Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

A Crystal Ship Drifting Through The City

2008 November 24

I read an article this morning in the Toronto Star’s Opinion section about culture growth in the city, and more specifically praising the transformed Art Gallery of Ontario.

Also, for its re-opening last weekend, a glowing architecture review of the AGO appeared on the front page of the Arts section of the NY Times.  Nicolai Ouroussoff calls it “a masterful example of how to breathe emotional life into a staid old structure,” and continues that “as you watch the figures jostling outside and then turn to the sculptures, urban life and art seem in perfect balance.”

Everyone seems to love the new AGO!

The above photo is from the NY Times website.

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Was Harper Speaking About Torontonians?

2008 November 20

Our current Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently claimed that ordinary Canadians don’t care about the arts or their funding.

Interestingly enough, the renovated Art Gallery of Ontario re-opened for business this past weekend, and I rode my bike by there yesterday around 5:30 pm only to witness an incredibly long line-up to get into the gallery.  I’m talking like around-the-block-long.

On a related note, I read this article this morning in the NY Times.  It basically talks about how, even though many of the museums in Los Angeles are facing budget crunches right now, there is still talk of bringing yet another public art museum to the City of Bevery Hills (financed by philanthropist Eli Broad.)

These two stories caused me to revisit thoughts I’ve had for a while about the state of the cultural institutions of Toronto.  We basically have two major museums: the Royal Ontario Museum and the AGO.  Yeah, we have a few other minor ones like the Gardiner Museum (ceramic art), the Bata Shoe Museum (footwear), and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.  I guess the Ontario Science Centre is kind of a museum, too.  However, given the fact that Toronto is the 5th largest city in North America (after Mexico City, NYC, LA, and Chicago) it’s a pretty sad state of affairs.  New York City is home to top-notch museums in art, architecture, photography, natural history, television, radio and technology.  Chicago has more than 40 museums open to the public, including three popular museums on the lakefront linked by a large park area known as the Museum Campus.  Even Montréal, which is half the size of Toronto, has like 4 or 5 major institutions.  What’s up with our cultural infrastructure?

One proposal that has been in the works for more than 5 years is the the Toronto Museum Project.  This would see a “signature piece on the waterfront [showcasing] Toronto’s cultural story and intercultural understanding.”  Current plans identify the Canada Malting Silos site at the foot of Bathurst Street as the proposed site for this new Toronto Museum.  Only time will tell whether this project will actually go forward, but I’m not placing any bets.  Two other contemporary museum projects went unrealized – Metronome: Canada’s Music City was shelved years ago and a more ambitious Toronto city museum, called Humanitas, was rejected half a decade ago.  There’s actually a current exhibit at the ROM entitled Unbuilt Toronto: The City That Could Have Been, that showcases unbuilt projects and unrealized building proposals over the last 150 years.

As for our city’s current cultural landscape, go out and support the arts – even if Stephen Harper thinks you don’t care about them.  I’m going to the AGO this weekend (although I’ll be prepared to line up.)

Back in the Big Smoke!

2008 November 2

I was out of the country for a few months.  Then I was ultra-busy with my job for a while.  But now I’m back!  And I obviously have lots of things on which I want to make commentary.

Some of the stuff that has changed since I left:

1. The AGO has an opening date – November 14! – although if you drive by its Dundas Street location, it looks as if they’ll need an army of people working around the clock to have it ready for the public in 2 weeks.

2. The U of T football team actually won a game! (2 in fact, whodathunkit?)  In beating the Waterloo Warriors on September 1, 2008 (and subsequently, beating the York Lions on September 13) the Varsity Blues broke a 49-game (and nearly 7 YEAR!) losing streak.  Good for you, Blues, good for you.

3. The stock market plummeted.  A (figurative) rain cloud hovers above the Bay Street financial district.

Some of the stuff that has NOT changed since I last wrote:

1. The Bay begins decorating for the Christmas season about 2 weeks prior to Halloween.

2. The Trump International Hotel & Tower is still just a big pit in the ground.

3. The Toronto Maple Leafs (despite being the most valuable NHL francise, according to Forbes Magazine) still suck.

I sure am glad to be back in Tzero!

Art Gallery of Ontario Reno

2007 July 18

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Much has been said recently about the “cultural revolution” sweeping through Toronto these days.  Basically what it comes down to is the fact that both the ROM and the AGO were being renovated this summer.  I’m not sure if that qualifies as a revolution, but they are two pretty prominent cultural landmarks in the city.  The new Michael Lee Chin Crystal at the ROM is pretty outstanding, at least from the outside.  The usefulness of the space within is another story.  They should have just made the whole thing an open space and had a really lavish entryway like Pei’s Pyramid at the Louvre in Paris.  Regarding the Art Gallery of Ontario, the design is being done by none other than Toronto native and international architectural legend, Frank Gehry – best known for designing the titanium-covered Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and other weird important buildings around the world.  Apparently, Gehry’s original idea was much more lavish and expansive, but was scaled down because of complaints from people in the surrounding neighbourhood.  Personally, I think it looks like a new Costco is going up with a skeleton-like structure slapped on the front.  The good thing about this project, however, (as well as what makes it distinct from the ROM) is that Gehry’s design process begins with a building program, which is a list of the functional requirements of a building.  At least this space will be useful.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see if the glass + wood sculpture gallery and the box-like contemporary arts gallery clad in blue titanium will be “revolutionary.”  Check out some pictures I took while snooping around the construction site:

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