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Frank Gehry’s Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

December 12th, 2008 by Raj

How would you spend your last full day in Canada before returning to Australia? Ice skating in Nathan Phillips Square? Watching ice hockey in a local bar? Randomly selecting strangers and asking them if they “know what it’s all a-boot?“. All great suggestions and worthy activities to keep one occupied during their last hours in Canadia-land but no, no, not for me; instead I took it as my opportunity to visit the newly redeveloped Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Why you might ask, well that’s just how I roll bitches.

In fact the real reason I wanted to visit the AGO before leaving Toronto has absolutely nothing to do with the art within it’s glass curved walls but rather for the walls themselves. You see the new building was designed by none other than everyone’s favourite architectural doodler Frank Gehry.

Gehry, who was born in Toronto, is one of the world’s most famous living architects. His signature curves provide breath taking aesthetics utilizing natural light as an almost catalytic emphasis upon them. His most well known piece of work, the Guggenheim Museum “Bilbao” , is in great company including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Dancing House and Seattle’s Experience Music Project, which I have also just recently visited.

Immediately upon entering the AGO’s foyer you’re greeted with signature Gehry, a curved-maze-like ramp providing an unique version of access for the disabled or merely adventurous, leading you to the counters of ticketing agents guarding the gallery’s true core via an CAD$18 toll.

Just yonder of the AGO’s ticketing smurfs is an area of open space that has to be experienced first hand to appreciate completely. It’s just sex in architecture, there’s no other way to describe the open hall almost church like area, so vacant with it’s sparse Gehry designed furniture and three story high ceilings yet so warmly immersive as if held by it’s beech coloured wooden floors, spiral staircase and echoing acoustics.

With such an amazing beginning I must admit the remainder of the gallery was rather disappointing. I presume there are only so many ways you can make one square room after another different and the contrasting flat walls are a necessity for the artworks most effective display. For me there was really only one other area that was true Gehry genius and that was the buildings street fronting glass atrium (as seen in the picture above).

Running the length of a city block the upper floor of the AGO’s curved face is a composite of hefty serpentine styled wooden beams and their conforming glass sheets. The internal area itself is home to only a few large pieces of art yet it’s emotive atmospheric warmth is undeniably comforting even whilst only exposed to the darkest of nights beyond it’s half domed enclosure.

I think it’s pretty obvious that I was taken aback by this building or perhaps more so the mind and work of Frank Gehry. I’m a little bit of an architectural nut I must admit but I don’t think you need to be to truly appreciate the beauty of this building and even if you don’t find the structure exciting there’s always plenty of art scattered about the place, or so I’m told!

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