The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is not only one of the largest art museums in North America but hosts a ton of incredible exhibits, hands-on activities and artful dining.
The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is a must see for everyone – visitors and locals alike. It’s not only one of the largest art museums in North America, with a Collection of close to 95,000 works, ranging from cutting-edge contemporary art to significant works by Indigenous and Canadian artists and European masterpieces, but it hosts a variety of exhibitions, family friendly activities and artful dining options, all wrapped inside the stunning architecture of Frank Gehry.
Whether you’re seeking an introduction to Canadian art or hands on activities for the whole family, the AGO has a lot happening in its halls. And it’s never been easier to visit! The new $35 AGO Annual Pass offers unlimited access to exhibitions and collections year-round, and visitors 25 and under are free.
Here are five hidden and happening experiences at the AGO.
Explore its Ever-Changing Exhibitions
Most people are aware of AGO’s remarkable Collection, but often overlook the revolving door of exciting exhibitions and programs featuring cutting-edge artists.
This summer, the talk of the town is Brian Jungen Friendship Centre – a major solo exhibition of sculptures, paintings, drawings and installation work by the acclaimed BC-based artist. Running until August 25, 2019, this special exhibition features over 80 of Jungen’s most striking works, including some never seen before in Canada.
An artist of mixed European and Indigenous heritage, Jungen first made waves in the art world in the late 1990s, transforming Nike Air Jordan sneakers into Indigenous-looking masks. This became a 23-piece soft sculpture series called Prototype for New Understanding – 20 of which are on display at the AGO.
Another show-stopping work is Cetology (2002) – a stunning 40-foot long sculpture of a whale skeleton that Jungen constructed out of plastic patio chairs and suspended from the gallery ceiling. Allocate at least a half-day to marvel at his sculptures and the awesome film installation displaying the artist’s personal archive of materials and inspirations. As always, AGO Members, AGO Annual Pass Holders and visitors 25 and under get free admission to special exhibitions like this one.
Family-Fun Activities Galore
If you’re looking to keep the kids busy, the AGO has your back. The Museum’s events and programming calendar is packed with family-friendly activities, including family flashlight tours of the Thomson Collection of Ship Models and the dedicated makerspace, where recycled materials can be turned into art. Starting in November, Family Sundays return, with a host of free family activities free with general admission.
For the littlest visitors, there is also the Dr. Mariano Elia Hands-On Centre – a designated zone for art making and creative play for kids ages 5 and under – and look for the “Art Cart” – a mobile art activity centre that cruises the galleries. Wondering how to make your summer more artful? Guided by professional artist instructors, the AGO’s one- and two-week intensive camps encourage kids to explore their creative side. There are also one-off classes for budding artists as young as two years old and a “Strolling the Galleries” tour that’s a real sanity-saver for parents with babies and toddlers.
Go Back to School
Did you know the AGO also offers cool courses geared for grown-ups? You don’t have to be Picasso to take ‘em: instructors at the Anne Tanenbaum Gallery School offer workshops for all ages and abilities in a fun and supportive environment that includes access to the galleries. Channel your inner Van Gogh at Introduction to Watercolours, try cartooning at Introduction to Comics, start snapping at Life Photography or drink and draw at the AGO Bistro for a casual Friday night outing. It’s a great way to discover your creative side while meeting other art lovers in the city.
Indulge in Edible Art!
Take a break from gallery galivanting and get a taste of edible art at the AGO Bistro – an award-winning restaurant designed by world-famous architect Frank Gehry. Hungry hordes flock here to savour exquisite dishes made from local, seasonal fare, and it’s a hot spot during Winterlicious and Summerlicious. If you go to the Brian Jungen Friendship Centre exhibition, make sure to stop in for a bite to eat: the chef has crafted a mouth-watering menu of western Canadian flavours to accompany the exhibition.
Make the AGO Your Culture Cornerstone
Boredom is impossible at the AGO. Keep an eye on the AGO’s events calendar; it’s packed with everything from film screenings and book launches to pop-up talks to live performances and art parties. This mighty museum is truly a cultural cornerstone in the city, offering a dose of art immersion for anyone who walks through its doors. What’s also awesome? There’s free admission to the AGO collection and exhibitions every Wednesday from 6-9 pm.