Rumors of an expansion of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) have been circulating for some time, but now it’s over. The Toronto museum announced on April 27 that it had hired Selldorf Architects, Diamond Schmitt and Brian Porter’s Two Row Architect to lead the design phase of what it calls AGO Global Contemporary, a 50,000 square foot showcase for the modern and contemporary art from the gallery. collection.
According to AGO Managing Director Stephan Jost, Global Contemporary compares favorably in size to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. “It’s not a small project,” says Jost. “We have global ambitions. We will help our visitors see the world differently.
The cost of the new addition is not yet known, according to a museum spokesperson. “Determination of the total construction cost of the expansion is the result of the current design phase,” the spokesperson said.
This is the seventh expansion of the AGO in its 122-year history and the first since Frank Gehry transformed the gallery in 2008.
It was to be expected that an assemblage of talent would win out, says Jost, noting that the bidders applied as a team. It’s quite a trio, with Selldorf being a leader in gallery and museum design with the transformation of railroad yard warehouses at Luma Arles in France and the continued expansion of New York’s Frick Collection among its businesses, while Diamond Schmitt boasts of David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center and Ryerson Center for Imaging in Toronto. Two Row Architect’s Fort Severn Resilient Duplex has won the Social Equity Design Award.
But there is still a long way to go before the hoped-for launch date of 2026-27 materializes. “Hiring the architect is real, but there’s a long way between here and cutting the ribbon,” says Jost. “If everything goes really, really well, we will innovate in two years. There are so many bridges to cross.
The AGO can make good use of the extra space, says Jost, noting that its collection is growing rapidly and additional treasures will likely follow. “It’s a flexible space,” he says. “We need space to absorb future giveaways – a lot of amazing artwork has been purchased by the people of Toronto.”
Annabelle Selldorf leads the design team. Other clients of his firm include the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Gallery in London, and the recently expanded San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art.
Diamond Schmitt, with offices in New York, Toronto and Vancouver, is also behind Buddy Holly Hall in Lubbock, Texas, Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, National Arts Center and the Ingenium Center in Ottawa and La Maison symphonique de Montréal.
Two Row Architect’s resume includes the National Center for Indigenous Laws at the University of Victoria and the Indigenous Student Center at Seneca College’s Newnham Campus, as well as several other projects in the United States.
The AGO project will undergo a review process and final approval by the museum’s board of trustees, with a public presentation likely to follow later this year.