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AGO Opens the Gates to India’s Royal Courts

Exhibition about India's Maharajas offers FREE admission to visitors 25 and under

(TORONTO - November 19, 2010) The splendour, luxury, and legacy of India's greatest kings will be experienced by visitors to the Art Gallery of Ontario beginning this Saturday at 10 am, when Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts opens to the public. The Canadian exclusive, organized by London's Victoria and Albert Museum, features over 200 works spanning three centuries of history and will be on view at the AGO until April 3, 2011.

"We are deeply excited to welcome our visitors to this extraordinary exhibition," says Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO's Michael and Sonja Koerner director and CEO. "The AGO aims not only to tell compelling stories and display dazzling artwork, but also to present programming that reflects our community. With more than half of Canada's South Asian population residing in Toronto-the world's most diverse city-our hope is that this exhibition will entice visitors both new and familiar to the AGO to visit the Gallery and experience the wonder of India's legendary Maharajas."

The exhibition has received more support from the corporate community than any exhibition in the Gallery's 110-year history, resulting in the unprecedented offer of FREE admission to visitors 25 and under for the run of the exhibition (excluding the period December 26, 2010 to January 2, 2011). The "FREE for 25 and Under" offer is generously supported by the Patrons of the Exhibition: Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., The Globe and Mail, Rogers Communications Inc., and Scotiabank Group.

Among the 200 objects on view is the saffron-coloured 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II, custom-built for His Highness Thakore Sahib Dharmendrasinhji Lakhajiraj of Rajkot, on loan from his great-grandson His Excellency Y.S. Mandhatasinhji of Rajkot. Also on view is the stunning Patiala necklace, the largest single commission in the House of Cartier's history. Completed in 1928 and restored in 2002, this piece of ceremonial jewellery originally contained 2,930 diamonds and weighed nearly 1,000 carats.

Other key works in the show include: the famed throne once belonging to Maharaja Ranjit Singh; a life-sized model elephant adorned with textiles and trappings and accompanied by a silver howdah from the early 19th century; a silver carriage commissioned by the Maharaja of Bhavnagar; paintings of spectacular royal processions; royal costumes and traditional dress worn by great kings and queens; ceremonial weapons including daggers, swords and a matchlock gun; and prized photographs by celebrated artists such as Man Ray and Cecil Beaton. 

"Many of the arts of India exist today as a result of the patronage of the Maharajas," says Dr. Stephen Inglis, adjunct curator of the exhibition and curator emeritus at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. "Their support of artists resulted in splendid and beautiful objects symbolic of royal status, power and identity, as well as the survival of many forms of dance and music. Because of their support, these traditions lived on, and now allow us the opportunity to stage such an amazing display of art and artifacts."

The four galleries of the AGO's Sam and Ayala Zacks Pavilion are devoted to the exhibition, with works on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Qatar Museums Authority, British Museum, National Gallery of Canada, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Asian Art Museum, Cartier, the  National Portrait Gallery, and various private lenders.

Anna Jackson, deputy keeper of the V&A's Asian department curated Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts with consultant curator Amin Jaffer, international director of Asian art at Christies, and research curator Deepika Ahlawat. Stephen Inglis is the AGO's adjunct curator for the exhibition. The exhibition was organized by the V&A Museum, London in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario.

This exhibition has been financially assisted by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, a program of the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, administered by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund Corporation. It is supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canada Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Program.


Ticket Type


AGO Members




Student (full-time with valid ID)


Adult (26-64)


Senior (65+)


Family Pass (4 adults and up to 5 youths)


School Groups** (guided tour for up to 30 students)


*Note: Offer must be redeemed in person at the Box Office on the day of the visit. Not valid December 26 to January 2. I.D. is required.

**School groups must be booked in advance by calling the AGO's Group Sales department at 416-979-6608.

Tickets to Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts include admission to the AGO's permanent collection. Group rates are also available through the AGO's Group Sales department at 416 979 6608. Tickets can be purchased at

Gallery Hours:

Monday:                                                      Closed
Tuesday & Thursday-Sunday:                         10 am to 5:30 pm
Wednesday:                                                 10 am to 8:30 pm


Live dance and music demonstrations will animate the exhibition on weekends, illustrating the key role that music and performance played in the royal courts of the Maharajas. The demonstrations will encompass a variety of performing arts, and will run once every half-hour for approximately five minutes on weekend afternoons. They will also be performed on weekdays during Christmas week (December 27-31) and March Break (March 14-18), and on Family Day (February 21).

Maharaja Festival Week, presented January 26-30. Taking place during the week of Republic Day, Maharaja Festival Week will honour Indian culture and history, featuring live performances by Debashis Sinha with Shruti, and internationally heralded Toronto-based company inDANCE; a special film program in Jackman Hall; and a full day of interactive activities, including costume-making, dance lessons, and a live procession on AGO Family Sunday, January 30. A full schedule will be available soon at

Maharaja Talks will take place throughout the run of the exhibition, featuring renowned speakers including Stephen Inglis, adjunct curator of the exhibition, discussing Indian popular culture and courtly life on January 12; and ROM curator Deepali Dewan, speaking about the power of Deen Dayel's photographs of the Maharajas of the nineteenth century. For the full schedule of Maharaja talks, visit

The Maharaja Menu at FRANK gives visitors the chance to experience exotic flavours and opulent presentations evoking the royal courts of India. FRANK also offers the MAHARAJA AT MOONLIGHT Ticket and Dinner Package-featuring a s three-course prix fixe dinner PLUS admission to the Maharaja exhibition. Available beginning November 23. For more information, visit  

Experience the Maharaja Marketplace before or after viewing the exhibition. From colourful spices to dazzling jewels and home accessories inspired by the palaces and kings of India, visitors are sure to find an exciting and memorable souvenir for themselves-or a unique gift for someone special. For more information, visit

caféAGO makes it easy on families, with ready-to-go lunch packages that include a wrap or sandwich, a drink, fruit or veggies, dessert-and a colouring sheet and crayons for kids!. Kids' Lunch $8.50 | Adult Lunch $10.50 (taxes included).

In addition to this special programming, the AGO has teamed up with Scotiabank to offer the AGO Maharaja Contest, offering visitors a chance to win a trip for two to India. The prize includes: roundtrip airfare between Toronto and Delhi, nine nights accommodation, and guided tours of Delhi, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Agra. Visitors can enter in person at the AGO or online at The winner will be drawn April 11, 2011. One entry per person.


With a permanent collection of more than 79,450 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. In 2008, with a stunning new design by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the AGO opened its doors to the public amid international acclaim. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase made of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block along the Gallery's façade; and the feature staircase, spiraling up through the roof of Walker Court and into the new contemporary galleries above. From the extensive Group of Seven collection to the dramatic new African art gallery; from the cutting-edge works in the Vivian & David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art to Peter Paul Rubens' masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, a highlight of the celebrated Thomson Collection, there is truly something for everyone at the AGO.


For more images and more information, contact:

Sean O'Neill, 416-979-6660 ext. 403, 
Antonietta Mirabelli, 416-979-6660 ext. 454,

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Culture. Additional operating support is received from the Volunteers of the AGO, the City of Toronto, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts.


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