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Enthusiastic Crowds Stream Through Transformed AGO

(Toronto, November 17, 2008) More than 68,000 people streamed through the transformed Art Gallery of Ontario throughout its opening week — almost 52,000 of them during the 29-hour free weekend Nov. 14–16.

“Our great ambition was to create a great home for extraordinary art, and the public has overwhelmingly embraced it,” says Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO’s Michael and Sonja Koerner director, and CEO. “Clearly they felt welcomed here. They wanted to be here. There’s nothing more gratifying than that.”

“Our late benefactor Ken Thomson would have loved seeing the tens of thousands of people engaging with art,” says Teitelbaum, “knowing that this part of his legacy was so resoundingly fulfilled.”

Designed by celebrated architect Frank Gehry as his first Canadian project in his childhood home of Toronto, the new AGO opened its doors to iconic architecture and more than 4,300 works of art in 110 galleries.

The opening celebration attracted more than 16,000 visitors to Members’ Preview Days Nov. 9–11, and another 520 new memberships were generated over the opening week.

The Gehry-designed Shop AGO made more than 3,700 transactions during preview and public days, and rang up revenues approaching $127,000, while FRANK restaurant and the café achieved nearly $50,000 in revenue.

The redesigned AGO web site attracted 51,000 unique visits over the three-day public opening — with the top five countries of origin being Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France. The top five cities in Canada were Toronto, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough and Richmond Hill. The top five US cities were New York City, Cleveland, Brooklyn, Buffalo and Chicago. More than 400 people downloaded a podcast featuring highlights of the collection with the AGO director and CEO, and hundreds shared their photos of the building’s exterior on Flickr.

Public reaction to the new AGO has been enthusiastic. Among the comments received via e-mail:

“The AGO engages the immediate streetscape and feels like part of the neighbourhood. What can I say, a beacon shines brightly at Dundas and McCaul and we all are drawn to its glow.”

“Please tell Mr. Gehry that looking at his design of the AGO has the same effect on me as listening to Monteverdi’s Vespro or Bach. It makes me weep with joy. Thank you all who made this possible.”

“I found it endlessly interesting to see how themes were brought together through different time periods and styles. Thank you for a great experience.”

“I’m 82 years old and I’m going to spend the rest of my life here.”

With a permanent collection of more than 73,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. The Gallery began an extraordinary chapter when it launched Transformation AGO in 2002. Multi-faceted in scope, Transformation AGO involves the unprecedented growth of the permanent collection, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, and the strengthening of the museum’s endowment resources. As the imaginative centre of the city, the transformed AGO dramatically enriches our visitors’ experiences and provides greater access to the full vibrancy of the art museum.

AGO Hours of Operation:
Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday: 10 am to 5:30 pm
Wednesday to Friday: 10 am to 8:30 pm

Admission:
Adults — $18
Senior (65 and over) — $15
Student (full-time with valid ID) — $10
Youth (ages 6–12) — $10
Children (5 and under with adult) — FREE
Members — FREE
Free general admission for Ontario high school students, aged 13–18, with valid school ID Tuesday to Friday, 3:30–5:30 p.m.

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For media information or visuals, please call:
Antonietta Mirabelli, 416-979-6660, ext. 454, antonietta_mirabelli@ago.net

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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