Sunday, November 09, 2008

AGO's Massive Make-over Revealed Next Weekend

massive change
Originally uploaded by 416style
It was July 2005 when I took the picture Massive Change. Big things were underway. The AGO was just closing and the new design was revealed in a small exhibit showcasing some of architect Frank Gehry's more notorious international buildings. Among Gehry's designs there's the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the most bizarre DZ bank featuring a giant horse head, the brilliant temporary public space at the Serpentine in Hyde Park that I recently visited, and my favourite, MIT's Strata buildings for which Gehry is now being sued.

I didn't have high hopes for AGO's redesign. It was pitched as a glass ice hockey rink suspended over the street. Taking Canadian symbolism too literally makes me mental. I mean, why not just do a maple syrup installation to cover the old building? Fortunately there's little talk of that hockey rink now.

Yesterday I saw some actual photos of the redesign in the Globe and Mail and it surprisingly made me want to cry. The atrium is raw and stunning. Forget futuristic, this is nature on grand scale. Giant cedar timbers curve endlessly. Nothing makes me feel more at home, more Canadian, than being surrounded by our natural elements of stone, wood and water. If he could have spilled a river through the building (like Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water) I might have actually cried.

The Globe also features a sneak-peek of next weekend's surprises in a snippet from a documentary called The Collection. Shot using the new high-resolution RED camera, this doc interviews all the major players behind the AGO's new building and yet-to-be unveiled collections.

No one in Canada has had a better art collection than the late Ken Thomson. I remember the days when every major Canadian art auction was trumped by Thomson. Records for the auctions were constantly breaking. My favorite pieces by Lawren Harris were exceeding millions. I knew this man had a vault in downtown Toronto with some incredible tear-worthy pieces. Some friends working on The Collection visited the vault and told me of its riches, I'd pictured something like Aladdin's cave. Now, due to his family's million dollar generousity, all Canadians will be able to revel in something we can call our own and be truly proud of.

If you have an AGO membership you can visit the galleries starting today, everyone else is entitled to free admission all of next weekend.