Behind the scenes

I was really pleased to be able to spend a couple of days in Toronto last week. It was the first time I'd been to this city and I was struck with the difference in pace from Manhattan – it seemed somehow more like New Zealand, perhaps unsurprising given the British heritage of both countries. This was confirmed in a way I hadn't expected by my visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario.


Toronto is said to be the most multicultural city in the world and the gallery certainly feels like an institution which considers and provides for a good range of audiences. It was surprisingly fresh in the way a range of the newer exhibitions were presented, I liked the intermittant focus exhibitions within collection displays and the engaging labels were good too, I thought.

Director Matthew Teitelbaum is a long-standing friend (we studied together in London in the early 1980s), and it was wonderful to see him in his element in the newly-extended Frank Gehry Gallery. We could have talked for at least a week on a range of gallery matters; indeed, at one point we laughed about how unlikely it would have seemed to us 30 years ago to be so fascinated by art gallery audience research and our ability to cite and question different measures in this and that way.

Frank Gehry-designed spiral staircase in the Walker Court of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada

Frank Gehry-designed spiral staircase in the Walker Court of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada

Overall I was very impressed with the new gallery extensions and the way the Toronto-born architect had enhanced an earlier iteration of this gallery, which has been extended several times. He's also been appointed to extend the Philadelphia Art Museum, working underground, I gather, so that will be interesting to watch as it develops.



US artist Barbara Kruger, who showed at the former National Art Gallery's Shed 11 in 1988 has recently transformed the signature façade with a large work Contact 2010 (the text reads: 'Love It; Shove it; Praise It; Please It; Doubt It; Shame It: Blame It: Kiss It: Buy It: Believe It' – what 'It' is, she leaves up to us). I'll write again about the AGO as I was also impressed with the unique staging of their temporary exhibition, Drama & Desire.