we visit the ago

When we first moved to this area, two of Toronto's major museums were both closed: the Royal Ontario Museum (the ROM), and the Art Gallery of Ontario (the AGO), were both being redesigned by famous architects.

So during my first year here, when I was very into exploring Toronto, I didn't see either of those. I did enjoy watching the progress of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the ROM, and I did see a small exhibit at the AGO while most of the museum was closed, but both were generally inaccessible.

Then my focus shifted to exploring Mississauga, then to the surrounding regions of Ontario, and I started having more of a life here, and I left the rest of Toronto to discover when I get to it.

Yesterday, taking advantage of the only stat holiday that actually falls on one of our day-job work days, we visited the AGO. I find it ridiculous that the Christian holiday of Good Friday is a national holiday, but it is very nice to have an extra day off together.

I have some criticisms of the new ROM, but I really like the building, especially the visual explosion it makes on the streetscape. But although I usually love Frank Gehry's work, I find the exterior of the AGO disappointing. It looks oversized - hanging too far over the sidewalk and feeling too homogeneous and monolithic - and I dislike the transparent cladding, which looks to me like cheap Lucite. (Photos here and here.)

The interior, however, is wonderful - light and airy, sleek but still warm. Some photos of the interior from various people's Flickr pages: here, here, and here.

At the AGO, we spent some time in the beautiful Galleria Italia, enjoyed the Henry Moore plaster casts and the African collection, and wandered through some rooms of European paintings. I'm afraid that growing up with New York City has spoiled me for art museums, setting my standards too high, but the Art Gallery of Ontario is very nice.

One thing I really liked is that some rooms are arranged thematically, rather than by chronological period or style. One room displayed women depicted by male artists beside work by female artists, another was still lifes from all different styles and periods, a third was a collection on the theme of discovering diversity. This is unusual for an art museum, and an idea rich with possibilities. I noticed, too, that the explanatory texts were very very accessible and non-jargony, another great idea.

We had lunch at the bar at Frank restaurant, which was excellent. Beginning with a long walk with the dogs in the morning, and a Red Sox game at night, it was a lovely day off.

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