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AGO kicks off a new year of First Thursdays with Basquiat-themed art party featuring Grandmaster Flash

February event offers a sneak peek into Canada’s first major Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition and a hot lineup of performances, talks and installations

TORONTO — It may be cold outside but it’s hot inside the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) as its First Thursdays series returns on Feb. 5, 2014, with a dynamic mix of provocative, topical programming and electrifying performances that are sure to further cement its position as Toronto’s ultimate art party. To celebrate the Feb. 7, 2014, opening of Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time, the first significant retrospective of the artist’s work in Canada, the 19+ event will see the AGO transform itself into an after-hours artistic and cultural hub from 7 to 11:30 p.m. featuring food and drinks, interactive installations, a panel discussion and live performances, including one by legendary hip-hop recording artist and DJ Grandmaster Flash, one of the founding fathers of hip hop and the first DJ and hip-hop artist (alongside the Furious Five) to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Grandmaster Flash will spin in Walker Court beginning at 10 p.m. Plan to arrive early for this not-to-be-missed headline act as space in Walker Court is limited, and party-goers will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. The set will also be streamed into other areas of the Gallery.

Tickets go on sale at 8 a.m. on Jan. 8, 2015, exclusively at Regular-priced tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Admission for AGO members is $10 in advance and $13 at the door. Party-goers can purchase $22 advance combo-ticket packages for a sneak peek of Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time, which opens to the public the following Saturday. The exhibition will be open until 10 p.m., with the last entry at 9:30 p.m. AGO members enter the exhibition for free but are encouraged to book tickets in advance. Advanced ticket purchase is strongly recommended as First Thursdays consistently sell out and tickets are not held back for at-the-door sales.

The February First Thursday lineup also includes:

It Could Have Been Me”: Perspectives on the Fight for Racial Justice and the Legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat                                        
Presented in Partnership with the Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition
Jean-Michel Basquiat boldly and directly confronted issues of race, class, police brutality and social justice in his work. These issues are at the forefront of today’s cultural discourse and will be the focus of a panel discussion of Toronto-based young black artists, artists, thinkers and cultural figures. The panellists will share their insights on the realities of anti-black racism, state-sanctioned violence and other issues, using Basquiat’s work and legacy as a jumping-off point. “It Could Have Been Me”: Perspectives on the Fight for Racial Justice and the Legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat will be moderated by Kim Katrin Milan and will feature artist and educator Randell Adjai, social justice educator janaya (j) khan, Mustafa the Poet and artist/activist Syrus Marcus Ware. The panel will also feature an introduction by Stephanie Smith, the AGO’s Chief Curator, and will run from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the AGO’s Baillie Court.

Bonjay returns
After two years out of the spotlight, Toronto-based dancehall-soul duo Bonjay return to the stage at 9 p.m. in Walker Court to debut songs from their forthcoming LP, Lush Life. Bonjay’s independently released Broughtupsy EP (2010) was lauded by the Guardian, the New York Times and Dazed magazine, and the new album, inspired by the beauty and chaos of urban life, takes their basement-rattling, spine-tingling sounds to the next level.

Dana Michel
Montreal-based choreographer and dancer Dana Michel will present work inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat, one of her primary influences. Michel’s work has been presented in North America and in Europe, and the New York Times recently named her among the most exciting choreographers working today.

The AGO Youth Council will create a site-specific work for the event, and DJ Andycapp will spin between sets in Walker Court. Additional local artists, speakers and interactive projects will be announced in the coming weeks at The evening will also feature an Out of the Vaults exhibition of rarely seen works from the AGO collection, as well as delicious food and drinks (cash bar; ID required).

For all the latest details on First Thursdays programming, visit and follow #AGO1st on Twitter and Instagram.

Supporting Sponsor: Joe Fresh

Official Beer Partner: Grolsch Premium Lager

Signature Partner, AGO Artist Projects: RBC Emerging Artists Project

Media Partner: NOW Magazine

The AGO acknowledges the generous support of its Signature Partners: American Express, Signature Partner of the Conservation Program, Aimia, Signature Partner of the Photography Collection Program; and the RBC Emerging Artists Project, Signature Partner of AGO Artist Projects.

With a collection of more than 80,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002 Ken Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. The AGO has an active membership program offering great value, and the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre offers engaging art and creative programs for children, families, youth and adults. Visit to find out more about upcoming special exhibitions, to learn about eating and shopping at the AGO, to register for programs and to buy tickets or memberships.

Aug. 23, 2014 – Jan. 4, 2015: Alex Colville

Oct. 18, 2014 – Jan. 11, 2015: Michelangelo: Quest for Genius

Feb. 7, 2015 – May 10, 2015: Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and receives additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.

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For all media enquiries about AGO First Thursdays, including interview requests and high-resolution images, please contact:

Jumol Royes; News Officer, AGO Communications

416-979-6660, ext. 504,

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