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Artist Max Dean Launches Public Project at the AGO
in Tribute to the Family Photo Album

Participatory project featuring the Foto Bug presented in partnership with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival and the TDSB

(TORONTO – April 19, 2012) After 10 years of collecting family photo albums from around the world, Canadian artist Max Dean is determined to pass them all onto new owners through a new public project developed by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), in partnership with the 2012 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

Max Dean: Album features three engaging components: an exhibition comprising approximately 40 original photo albums dating from the 1890s to the 1980s, on view in the AGO’s Isadore and Rosalie Sharp Gallery from May 5 to Sept. 9, 2012; Waiting Room, an installation in the Community Gallery of the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre from May 1 to May 31, 2012; and the Foto Bug, a specially configured 1966 Volkswagen Beetle, making its first appearance at the CONTACT launch on April 27, 2012, at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.

Dean explores the theme of the 2012 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, "public," by using family albums that have become unmoored from their original, personal contexts and entered the public realm as collectible objects. The Festival, runnning throughout May, will feature 134 exhibitions, showcasing more than 1,000 artists across Toronto.

Dean describes photo albums as “the one, and possibly only, story many of us write.” Albums represent a collective moment when hand-held cameras and celluloid film allowed families to take their own photographs and arrange them in physical albums as they liked — a practice that has now largely fallen away. Dean’s collection of more than 600 albums was amassed through paper shows, auctions and flea markets in Israel, England, Germany, the U.S. and Canada. The AGO collection holds more than 200 of Dean’s albums, 40 of which will be showcased in the exhibition component of Max Dean: Album.

“By sharing his collection—essentially an album of albums—Max Dean invites us to think about the changing nature of photographic objects,” said Sophie Hackett, the AGO’s assistant curator of photography and curator of the project. “We are led to consider anew what these objects meant in the past and still mean today and to collectively assume responsibility for preserving our rich visual culture.”

The Community Gallery of the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre will be transformed into Waiting Room, where Dean’s remaining albums (more than 400), as well as 21 albums designed by elementary students from the SW1 Family of Schools in the Toronto District School Board, will be documented and displayed before they are offered to the public. Students and teachers will also experience a thematic guided gallery visit at the AGO and interact with Dean’s Foto Bug as it travels through their communities. Waiting Room will change dramatically over the course of the month of May as the albums find new homes.

Throughout May, Dean will also travel to various locations throughout the city in the Foto Bug to showcase his collection and pass albums on to new owners. The collection will live online, each album with its own page, along with portraits of their new custodians to create an entirely new virtual album hosted on Facebook, which is searchable under “Album: A Public Project.”

The schedule for the Foto Bug’s appearances will be available online at and starting April 20, 2012. The vehicle will be parked outside the AGO each Wednesday in May from 6 to 8:30 p.m. to welcome visitors enjoying the Gallery’s free admission hours.

Programming highlights for Max Dean: Album include:

Artists in Conversation: Max Dean and Hiraki Sawa

Friday, May 11, 2012 at 7 p.m.
The Weston Family Learning Centre at the AGO
Seminar Room 1
Members $17 / Public $20 / Students $12

How do collections and archives form part of contemporary photographic practice? As part of Scotiabank CONTACT Festival of Photography, artists Max Dean and Hiraki Sawa discuss the influence of historic and found photography on their respective practices. Dean will speak about Album, a piece involving a restored camper van that functions as a travelling museum through which he passes on custodianship of his collection of found family photo albums to the public. Sawa, AGO Artist-in-Residence from April to June 2012, will reflect on the use of historic photography in his video works, while referencing the research he will focus on while at the AGO.

The AGO acknowledges the generous support of its Signature Partners:
Aeroplan, Signature Partner of the Photography Collection Program
American Express, Signature Partner of the AGO’s Conservation Program

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

CONTACT is an annual month long festival of photography with over 1000 local, national and international artists at more than 200 venues across the Greater Toronto Area in May. Founded as a not-for-profit organization 16 years ago, CONTACT is devoted to celebrating, and fostering an appreciation of the art and profession of photography. As the largest photography event in the world, and a premiere cultural event in Toronto, CONTACT stimulates excitement and discussion among a diverse audience that has grown to over 1.5 million and is focused on cultivating even greater interest and participation this year.

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 Kenneth 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.

May 1, 2012: Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris

October 20, 2012: Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting

The Art Gallery of Ontario 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 images, interviews, and more information, please contact:

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

Meagan Campbell; News Officer, Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 372,

Caitlin Coull; Manager, Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 364,

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