By Don Douloff, November 27, 2008
When the renovated Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) opened in mid-November, near downtown Toronto’s Chinatown, reviews on the refurbished and expanded space, designed by superstar architect Frank Gehry, were overwhelmingly favourable. Spearheaded by the late Ken Thomson’s enormous gift of art and funding, the $276-million expansion renovated 190,000 sq. ft. and created 97,000 sq. ft. of newly built space. Moreover, it substantially increased gallery space, to 129,000 sq. ft.
Significantly for art lovers, thousands of works have been added to the AGO’s collection. Among the additions are the Thomson Collection of signature works by Canadian artists such as Tom Thomson, Cornelius Krieghoff and Lawren Harris, and the Thomson Collection of European art, featuring medieval, renaissance and baroque sacred and secular works.
Architectural highlights include Galleria Italia, a sculpture gallery that extends 450 ft. along the north side of the building, and, overlooking Grange Park, a glass-faced, five-storey south wing housing a centre for contemporary art and Baillie Court, an event space accommodating 450.
Retractable walls of perforated Douglas-fir panels divide Baillie Court’s reception space from the main room, which can be further divided. North-facing glass walls provide a view of the AGO’s spiral staircase and the glass roof of Walker Court.
Designed by Gehry, the newly unveiled restaurant, Frank, serves contemporary comfort food showcasing local ingredients and offering exclusively Ontario wines. Outfitting the space are modern, Danish-designed furnishings and original works of art from the AGO’s collection. The restaurant seats 130; a private dining room, 35.