AGO Toronto

Visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario

As we’ve said before, we are not normally ones for art galleries, or museums in general for that matter. After an hour or so I’m usually bored, my back hurts and I just want to go do something else. So when I found out that my team was going on an ‘away day’ to the Art Gallery of Ontario (or AGO to us Torontonians) I was probably the least excited.

Fast forward a few days and I was actually convincing Stewart that we go back again and take a closer look! Fortunately, thanks to the Museum + Arts Pass from the library we got in for free.


So what changed? I went on a guided tour!

Our guide was brilliant, taking time to get to know the group and what we were interested in before taking us round the highlights of the gallery. For me this was the perfect way to get a good understanding of what I was looking at as she explained about the artists, the techniques used and the expression behind the work. We got to see the hidden gems that you might otherwise spend hours searching for and left with a feeling of wanting more.

On meeting up with the rest of the team following the tour I soon discovered that each tour is unique. There was much rivalry between the two groups, as we swapped stories and debated whose tour was best. But the others won with the news that their tour guide had taken Will Smith round the galleries just a few days prior!

AGO Lawren S Harris
The mountain scenes by Canadian painter Lawren S Harris were among my favourites. Over the summer there will be even more of his work on display as The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris exhibition comes to Toronto.
AGO Golf bag totem poles
Brian Jungen explores the stark differences between the resources that go into maintaining golf courses and the traditional indigenous use of the land with his golf bag totem poles.
AGO Christi Belcourt
Just a tiny part of the huge canvas ‘The Wisdom of the Universe’ by Christi Belcourt, which depicts more than 200 species of Ontario plants and animals that are listed as endangered or extinct.
Polar Bear at the AGO
Mark Dion, who often uses taxidermy in his work, documents the obsolete. Here, where he is only using a stuffed polar bear toy, he highlights the impacts of climate change.

You’ll notice a definite theme that sparked my interest – anything to do with the environment and nature, and I’m there. Stewart on the other hand would have happily spent hours looking at the Thomson Collection of Ship Models on the lower level. It’s said to be one of the finest private collections of ship models in the world, with hundreds of models spanning 350 years….. yawn.

AGO Model Ship
The ship builders’ models extend from the mid 19th century to the Second World War, representing a diversity of model style and ship type.

The AGO building

It’s worth taking a trip to the AGO just to see the building itself, which was completely transformed in 2008 by Toronto born architect Frank Gehry.

Staircase AGO
The wooden spiral staircase in Walker Court is a delight for photographers

Wooden staircase AGO

Galleria Italia AGO
The boat like Galleria Italia is a popular spot for photo shoots and the perfect place to take a break
AGO South Wing
The contrast between the old and the new. One of Gehry’s tasks was to unite the hodgepodge of six previous expansions as one


Finally, I’d really recommend the AGO shop, especially if you are looking for some unique and quality Canadian themed items for souvenirs or gifts. We’ve picked up a number of great cards and presents here. No gallery ticket required to shop.

It’s fair to say, with its collection of over 90,000 works of art (4,000 of which are on display) that there really is something for everyone at the AGO. Plus if it’s good enough for Will Smith…

Tips for Visiting the AGO


We visited the AGO in summer 2015, so some exhibits may have changed since then.


3 thoughts on “Visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario

  1. I’m not a art museum person but the totem poles and the architecture look pretty cool. I have to stay I’d be looking at the ship models for ages like Stewart. 😛


  2. Looks like they have some really cool stuff – apart from the ships! I think it was in Boston that we found a whole room of model ships that my husband had to go painstakingly round, looking at each in turn. I was so bored!


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