In the Spotlight:
Art Gallery of Ontario

Explore the works of celebrated artists like Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama and others.

Nestled in Toronto’s downtown core on bustling Dundas Street West, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is a haven for local artists and an inspiring go-to for pop culture enthusiasts.

Outside Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

Founded in 1900, the museum’s collection spans from 100 A.D. until present day and exhibits creative expression in all forms, from music to film to graphic art to experiential media and more. Past exhibitions showcased the works of David Bowie, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Stanley Kubrick and Yayoi Kusama. 

What’s currently on show at the AGO? Find out for yourself with the purchase of admission-timed tickets. Are you part of the 25-and-under crowd? You get access to the museum for free. Finally, take a look at the AGO’s health and safety guidelines to know what to expect.

Exhibits: present & future

Fortunately, the AGO’s exhibits are back on but with a few changes. Yayoi Kusama’s mirrored installation, Let’s Survive Forever, although a massive crowd-pleaser (we’re talking huge), is temporarily closed for now. No worries though, because there are other fascinating exhibitions for you to enjoy at a safe distance.

After its postponement, the much anticipated Haegue Yang: Emergence is now public until 2021. Haegue Yang’s narrative of migration, displacement and cultural diversity inspired the exhibit’s 82 sculptures, installations and performances that span the artist’s last 25 years. What looks like abstract pieces are actually everyday objects transformed and activated through light, sound and movement. 

Nature and creative inspiration collide at the Michael Belmore exhibition. Where one may see a piece of wood or a boulder, the Anishinaabe descendant and sculpture sees art. His exhibit features pieces created with materials from the artist’s natural surroundings.

Opening minds to alternative entertainment is the AGO’s forte and that’s why we love it so! Illusions: The Art of Magic offers an extensive look into the Golden Age of magic featuring the skillfulness of Harry Houdini and The Incomparable Albini. In addition to death-defying tricks, enjoy the kitschy charm of vintage posters and artifacts from a completely different era.

Also on display is Diane Arbus: Photographs 1956-1971, a photography-centric exhibit inspired by social equality. A legendary photographer, Diane Arbus’ work strived to normalize marginalized groups through striking black and white portraits. 

Upcoming exhibits include a collection of Andy Warhol’s pieces, Picasso: Painting the Blue Period (the AGO uncovers different layers to Picasso’s paintings), Studio 54: Night Magic, and more.

Permanent collections

In addition to popular (and Instagrammable) exhibits, the AGO brims with cultural collections that showcase portraits, installations, sculptures and artifacts from around the world. 
Browse Canadian, Indigenous, European, Modern, Contemporary and African art. Notable artists include Rodin, Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh and Andy Warhol, to name a few. The Indigenous Collection happens to be the largest in the world, while the African Collection is the largest in Canada.

Don’t miss The Thomson Collection, the most significant private art collection in the country. It features 2,000 outstanding works gifted to the AGO by Ken Thomson. The collection displays Canadian art from the 19th century to mid-20th century, including pieces from the Group of Seven.

Browse the entirety of the AGO’s acquisitions along with collections dedicated solely to photography and drawings, as well as a library that holds up to 380,000 volumes. We recommend checking the AGO website for the most up-to-date information, as some of the above may be temporarily closed due to COVID-19. 

Virtual events

These days there are many ways to enjoy AGO from Home, especially for the kiddos. For starters, the AGO Youth Instagram account features weekly Skillz Share! videos facilitated by the AGO Youth Council, wherein they display useful skills.

The AGO also offers plenty of online courses for children and teens.

For the more mature art lovers, the AGO’s hub of online events  include art-related performances, tours and discussions in collaboration with industry experts, local curators and researchers. Online courses for adults are available as well.

Family activities

Plan your next fam jam at the AGO. Fan your creative flames with collaborative projects, storytelling and playing around in costumes at The Hands-On Centre. Materials are included.

Mindful Makers is yet another fun-filled program, located in the Weston Family Learning Centre. Kids feed their creative impulses by building, creating and indulging their imaginations. This event is facilitated by Toronto artist and muralist, Cindy Scaife.

Have you ever explored a museum in total darkness? Family Flashlight Tours allow families to browse Thomson Collection’s ship models, up close and with a flashlight. Presently, the above activities and events are on pause until further notice.

Educational experiences

If you’re curious about an artist’s creative process, the AGO’s Artist-in-Residence allows visitors insider access into the world of notable creators. Selected artists work within a dedicated space, at which point they receive institutional support and access to materials. Past artists of the program included Ness Lee, Haegue Yang and Alicia Nauta, among others.

Spiral staircase designed by Frank Gehry in Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
The AGO’s iconic Frank Gehry-designed spiral staircase

Satisfy your curiosity of print, drawing and photographic arts at The Marvin Gelber Print and Drawing Study Centre. Open door evenings grant visitors viewings of the AGO’s top-notch print room. Currently, the above experiences are temporarily on pause and off limits due to COVID-19.

Shopping & dining

Shop AGO for stylish games, toys, decor, jewellery, clothing and more. Splurge on unique gifts with an artsy twist or immortalize the awesome exhibits you just saw.

Complement your amazing AGO experience with amazing food. AGO Bistro serves up award-winning dining with takeout options as well. The restaurant is currently open, with health and safety measures in place.     Indulge in a coffee break at the beautiful Galleria Italia section of the AGO. Sit back at The Espresso Bar and enjoy the gorgeous, airy setting while sipping hand-crafted espresso. Unfortunately, the Espresso Bar is temporarily closed, but you can still enjoy Galleria Italia—sans café for now.

If you’re craving a quick and casual bite, Café AGO offers refreshments and local eats in a comfortable space. Have your little ones with you? Kids under five eat for free. At the moment the Café is closed until further notice.  

Membership & Annual Passes

Become an AGO member for unlimited admission to the gallery and other exclusive benefits. Frequent visitors are encouraged to purchase the Annual Pass.

Twenty-five and under? You’re eligible for the Free Annual Pass

How to get to the AGO

From the Queen Elizabeth (QEW): Take the Gardiner Expressway to Spadina Avenue. Continue north on Spadina to Dundas Street West and turn right. Continue on Dundas until Beverley Street.

From the 401: Exit at Avenue Road South and continue until Dundas Street West. Turn right on Dundas and continue until McCaul Street.

Parking: The ROM doesn’t provide parking but there are many parking lots nearby.

By TTC: St. Patrick Station (on the Yonge-University Subway Line) or the 505 Dundas streetcar.

By GO Transit: Transfer at Union Station and take the Yonge-University Subway Line to St. Patrick Station.

By UP Express: Transfer at Union Station and take the Yonge-University Subway Line to St. Patrick Station.

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