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AGO presents legendary photographers Irving Penn, Arnaud Maggs and Richard Avedon for Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

Gallery’s festival exhibitions celebrate photographic portraits with rarely seen photographs from the collection and new works by AGO photographer-in-residence Jason Evans

TORONTO – The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) shines new light on its own treasures this May with two new photography exhibitions co-presented with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. Light My Fire: Some Propositions about Portraits and Photography delves into the AGO’s photography collection to showcase portraits by photographers—some famous, some anonymous—created over a 150-year period. At the same time, Jason Evans, the AGO’s photographer-in-residence, casts AGO staff members in playful group portraits for a public installation entitled A long long time AGO. Both exhibitions are supported by Aimia, Signature Partner of the AGO’s Photography Collection Program.

Opening May 4, 2013, Light My Fire: Some Propositions about Portraits and Photography features more than 200 portraits from the AGO’s photography collection, many of which the Gallery has never before shown publicly. It is co-presented with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, as one of 10 primary exhibitions organized for this year’s festival.

Since the first purchase of a photograph in 1977—Arnold Newman’s portrait collage of Henry Moore—the AGO’s photography collection has grown to include portraits in many forms, ranging from cartes-de-visite to chromogenic prints. Curated by Sophie Hackett, the AGO’s assistant curator of photography, Light My Fire is a tribute to the collection as it considers portraiture through five propositions or themes.

The exhibition will be presented in two parts, with three propositions in each part. The first proposition, “Light My Fire,” which also lends its name to the exhibition, will appear in both rotations but with different works in each instance. The first rotation also considers propositions entitled “We Are Monuments” and “We Are Multiplied.”

“The theme of this year’s contact exhibition is ‘Field of Vision’ and it gives us the perfect context to celebrate the AGO’s own photography holdings,” said Hackett. “By grouping these incredible works together into five propositions, we see changing social attitudes, the creative possibilities of new technologies and a rich exchange between photographers and their sitters.”

Highlights of the first rotation of the exhibition include Canadian photographer Christopher Wahl’s arresting 2002 portrait of Queen Elizabeth, entitled The Queen in Winnipeg; Richard Avedon’s 1975 portrait of the American sculptor Louise Nevelson; and Arnaud Maggs’ nine-part portrait series After Nadar, from 2012. The second rotation features works by Cindy Sherman, Suzy Lake, Cecil Beaton, Man Ray and Walker Evans, among others.

A long long time AGO

Beginning May 1, 2013, Grange Prize 2012 finalist and current AGO photographer-in-residence Jason Evans presents 12 portraits in his series A long long time AGO. Commissioned by the AGO and CONTACT and curated by Hackett, this humourous series of photographs features groups of AGO staff members acting out scenes from their private lives in unexpected locations around the Gallery. One of nine public installations to be included in this year's Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, the series was created by Evans over the course of two days last fall.

“My work offers a glimpse into the human lives within the museum,” said Evans. “What can a portrait do? Is it of or about a person or subject?”

Six of the compositions will be installed on the exterior of the AGO, along Dundas Street West, including portraits of the AGO’s Media Productions, Finance and Protection Services teams.

“The installation of Evans’ portraits on the AGO’s facade—an artist’s vision of the institution—displays the inner life of the gallery with a playful new dynamism,” said Hackett. “It is a pleasure to be able to share that with Toronto.”

The full commission of Evans’ 12 works will be on view in the David and Elizabeth Comper Gallery (Level 1, Gallery 133).

Light My Fire: Some Propositions about Portraiture and Photography and A long long time AGO are co-presented by the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Contemporary programming at the AGO is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

The AGO acknowledges the generous support of its Signature Partners: American Express, Signature Partner of the Conservation Program; and Aimia, Signature Partner of the Photography Collection Program.

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.
March 16, 2013 – June 16, 2013: Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art

Aug. 17, 2013 – Oct. 27, 2013: Ai Weiwei: According to What?

Nov. 30, 2013 – March 2, 2014: The Great Upheaval: Modern Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection

The AGO is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. 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.


For more information about Light My Fire or A long long time AGO, please contact:

Andrea-Jo Wilson; News Officer, AGO Communications 
416-979-6660, ext. 403, 

Laura Banks; News Officer, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 504,


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