Transformed AGO reopens today

Toronto art lovers are set to celebrate as the newly-designed Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) re-opens today (Nov. 14) following a 13-month closure.

One of the largest art museums in North America, for the past year the AGO has been undergoing a visual transformation at the hands of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. Many Torontonians, such as Josh Hass, have been waiting patiently for their chance to once again gain access to the facility.

“Any time an institution like this is closed it creates a barrier for those who are seeking the interaction and inspiration offered by the collections . . . however, the closure, although unfortunate, has allowed something amazing to be created,” Hass said.

Brady Schmidt, Executive Director of the Art Dealers Association of Canada (ADAC), says the last 13-months have been difficult but manageable given the circumstances.

“(The closing) was difficult from an inspiration standpoint because there was no access to the collection,” Schmidt said. “But we did know what would be happening in the future and really anticipated the opening.”

Hass agrees that the wait was worth it, despite his frustration with the lengthy closure. He attended the member’s preview this past weekend and says the architecture is very complementary to the collection.

“Like contemporary art, contemporary architecture is always growing and evolving,” Hass said. “To display contemporary art in a not-so-contemporary space creates a juxtaposition that distracts the viewer from the art rather than helping create a complimentary experience.”

York University student Olga Lesau has been a volunteer with the AGO’s children’s art camps since before the closure. Proud to have a Gehry building in Toronto, she says the closure was not a bad thing.

“(While) under construction, the AGO tried hard to keep its educational programs,” Lesau said. “There were always AGO staff to greet you warmly when you visited the temporary office on McCaul Street. I never felt like I lost touch with the AGO.”

Coupled with his appreciation of art and desire to support Canadian art, the renovations excited Hass enough to become a member during the transformation period. Despite any hard feelings about the closure, he is and will remain, an active member of the gallery.

“As a person who is inspired by modern art, I see a gallery that has modernized itself to reflect its collections,” Hass said.

“Although I missed it while it was gone, I certainly was more than pleased when it returned at the completion of its metamorphosis.”

The AGO re-opens to the public today at 4 p.m.