Visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto
A Brief History
The Art Gallery of Ontario – initially called the Art Museum of Toronto – was founded by the Ontario Society of Artists in 1900. The gallery moved to its current location, a spectacular Georgian manor, in 1909. After a couple of name changes, the institution formally adopted its current moniker in 1966, and the acronym (AGO) has been used in tandem with the full title ever since.
The Permanent Collection at AGO
There are almost 95,000 pieces in the AGO’s permanent collection. As you might expect, the gallery holds a substantial amount of Canadian Art, that details the evolution of the country’s artistic heritage.
Visitors can enjoy work from Canadian artists such as the Group of Seven, Tom Thomson, and Cornelius Krieghoff. There’s also a fascinating collection of work from Indigenous artists such as Norval Morrisseau, Kenojuak Ashevak, and Jackson Beardy, as well as artists inspired by Indigenous communities; the most notable being Emily Carr.
The AGO also has an extensive collection of European art, including pieces by Rembrandt, Picasso, Monet, Cézanne, and Tintoretto. If modern art is more to your liking, the AGO has amassed a collection that spans the major movements and iconic artists of North America and Europe. You’ll find work from Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse, Hans Hofmann, Jack Chambers, and William Kurelek. There’s also an impressive selection of photographs, drawings, and miniatures to be discovered.
Recent Exhibitions in Toronto
The AGO has a regular rotation of exhibits, usually centred on central themes within an artist’s body of work, or a wider topic that incorporates a mix of artists.
Some of the most exciting recent exhibitions have included an installation by renowned artist Yayoi Kusama, called Infinity Mirrors; At Home with Monsters, an interactive collection from director Guillermo del Toro; and an exploration of what it means to be Canadian, in the past, present, and future, in an exhibition called Every. Now. Then. Reframing Nationhood.
AGO Classes and Tours
The AGO offers a range of tours. For ultra-efficient visitors, the 10-minute Pop Up On the Dot Talks focus on a brief selection of pieces or a themed discussion. There is a 45-minute 1 hour guided AGO Highlights Tour that takes in the most iconic pieces in the gallery, as well as themed tours that run every day from 2pm.
For younger artists, there are fun workshops that allow kids to explore their creativity, as well as tours designed especially for families.
How to Get to the Art Gallery
The Art Gallery of Ontario is in the centre of Toronto, and can be reached by car, public transport, bicycle, and on foot. The closest stations are St. Patrick, Queen’s Park, and Osgoode (Subway), McCaul Street on the Dundas Streetcar, and Dundas Street on the Spadina Streetcar. The AGO is a 10-minute walk from the Eaton Centre.
The AGO is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10:30am to 5:30pm. It is closed on Mondays, and during Christmas and the New Year.