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Landmark donation, Mark Lewis make for a Beautiful reality at AGO

(TORONTO – August 19, 2009) Big changes are happening in the AGO’s contemporary galleries to make way for Beautiful Fictions: Photography at the AGO – featuring the Vivian & David Campbell Collection, a new exhibition opening September 9, 2009 and continuing though January 17, 2010. Currently being installed on the fifth floor of the gallery’s Vivian & David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art, Beautiful Fictions will explore the fascinating transformation of contemporary photography from a fact-based medium to a highly fabricated product of digital manipulation.

Along with works from the AGO’s permanent collection, the exhibition is being supported by key loans from the Vivian & David Campbell Collection and features works by Andreas Gursky, Cindy Sherman, Michael Snow and Jeff Wall. Long-time AGO patrons Vivian and David Campbell are also generously donating 10 works from the exhibition to the AGO’s permanent collection, including photographs by Candida Höfer, Thomas Demand, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth.

Finally, in an unprecedented act of generosity, Vivian and David Campbell are offering visitors to the AGO an opportunity to become a collector by entering to win one of the treasures from their acclaimed collection. Beginning September 9, members of the public will be able to enter a ballot in the Start Your Collection Contest  to win Universtät Oslo VIII, 2000, a photograph by German photographer Candida Höfer. The work is one of Höfer's critically acclaimed large photographs of major public spaces vacant of human activity. The contest prize also includes a private consultation with David Campbell and David Moos, the AGO's curator of contemporary art, about the work itself and art collecting in general. Further details, including complete rules and regulations, will be available on September 9.

“The word ‘generous’ doesn’t even begin to describe Vivian and David Campbell,” says AGO Director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum. “Their consistent and sustained support of the AGO has been instrumental in positioning the gallery as a destination for contemporary art lovers not only in Canada, but worldwide. These works will enrich both the depth of our holdings and the scope of artists represented in our collection.”

Beautiful Fictions, which is free with general admission, will also include Three Films by Mark Lewis, featuring three recent works by Canada’s representative at the 2009 Venice Biennale. Lewis’ silent films explore the fundamental tension between the still and moving image, inviting the viewer to consider the constraints of cinema and its inextricable link to photography. Lewis was the winner of the 2007 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO for his outstanding contribution to Canadian contemporary art.

“This exhibition is really taking a look at how the frontiers of photography have radically expanded in the last forty years,” says Maia-Mari Sutnik, the AGO’s curator of photography. “This is a medium that has changed like no other. Not only have new techniques been developed, but photography’s key identity – as a fact-based medium rooted in documentation – has also been exploded by the transforming qualities of digital techniques.”

“We’re examining how contemporary photographic artists have explored and exploited new possibilities in the medium,” says Moos. “From Gursky and Höfer to Lewis and Evan Penny, these artists have changed the game, forcing us to ask, ‘What is photography now? And where is this art form headed in the future?’”

Beautiful Fictions: Photography at the AGO – featuring the Vivian & David Campbell Collection has been co-curated by Maia-Mari Sutnik and David Moos. The contest is open to Ontario residents only and no purchase is necessary to enter.


Vivian and David Campbell have donated more than 60 works of art to the AGO over the past 25 years. They have also been lead supporters of the University of Toronto’s Museum Studies program, Massey College and the Munk Centre for International Studies, as well as the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Baycrest Centre, among many others. David has advised or served on the boards of numerous organizations including the Canadian Stage Company and the New York-based International Foundation for Art Research. He is a member of the AGO Board of Trustees and chaired the board from 2000-2001. The gallery’s contemporary tower is named The Vivian & David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art. In yet another trailblazing approach to patronage, Vivian and David Campbell will relinquish the name in 2020, allowing the AGO to offer naming rights to tomorrow’s supporters of the gallery.


Mark Lewis was born in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1957. He now lives and works in London, England. He attended Harrow College of Art (London) and the Polytechnic of Central London. Starting out as a photographer, Lewis began to experiment with film in the mid-1990s. He is the co-founder of Afterall, a research and publishing organization, and is the founding editor of the Afterall Journal. Lewis is the principal lecturer of research at Central St. Martins School of Art and Design in London.


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. After a stunning redesign by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the transformed AGO opened its doors to the public in November 2008 amid international acclaim. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase made of wood and glass running the length of two football fields along the Gallery’s façade; and the iconic central 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 David Altmejd's monumental installation The Index to Peter Paul Rubens' masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, a highlight of the acclaimed Thomson Collection — there is truly something for everyone at the AGO.

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For AGO media information or visuals, please call:
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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