Art Gallery of Ontario
Our Impact Why We Exist
Art changes lives. It provokes us to think, to express, to explore our own creativity, and to envision new possibilities for ourselves and the world around us. Art museums, in their presentation of objects, artworks, and ideas, are extraordinary places that inspire a sense of wonder in those who visit—a wonder that encourages us to reflect upon the diversity of the human condition and form a deeper connection with humanity.
At the Art Gallery of Ontario, it is our mission to bring people together with art to see, experience and understand the world in new ways. We do this through an ambitious presentation of exhibitions alongside a dynamic offering of public programming that welcome and engage audiences of all ages and varying interests. And we do this through the generosity of our supporters who share in our vision that a community enriched by art and creativity is a community that transforms and flourishes.
Our Story What We Do
With a collection of more than 90,000 works of art and a physical facility of 583,000 sq. ft., the AGO is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, and from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO collection offers a rich art experience with each visit. Alongside displays of the permanent collection, the AGO presents a wide spectrum of contemporary and historical exhibitions.
In 2002, Ken Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. Opened in 2008, the new AGO was received as one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. In 2011, the AGO opened the Weston Family Learning Centre, offering an increased range of engaging art-focused programs for children, families, youth, and adults. Programming serves to inspire creativity and increase accessibility to make the AGO a hub for meaningful arts-focused and social gathering in Toronto.
Last year, we welcomed close to 800,000 visitors to exhibitions and programming at the AGO, and showed our guests that art really does change lives.
Our Programs How We Do It
Collections & Exhibitions
The AGO maintains several areas of art collection that today includes more than 90,000 works across the areas of Canadian, European, African and Oceanic, Modern, Contemporary, Photography, Prints, and Drawings. Artworks are displayed in a range of exhibitions, accessible with general admission to the Gallery.
Historical Canadian artwork is a major pillar of the permanent collection, comprising pieces from the earliest forms of human expression to work produced up to 1985, including one of the premier collections of work by Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, a large and important array of Inuit art, an expanding body of historical First Nations art, early Quebec art, pre-Confederation watercolours, and more. The AGO also maintains a national historic site known as The Grange, the original home of the Gallery.
The works in the AGO’s European Collection represent a survey of European art from the Renaissance to the mid-1900s, while three pillars of strength are highlighted: Dutch painting from the 1600s, Italian painting and sculpture from the 1600s, and French Salon and Impressionist painting from the 1800s. The European Collection gained considerable breadth in 2002 with the donation of Ken Thomson’s collection, which added over 900 pieces, including the legendary 12th century Malmesbury châsse, an extraordinary selection of Medieval and Baroque ivories, and a distinguished group of portrait miniatures dating from 1550 to 1850. A jewel of the Thomson Collection is the 17th century masterpiece by Peter Paul Rubens, The Massacre of the Innocents.
The AGO’s collection of African art is not only the largest of its kind in a Canadian art museum, but also one of the most prestigious in Canada. Almost entirely the result of Dr. Murray Frum’s generous gifts to the Gallery, the collection enriches and expands the fabric of the AGO’s holdings, and features 95 sculptural and figural works that span several centuries of practice from west and central Africa.
The Modern and Contemporary Collection consists of artworks by European and American artists dating from 1900 and includes important pieces by such masters as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Paul Gauguin, and Andy Warhol, as well as an exceptional cluster of Surrealist works and one of the strongest sculpture collections in North America, featuring the internationally renowned Henry Moore Sculpture Centre. The collection also encompasses the work of Canadian artists since 1985, and expands across numerous media, including painting, sculpture, installation, works on paper, photography, film, and video.
Since the AGO made a commitment in 1978 to collect photography in depth, our collection has grown significantly in number and distinction. The Photography Collection spans the history of the medium from the 1840s to the present day, and includes more than 53,000 works.
The AGO’s Prints and Drawings Collection spans the entire history of works on paper in the West from the 1400s to the present day. Housed in the Marvin Gelber Print and Drawing Study Centre, the collection includes over 17,500 works grounded in a strong collection of European prints, drawings, watercolours, and pastels. The main strengths of the holdings are from artists in the Italian (1500s–1700s), French (1600s), and British (1700s-1900s) schools, as well artists associated with the Dutch and German schools.
In addition to the ongoing display of works from the AGO’s diverse and fascinating collection, the Gallery partners with key American institutions and international organizations to develop and host historical and contemporary ticketed exhibitions that excite and inspire the imaginations of our visitors. The AGO is also dedicated to bringing to Toronto the best in art from across Canada and around the world through small and medium-sized exhibitions. These exhibitions are included with general admission and often feature a range of public programs that connects audiences with artists.
Public Programming & Learning
With the launch of the Weston Family Learning Centre in 2011, the AGO extended a new form of welcome to the communities we serve. The centre represents an unprecedented investment in accessibility, openness, and partnership—as well as a deeper focus on our decades-long commitment to outstanding art education.
The Weston Family Learning Centre is a 35,000 sq. ft., light-filled, multi-level complex that houses a host of community resources, including seminar rooms, studio spaces, an artist-in-residence program, a community gallery, exhibition space for the Toronto District School Board art collection, and a drop-in centre and meeting space for youth. It is also home to the offices of the AGO’s Public Programming & Learning department and serves as the hub of the Gallery’s rich offering of public engagement activities.
Art-making courses, artist talks and panels, public opening receptions, teacher training and school group visits, video screenings, art performances, and a range of special accessibility tours and other programs—these are the types of opportunities provided to our communities by the AGO’s Public Programming and Learning department.
This year, the AGO added another engagement program to our roster with the launch of the innovative and multigenerational Seniors Arts Engagement Program, an initiative that invites seniors to participate in guided tours and experiment with art-making in a setting that involves youth as guides and art-making facilitators. More of the department’s programming is explored over the next few pages.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
The Toronto Arts Council lists ten positive impacts of increased arts funding on Toronto’s neighbourhoods:
- The creation of a more beautiful city
- Increased cross-cultural understanding
- Opportunities for at-risk youth
- The attraction of new businesses
- Increased citizen engagement and volunteerism
- An increase in tourism
- The reduction of crime
- An improvement in the local economy
- The creation of community pride
- An increase in community organizational capacity.
What You Can Do
Activities a donation will support
Financial support of the AGO can be offered for general support of the Gallery's ongoing exhibitions and public programming. Supporters might also wish to direct their support to specific activities, including, but not limited to:
- Educational Initiatives
- Youth Programs
- Family Programs
- Accessibility Initiatives & Tours
- Print & Drawing Study Centre
- Research Library & Archives
- ...and more!
Your gift helps the AGO present exhibitions about art and artists from Canada and around the world, supports the care and conservation of our invaluable collections, and strengthens our growing body of educational and public programming, increasing access to the arts and the AGO across Toronto, across Ontario, and across the country.