Art Gallery of Ontario
Diane Boyer, Associate, Foundations & Special Projects
416-979-6660 ext. 357
Charitable number: BN11879-0401-RR0001
About this organization
We bring art and people together and boldly declare Art Matters.
History of Organization
Founded in 1900 by a small group of private citizens, the Art Gallery of Ontario is now one of the largest public art museums in North America, with a collection of more than 80,000 works of art and heritage, exhibited and conserved in a stunning Frank Gehry-designed building. The collection spans from 100 CE to present day, comprised of extensive holdings of Canadian, European, African, and Contemporary art, Prints & Drawings, Photographs, and one of the largest and finest collections of Inuit art in the world.
In 2011, with the assistance of the W. Garfield Weston Family Foundation and the Government of Canada the AGO renovated its arts education facility and opened the new Weston Family Learning Centre, a light-filled education commons that provides exhibition, studio, and meeting room resources connected directly with AGO collections and other resources. Inside the Learning Centre, art lovers and learners of all ages can enjoy creative play and artmaking in a welcoming, nurturing environment that offers a creative oasis in the centre of the city.
Accolades and Accomplishments
The Art Gallery of Ontario welcomes more than 650,000 visitors a year and has 84,000 members. Free general admission on Wednesday evenings has been an AGO tradition for more than 25 years. The AGO is a founding member of the Toronto Public Library’s Museum Access Pass program, and also a partner in the Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s Cultural Access Pass program.The AGO’s own Neighbourhood Access Program and Community Membership Program allow us to work with community organizations across the city to reach socio-economically challenged individuals, families and groups, providing free visits to the AGO and reinforcing the AGO’s role as a welcoming destination and resource.
The AGO has an outstanding record of presenting major exhibitions of Canadian and world art including, in recent years, showings of Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Emily Carr, David Milne and many others. The AGO also actively supports contemporary artmakers - maintaining the free and streetside Young Gallery dedicated exclusively to emerging Canadian art talent, and the AGO’s Artist-in-Residence program, a first at any major Canadian art institution.
On the AGO’s concourse level, the Gallery welcomes all visitors free of charge to the new Weston Family Learning Centre, as well as the AGO Community Gallery, Artist-in-Residence studio, Ship Model Gallery and Visible Inuit Storage Vault.
Each of these initiatives are unique to the AGO, providing our visitors new and innovative ways to engage with art and creativity.
Maintaining a sustainable business plan is vital to any cultural organization, and the AGO is proud of its record of creating and operating outstanding cultural spaces and programs, including ambitious building expansions and renovations, on a solid financial footing.
The AGO holds more than 80,000 works in its collection, which spans from 100 A.D. to the present.
The Canadian collection vividly documents the development of the nation's art heritage since pre-Confederation, and includes one of the largest and finest Inuit art collections in the world.
The European collection includes works by renowned artists such as Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Frans Hals, Peter Paul Rubens, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and René Magritte.
The Thomson Collection includes a broad range of works, from European to Canadian art, ship models and decorative arts.
The AGO maintains a comprehensive collection of Modern & Contemporary art spanning from 1960 to the present, reflecting global developments in artistic practice across all media, including painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, projection art, and installation art.
The Print & Drawing collection spans the entire history of works on paper in the West from the 1400s to the present day, encompassing 17,500 prints and drawings and a related collection of 53,000 photographs.
The African collection is one of the largest and most prestigious in any gallery in Canada, comprising 95 artworks spanning several centuries. It is focused on sculptural and figural works from west and central Africa. The Oceanic collection holds more than 1,000 Australian Aboriginal artworks.
AGO School Programs
AGO school programs connect students with art in ways that are personal and relevant. Through active observation, experiential activities in the Gallery, and hands-on art making in the studio, students will EXPLORE, IMAGINE and CREATE. Accessible and inclusive, school programs are linked directly to the Ontario curriculum and support cross-curricular learning.
AGO Teacher Programs
Our hands-on sessions help experienced teachers and teachers-in-training integrate the visual arts into their classrooms with techniques to build students' visual literacy.
