musicians, for a whirlwind of unforgettable performances and installations. A Toronto artist and musician, TAWLST is a member of the Basquiat Community Advisory Committee and will recreate his acclaimed performance.

Art Gallery of Ontario | 317 Dundas St. W | Toronto, ON | CANADA | M5T 1G4 | http://www.ago.net

Alex Colville at the Art Gallery of Ontario (August 23 – January 4, 2015)

Nearly 100 works by Canadian icon Alex Colville (1920-2013) will be showcased at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) commencing this weekend, marking the largest exhibition of the late artist’s work to date. Curated by Andrew Hunter, the AGO’s curator of Canadian art, the exhibition will honour Colville’s legacy and explore the continuing relevance of his work through thematic pairings with the work of several prominent popular culture figures from film, literature and music. Opening August 23, 2014, the exhibition will run to January 4, 2015.

Known for painting decidedly personal subject matter, Colville’s painstakingly precise images depict an elusive tension, capturing moments perpetually on the edge of change and the unknown, often imbued with a deep sense of danger.

“Alex Colville’s exacting methods and often uneasy scenes created an entirely new genre of Canadian art. His death has left a void in our cultural landscape, but his work continues to have a profound impact on artists here and abroad,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, director and CEO of the AGO. “We look forward to exploring this vibrant legacy with the help of several creative thinkers, some of whom have been directly inspired by his vision.”

Featuring works assembled from museums and private collections nationwide, many of which have never been shown publicly, the exhibition spans Colville’s entire career, including iconic paintings such as:

 Horse and Train, 1953;

 To Prince Edward Island, 1965;

 Woman in Bathtub, 1973; and

 Target Pistol and Man, 1980.

Born in Toronto in 1920, Colville was a painter, printmaker and veteran who drew his inspiration from the world around him, transforming the seemingly mundane figures and events of everyday life into archetypes of the modern condition. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1982 and won a Governor General’s Visual and Media Arts Award in 2003. The AGO has 89 works by Colville in its collection, including seven paintings currently on display. The Gallery last presented a retrospective of his works in 1983.

Review:  Taking in the Alex Colville exhibit was indeed an intellectual and emotional journey. I couldn’t help but feel comfortable and safe in the exhibition space as I took in the beauty and intensity within the layers of paint.  Even though I just met these paintings – we could be family.

After listening to Ann Kitz, Colville’s daughter, give a moving speech dedicated to her father we were forewarned that we were in for a treat before being ushered in to see her  father’s formidable works.

Being greeted with Wes Anderson’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ film clip as an ode to Colville’s ‘To Prince Edward Island’  as we entered the exhibition space immediately put a smile on my face.  Indeed Colville in all of his creative complexity and endearment truly captured the heart of Anderson’s.  Anderson’s tight close ups, pondering actors, cinematic moments in pursuit to dwell upon and colour esthetics ached of Colville.

I remember seeing Colville’s quintessential Canadian works as a teen a marvelling at how close the paintings were to an actual photograph.  Today I couldn’t help but feel nostalgia of those times long ago when I initially saw these paintings in art books and magazines.

Themes of family, love, grief, an underlying sinister element, the complexity of relationships, the importance of animals in our lives and how being a war hero is never far from one’s mind if one partook and survived a tour provided for a cohesive and deeply moving exhibit.

Colville was not making a portrait about the Maritimes but instead about family, his neighbours and small town life.  The realism in his paintings makes them relatable and also easy to digest into our own specific living no matter where we live in Canada.  We can’t help but think ‘I know someone like that’ or ‘I’ve seen a similar portrait everyday in my life’.

It’s no wonder the likes of Sarah Polley and the Coen Brothers were also inspired by the deeply personal but not private tones in Colville’s paintings (‘Couple on Beach’ and ‘Target Pistol and Man’).   These paintings are indeed emotionally and gravely punctuated in Polley’s and the Coen’s films ‘Stories We Tell’ and ‘No Country for Old Men’.  Even Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ has Colville’s work interspersed within the film as an offering of artistic discomfort.

I truly appreciated that throughout Colville’s work there was also an air of mystery in terms of what we were viewing as a guest.  There was movement in progress towards something or someone that only the participant in the painting was privy to.  It was a nice reminder that sometimes in life it is worth just observing as oppose to feeling the need to participate in every moment.

If you are Canadian – the Alex Colville exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario is a must see.

Experience Alex Colville online at www.welcometocolville.ca


Ai Weiwei: According to What? at The Art Gallery Of Ontario

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I wasn’t planning on checking out Ai Weiwei’s exhibit titled ‘According to What?’ at the Art Gallery of Ontario after I had absorbed Bowie’s exhibit.  But I am sure glad I did.  It was not only funny, emotional but very inspirational.

Chronicling Ai’s work from the mid-1990s to the present, the exhibition blends art history, activism and traditional Chinese materials and symbols to create a compelling vision of the artist’s everyday reality and his ongoing fight for freedom of expression in the face of Chinese government censorship. Featuring more than 40 large scale works of art including sculptures, photographs and video and audio installations.

Ai Weiwei is one of the world’s most provocative contemporary artists.  Ai is under constant surveillance at his home in Beijing and has been unable to leave China since the government confiscated his passport in 2011.

Ai Weiwei: According to What? includes many large-scale and detailed artworks, including:

• Straight (2008-12), which contains 38 tons of reinforced steel rebar recovered from post-earthquake fissures and arranged specifically for the exhibition;

• Château Lafite (1988), a sculpture comprised of a wine bottle and peasant shoes that pays homage to the artwork of Marcel Duchamp and Jasper Johns;

• Grapes (2010), showcasing a number of wooden stools from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) that artisans have rejoined into a cluster;

• New York Photographs (1983-93), a selection of 32 black-and-white documentary photos that Ai took during his time studying art in New York City;

• Surveillance Camera (2010), a piece of technology carefully replicated in marble, recreating the device that the Chinese government uses to keep an eye on the artist in his home; and

• He Xie (2010), an installation of more than 3,000 porcelain river crabs. The term “he xie” refers to the word “harmonious,” which is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s slogan and is now internet slang for official online censorship.

Ai Weiwei:  According to What? is on display from Aug. 17 to Oct. 27, 2013 and the AGO is the only Canadian stop on a North American tour.