ARCHITECTURE | FRANK O. GEHRY’S ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO
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Okay, this post is new, but the photos were taken last winter whilst visiting Toronto.
I’ve been a fan of Frank Gehry’s architecture ever since the Guggenheim Bilbao went up. It seemed to break the mold of the International Style in a breathtaking, sensuous way.
So when I heard Frank was embarking on a “redo” of the AGO, I was pretty excited. The gallery was certainly looking tired. All those many additions over the years; it was a real hodgepodge of styles.
My first reaction to the new AGO was underwhelming.
In Vancouver, we have a thing called “façadism” (we have no history to speak of) whereby we keep old façades and build new structures behind them.
Gehry’s approach to the AGO is “façadism” in reverse: tear down the old front and build a new one (see above).
To me, this meant that all those wonderful new views of the city that the gallery provides also gives a view of the mess that is the gallery’s accretion of wings over the years (see below).
But, reflecting back on what Gehry’s done, I’ve changed my mind. I think the redo is a success.
I also think that the curators should be applauded for their new approach to displaying the works of art on view (lots more things on display than before).
So, here’s my belated tribute to the new AGO. Bravo! Well done.
The “spiral” is the main attraction. And it’s beautiful. It’s nice to see that craftspersonship is still alive and that we can actually build these complex architectonic structures.
The Galleria Italia competes with “The Spiral” as the main draw. It’s like a long front room for the gallery. It’s nice to see Dundas Street from the Galleria’s perspective. As a native British Columbian, it’s also nice to see massive Glu-Lam Douglas Fir members rising to great heights. Canadian Art described this room as being similar to a massive canoe tilted on its side; I think that’s a very apt (and Canadian!) analogy.
One of my favourite things about the new AGO is how it has opened up so many vistas of the city. Unlike Vancouver, T.O. is pretty flat, and getting perspectives of the city isn’t as easy as it could be. The Art Gallery of Ontario now offers several fine perspectives on the city, even though you have to avert your eyes from the “ruins” of the many wings of the gallery below you.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the redesign is the massive blue titanium hulk that Gehry has foisted on the tiny Grange Park at the rear. I believe it was The Globe and Mail’s Lisa Rochon who described the colour as “Canadian Tire tarp blue” (another Canadianism from Gehry, who was born in Toronto?). I’m not so sure about the exterior of this hulking mass, but I do like the new contemporary galleries it houses (and, once again, the views it opens up). I’m also not a fan of Gehry the furniture designer, but perhaps you’ll like sitting in his hard benches when you visit.