During my recent travels to Canada I checked out the Art Gallery of Ontario‘s grand reopening. I discuss my impressions of Frank Gehry’s newest building and the collection itself over at Frieze Magazine. I’ve posted a teaser below but as always you’ll have to click through to read the full piece.
Will starchitect Frank Gehry's redesign transform the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) into a world renowned building? That certainly seems to have been the goal of much of the recent museum-building in the city, though the results have been uneven. Just down the street is Will Alsop's CDN$42.5 million Ontario College of Art and Design, which preserved residents' views of the park by putting the institution on stilts, though the project's scale was ultimately limited by budget constraints. Meanwhile, Daniel Libeskind's recent addition to the Royal Ontario Museum feels tacky and slightly out-of-step with the city. While it's still too early to gauge how both Toronto and the international community will respond to the AGO, my own impressions are mixed: the CDN$300 million renovation, inspired by the late Ken Thomson's recent bequest, is impressive but far from perfect. The building's location is less than ideal, many of the exhibitions lack sufficient curatorial direction and levels of accomplishment within these spaces is too often linked to the interests of their main donor.
Some 2000 works from Thomson's collection now occupy more than a quarter of AGO's 110 galleries — making up nearly 50 % of the works displayed — though you're more likely to read about how the architect's early life in the city influenced the building than the complex effect a major gift can have on a museum's collection-building strategy. Given the criticisms that Gehry's blockbuster museum projects have drawn — a perceived lack of sensitivity to the local area, for one — one would imagine his Canadian heritage would fuel hopes for this project. As far as exterior treatments go, it's difficult to say that Gehry has successfully integrated the AGO with the surrounding buildings: the narrow, adjacent street flanked by Victorian homes obscures all full-frontal views. Notably, the two largest physical changes to the building — the blown glass-like faÃ§ade and the new addition of a cube housing contemporary galleries resting atop the old building at the rear of the museum — are much more impressive from within.
To read the full piece click here.