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American Artist Barbara Kruger to Appropriate AGO Façade

Commissioned CONTACT installation will span the length of a full city block

“I work with pictures and words because they have the ability to determine who we are and who we aren’t.” — Barbara Kruger

(TORONTO – April 1, 2010) The Art Gallery of Ontario’s Dundas Street façade is about to get a new look. In partnership with Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, the AGO has commissioned renowned American artist Barbara Kruger to create a large-scale public installation to be displayed along the Gallery’s signature glass skirt, which spans an entire city block between McCaul and Beverley Streets.

The installation will respond to CONTACT’s theme for 2010, “Pervasive Influence,” which considers how photography informs and transforms human behavior, especially via the medium’s connections to mass media, advertising, consumerism, and propaganda. Kruger’s installation, on view from May 1 through October 3, marks the first time the AGO has exhibited artwork on the exterior of its newly transformed Frank Gehry–designed building.

“The AGO is committed to making great works of art accessible to everyone, and this installation is an innovative and exciting realization of that commitment,” says Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO’s Michael and Sonja Koerner Director, and CEO. “Barbara Kruger’s bold visual style, combined with the sheer scale and prominence of the location, make this an installation that our visitors—and Torontonians on the whole—won’t soon forget.”

The work “represents a tremendous expansion of CONTACT’s public installation program,” notes CONTACT artistic director Bonnie Rubenstein. “This project is the most ambitious co-presentation in CONTACT’s history and a very exciting development in our longstanding relationship with the AGO, one of North America’s most significant cultural properties.”

Public installations of Kruger’s instantly recognizable work have punctuated galleries, museums, municipal buildings, train stations, parks, buses, and billboards around the world. Her work is part of the permanent collections of the MoMA, the Guggenheim, Tate Modern, the Whitney, and the AGO, among other institutions.

“Barbara Kruger’s graphic works—declarative texts juxtaposed with found images—point to photography’s complicity in reinforcing ideologies of power and control, in maintaining gender stereotypes, and in stimulating consumer desire,” says AGO assistant curator of photography Sophie Hackett. “In light of CONTACT’s 2010 theme, and as the boundaries between advertising, journalism, and entertainment shift and blur, it feels like the right time to consider Kruger’s potent messages.”

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Kruger trained at Syracuse University and the Parsons School of Design in New York in the mid-1960s before pursuing a successful career as a graphic designer and art director for such magazines as Mademoiselle and House and Garden. By the 1980s, she had transmuted that training into her artworks, developing an unmistakable — and unforgettable — style. Kruger continues to exhibit her work internationally. She lives and works in New York and Los Angeles, and is represented by the Mary Boone Gallery, New York.

Kruger’s installation is one of several ways that visitors to the AGO can experience art without paying admission. Toronto Now, the Gallery’s recently opened series of exhibitions focusing on Toronto artists, is on view free of charge in the Young Gallery during FRANK’s hours of operation. Additionally, the AGO is free to the public Wednesday evenings from 6 pm to 8:30 pm, and the “Free After 3” program welcomes Ontario high school students with a valid school ID from Tuesday to Friday, from 3 pm to 5:30 pm.

Also on view at the AGO this summer: Drama and Desire: Artists and the Theatre, opening June 19; Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage, opening June 5; and The Storyteller, opening June 9. Anselm Kiefer: Palmsonntag and Sculpture as Time: New Works. Major Acquistions. continue through August 1.


CONTACT, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1997, is generously supported by Scotiabank, Tourism Toronto, BMW Group Canada, TVO, Fashion Television, Vistek, Torys LLP, Pattison Sign Group, Sony of Canada LTD., Heineken, Transcontinental PLM, Toronto Life, The Gladstone Hotel, The Drake Hotel, Thompson Hotels, 3M Canada, Genstar and Beyond Digital Imaging. CONTACT gratefully acknowledges the support of the Government of Canada's Economic Action Plan, Celebrate Ontario, Canadian Heritage, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and the City of Toronto through Toronto Arts Council. CONTACT fosters and celebrates the art and profession of photography with an annual month-long festival in May and newly initiated year-round programming in the gallery. For more information, visit

About the AGO

With a permanent collection of more than 79,000 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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