Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You Gotta Go to the AGO

Recently, I went to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) with some friends and was pleasantly surprised.

As a designer and a graduate of OCAD, I had spent most of my student years visiting the AGO over and over again and ultimately, I grew tired of it. However, I was eager to see the new renovations and so when our friends suggested that we plan a visit to check out the AGO, we woke up early on Sunday morning and made it there for 10:30 am. For those of you that don't know me well, I am NOT an early riser on weekends!

Well, what can I say about the new AGO! What great changes have taken place! There is something there for everyone. It is not just the art work on display that is impressive. There are definitely some newer, post-modernist pieces of art on display, although a lot of the classical pieces are from their existing collection. But what REALLY amazed me was the architecture and the design (staircases and support beams) inside the building. Breathtaking! The things that the designers did with the wood, it just blew my mind!

The furniture throughout the AGO was very comfortable. I was pleasantly surprised. It's not very often that you find comfortable seating in public places. I took my time sitting on the various postmodern playful, foam chairs and cube stools, which were more mostly sized for children. Likewise the chunky leather and curved wood seating and tables (see below), which from a distance appeared rigid, were incredibly comfy and ergonomic beyond belief.

What also appealed to me was the lookout points with large glass windows which allow you to view the cityscape from an elevation. And the natural lighting streaming inside the AGO was so warm and wonderful (perfect for us sun-starved Torontonians) and very sleep-inducing. If I were a cat, I would curl up in the sun by the window and sleep for hours.

The gift shop had some interesting pottery, houseware decor and jewellery. (Can't forget the bling!) And there were plenty of items to appeal to the younger crowd as well...educational toys, children's books about artists, and fun stationary. The AGO also offers plenty of art classes for adults and children.

And being a foodie, I just have to mention the food at the basement cafe (one of many spots at the AGO to grab some food and drink). The orzo salad with grilled portobello mushroom that I had was tasty and plentiful. My husband's smoked turkey sandwich was warm and the bun was fresh. For dessert, the lemon macaron was tangy and gooey. It tasted good but - I have to say - it was a bit on the dry side. Not the best I've had - but I ate it anyway!

So, if you want something fun and different to do on a weekend with your family and have not yet seen the AGO renovations, I suggest you go. There is so much to see and do, two hours alone will not allow you enough time to cover everything.

I would also suggest a subsequent visit in a few months time with perhaps a sit down meal at the fancy pants "FRANK" restaurant (named after the architect Frank Gehry). I hear the food is very good but the minimalist decor is not very appreciated.

Go and see for yourself and then come back to my blog and let me know what you thought!