Wondering why all those famous Toronto landmarks were missing? Well, here we go.
Along with museums, city halls and libraries, art galleries are a chance for a government to make a statement. I mentioned this when writing about the ROM, and I bring it up talking about the AGO. Ok, I’ll call it the Art Gallery of Ontario once, just for clarity, but really, everyone calls it the AGO.
The AGO we all see today is about 10 years old now, after a renovation designed by Frank Gehry. And, unsurprisingly, Gehry’s contribution totally updated the AGO’s image and it has quickly become a sight to see in Toronto. And I’m not referring to the collection of sculptures and paintings (though one of the top collections in Canada is inside and some of the biggest exhibitions come through). Quick aside, too; the gallery was on my commute for a while, so I may have a bias there.
There are a few aspects of the AGO worthy of some shots. From the outside it presents an interesting facade, glass and steel/titanium with lots of wood; to me, it evokes a canoe or ship. The long curved glass allows the steel structure and wooden interior to be seen, looking like the structure of a canoe or ship under construction, especially at night.
On top of the unique and calm exterior, the interior has some highlights; two in particular jump to my mind. On the far side from the entrance is a long corridor with windows looking out over the property next door (I believe it’s Grange Park). There’s something very warm about the wooden wall and huge windows looking out over the area next door.
More popular with photographers, though (or so it seems from my research) is the staircase in the middle of the gallery. The smooth curved staircase is part of Gehry’s redesign and from many angles appears to be more like a sculpture than a functional structure. It just seems perfect, almost a like a computer-generated root from a tree outside and above you.
The AGO is another simple to see sight in Toronto; public transit is plentiful and probably advisable over driving since parking isn’t always the easiest or cheapest in downtown Toronto.
If you only have time to wander past, it’s — of course — free. However, if you’re visiting Toronto, it’s really one of the must see sights for those with ant interest in fine art, design or even Canadian history (due in part to their Group of Seven collection). Admission is $20 for the main areas, which means you’ll see the areas I mentioned. The special exhibition area is separate and generally doesn’t take up any areas of note.
TripAdvisor puts it at number eight for things to do in Toronto, but I’d put it a it higher, and consider it an essential piece to any meaningful trip to Toronto. It’s not a historic site, yet, but in I can see that changing.
Editor’s Notes —This is an updated version of the post I published last year when I took the first swing at this project.