Art Museum of Toronto, established in 1900, became the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1919, then the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1966, as part of its expanded role on the Canadian cultural landscape. Approximately 78,501 works represent nearly 2,000 years of exceptional European, Canadian, modern, and contemporary art from masters such as Rembrandt, Hals, Poussin, Chardin, Delacroix, Renoir, and Picasso.
In its Henry Moore Sculpture Centre, the gallery has the most comprehensive and extensive public collection of Moore art anywhere in the world. As part of an expansion in 1993, Inuit art and contemporary art exhibitions were added, along with a Print and Drawing Study Centre.
Recent additions include significant collections of African and Oceanic art, and the photography collection has been expanded. Work by Canadian artists of the 18th century to the present makes up a substantial part of the permanent collection.
There is an average of 20 special exhibitions per year at the gallery. A number of major shows have taken place internationally in recent years, including: “The Barnes Exhibit” (1994), “The Courtauld Collection” (1998), “Treasures from the Hermitage Museum: Rubens and His Age” (2001), “Gauguin to Matisse: French Masterpieces from the Hermitage Museum” (2002), “Turner, Whistler, Monet: Impressionist Visions” (2004) and “Catherine the Great: Arts for the Empire – Masterpieces from the Hermitage Museum, Russia” (2005). Among the landmark, international exhibitions of Canadian art in the last few years are “Krieghoff: Images of Canada” (1999), “Tom Thomson” (2002), and “Emily Carr: New Perspectives on a Canadian Icon” (2007).
Various programs are offered regularly, including lectures, films, and tours. A variety of art-related activities are offered to kids and adults at the Off the Wall Centre!, as well as classes offered at the Gallery School. Students, researchers, and art historians value the invaluable information available at The E. P. Taylor Research Library and Archives. Grange House, the original gallery home, is a restored Georgian mansion that houses a museum that illustrates life in Upper Canada during the 1830s. Through its touring exhibitions and studio programs, the museum reaches communities across Ontario and Canada.
With its collection, facilities, and programs, the gallery has attracted 40,000 members, the largest number per capita in North America. The gallery received 78,500 visitors in 2009/10, which was a record-breaking event. Part of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s budget is provided by the Ministry of Culture of Ontario.
In November 2002, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto announced the details of a major transformation project that included an unprecedented donation of art and funding by businessman Kenneth Thomson and a physical redesign and expansion led by architect Frank Gehry. Renovations to the Frank Gehry-designed building, which cost $276 million, were completed on Nov 14, 2008. It was constructed in a way that reflected the Thomson bequest and doubled the museum’s exhibition space, allowing it to showcase more of its Canadian and international art collections.
Gehry, whose notable works include the Guggenheim Bilbao in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, inspired the addition to the Art Gallery of Ontario by remembering a childhood love of the building while incorporating innovative design elements. The main entryway of the building is dominated by a dramatic wooden staircase, and the north side features a glass gallery designed to take advantage of the Victorian-style houses of the street surrounding it.
Coming Up: Casa Loma