The AGO hosts a wide spectrum of art exhibitions. Over the past few years, the AGO has presented:
- Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, 2012
- Zhang Huan: Ash Paintings and Memory Doors, 2012
- Iain Baxter&: Works 1958 - 2011, 2012
- Black Ice: David Blackwood's Prints of Newfoundland, 2011
- Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde: Masterpieces from the Collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2011
- Abstract Expressionist New York: Masterpieces frm the Museum of Modern Art, 2011
- Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts, 2010
- Julian Schnabel: Art and Film, 2010
- King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, 2009
The installation of AGO collections is organized around a series of ‘hubs’ which help visitors navigate through gallery spaces and learn about different art themes and topics. Our permanent collection areas include:
- Modern & Contemporary
- African & Oceanic
- Prints, Drawings & Photography
The finished display of each collection area may appear effortless to visitors, but each is carefully researched and designed. When visitors discover a fresh installation at the AGO, they are experiencing the culmination of months, and sometimes years, of careful work that has gone on behind the scenes.
Each installation at AGO is a complex orchestration of museum workers – from curators and exhibition planners all the way to education officers, gallery guides, and security guards who meet the public when the gallery opens. This team coordinates the installation of the more than 4,000 works of art that are on display at the AGO at any one time. Many of these works are priceless treasures, and each one of them has its own story to tell.
Installation is a meticulous undertaking, requiring research and conservation services, framing, mounting, exhibition design, lighting, environmental controls, and countless hours of professional expertise. Installation is labour intensive – a fascinating process and a major investment.
As well as the placement of art objects, installation means designing educational visitor experiences to help people learn and enjoy while visiting the 110 galleries the AGO offers. The AGO’s spacious ‘agora’ design creates a space and a forum for an animated exchange between art and visitor. Once in place, the success of installation might be measured by how many visitors find themselves engaged in a thoughtful and meaningful dialogue with the art in the Gallery, without ever noticing the careful research and planning behind it. Donations to the AGO support the ongoing collections work that makes those conversations possible.
Funding and Program Partners
Contemporary programming at the AGO is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.
The AGO acknowledges the generous support of its Signature Partners: American Express, Signature Partner of the Conservation Program; and Aeroplan, Signature Partner of the Photography Collection Program.
The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture. Additional operating support is received from the the City of Toronto, the Department of Canadian Heritage, and the Canada Council for the Arts.
The AGO has worked very hard to create a welcoming and rewarding enviroment for the diverse communities around us. According to research compiled by Hill Strategies Research, Inc. in Feb. 2012, attendance at arts & cultural activities has reached record levels in recent years, with 10 million Canadians reporting in 2010 that they had visited an art gallery at least once over the past year. Museum visitors cited the following as the main benefits of the arts:
- educating children
- promoting understanding between communities
- fostering community pride
- contributing to the local economy
At AGO, our analysis shows that:
- About 45,000 AGO visitors per year participate in free gallery tours and talks
- Children who are exposed to art in their early years have improved social, cognitive, and emotional abilities
- Students who have art education as part of their curriculum perform better across all subject areas
- Youth involved in art programs have higher self-esteem, and are less likely to drop out of school
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
"Toronto is making progress in understanding culture as a major driver of prosperity, and is well-positioned to be a global leader in arts and culture, but needs to make a sustained investment in its artists and arts organizations." (Toronto's Vital Signs, 2011)
By keeping the centre of our city a vibrant arena for art and creative thinking, the AGO is a primary generator of economic prosperity, emotional well-being and belongingness, and civic pride that has a deep and far-reaching impact on people's lives.
"Walking into Walker Court and seeing the two Rodin sculptures was a very moving experience. I know the story behind the Burghers of Calais - offering themselves up as hostages to relieve the siege on their town - but I had never seen the actual bronzes. The light from above, the public atrium, the sad figures...it reminded me of the sculputures of the Irish famine immigrants down by the waterfront. [by sculptor Rowan Gillespie] Beautiful. Thank you."
- an anonymous visitor comment
Activities a donation will support
Financial support for AGO Collections Research and Installation
Each donation to the research and installation of the AGO Collections helps the Gallery design an experience that welcomes, educates and inspires everyone who visits.