Art Gallery of Ontario plans $60 million expansion, including six-story tower

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The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.Mark Blinch/Reuters

The Art Gallery of Ontario, one of Canada’s largest art museums, is planning a 55,000 square foot expansion from his apartment building in downtown Toronto, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Dubbed “AGO Global Contemporary”, the proposed extension would include a six-storey tower rising from the northeast corner of the building to accommodate new contemporary art galleries. Its budget is estimated at $60 million.

The gallery has issued a request for proposals to potential architects. This document calls for “very flexible and well-proportioned spaces that can accommodate the media and materials in which artists work today and tomorrow”.

The AGO envisions a six-story tower with new gallery space. These are intended to serve the AGO’s “growing collection of global modern and contemporary art and exhibitions”, Andrea-Jo Wilson, the gallery’s public relations manager, said in an email. She said the project was “in its infancy”.

The plan is part of a larger strategic vision, Ms. Wilson said. The AGO aims “to lead global conversations from Toronto, through extraordinary collections, exhibitions and programs, reflecting the people who live here”.

The gallery’s RFP document highlights the diversity of the AGO audience and argues that modern and contemporary art is driving audience growth.

The AGO is the second most visited art museum in Canada, behind the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Nicholas Métivier, renowned gallerist from Toronto, enthusiastically welcomed the news of the project. “The AGO’s responsibility, I think, is to step up its game when it comes to acquiring contemporary art,” Métivier said.

“Toronto is by far the largest art market in Canada; you might think of the AGO occupying a position in Canada of how [the Museum of Modern Art] made in the United States.

The gallery’s previous expansion, led by architect Frank Gehry, opened in November 2008 with 97,000 square feet of new space. It was the latest in a series of expansions and renovations to the gallery’s downtown building. Its oldest part is a colonial mansion dating from 1817.

The addition of Frank Gehry in 2008 radically changed the gallery’s physical presence in the city: he added a new all-glass and wood wing to the front of the museum and a tower to the rear, clad in titanium blue, facing the audience. accessible to the Parc de la Grange.

It is not clear if the new AGO Contemporary would also be visible. Ms Wilson said the proposed site is above the gallery’s loading dock and car park. This would place the new tower next to the tower designed by Frank Gehry – and right next to the adjacent OCAD University building, which plans its own vertical expansion designed by Los Angeles architects Morphosis.

The proposal document calls for “clean and simple finishes such as polished concrete floors, minimal walls and modestly open ceilings”, and spaces connected to existing gallery floors.

The AGO’s collection has grown by 20,210 works of art over the past five years, Ms. Wilson said. “The AGO needs more space to showcase these works and create opportunities for audience engagement and learning.”

Of Toronto’s other two largest contemporary art museums, the Power Plant has no collection and the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto’s collection, Metivier said, is relatively modest in size. “It all really lands on the AGO steps, in terms of fundraising,” he said.

The AGO wouldn’t comment on how the project would be funded, but Métivier speculated it would be ‘no problem’ to raise $60 million from prominent collectors in the area. of Toronto.

The AGO project would be one of many art museum expansions in the country right now. The Vancouver Art Gallery recently announced a major donation for its new building, and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is designing a new, significantly expanded facility.

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