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Momentum builds for Transformation AGO Campaign achieves $254 million goal

(Toronto: June 26, 2008) Five months before the new Art Gallery of Ontario opens, the Transformation AGO Campaign has reached its goal of $254 million, giving the Gallery the confidence to increase the scope of its expansion project.

Gifts large and small from the private and corporate sectors, aswell as the provincial and federal governments, build on the unprecedented foundational support of the late Kenneth Thomson. The AGO's campaign success reflects strong community enthusiasm for great art and the extraordinary Frank Gehry-designed building which opens to the public November 14.

Among new leadership donors of $1 million or more to the campaign during the last year are: Linda Frum and Howard Sokolowski; Richard Rooney and Laura Dinner; Honey and Barry Sherman; Allan Slaight and Emmanuelle Gattuso; Gerald Sheff and Shanitha Kachan; and Irving and Sylvia Ungerman.

"People are giving generously because they understand the promise of the AGO to come and they want to be a part of it now," says campaign chairman Michael Koerner. "It is remarkable that we have reached this level of success well before the new AGO opens. The anticipation is palpable." With this new momentum, the Transformation AGO scope and budget will increase by $22 million, for a new campaign goal of $276 million.

"Given the unprecedented success of our campaign and our confidence in continuing support from the public and private sectors, the Board of Trustees made a conscious decision to increase our scope and our budget in a disciplined way," says AGO President Charles Baillie. "We're investing in a remarkable cultural moment for the people of Toronto, Ontario and Canada. The board was unequivocal that this is the right thing to do and it is the right time to do it."

The revised Transformation AGO project supports a number of new features including:

  • Creation of the Milne Study Centre, which will enhance access to the work of artist David Milne through the lens of his sketchbooks, letters and drawings;
  • Construction of a glass-fronted gallery for 500 Inuit sculptures in a vault-like setting - giving visitors a behind-the-scene view of collection storage;
  • Additional seating throughout gallery spaces;
  • Locating the AGO members' lounge on the first-floor of The Grange to further integrate the Gallery's first home into the life of the transformed art museum; and
  • Increasing accessibility and visitor comfort through extensive website enhancements, the introduction of digital electronic signage, e-ticket sales and automated ticket kiosks.

"More than three years into construction, we now have a better sense of how our spaces will be used and where enhanced quality will improve the visitor experience," says Jim Fleck, chairman of the AGO's Building Committee and president of the AGO Foundation. "By standing in the emerging spaces and seeing first-hand how the plans are unfolding we have identified additional features that improve quality, efficiency and the comfort of our visitors. We want to ensure that an extraordinary visitor experience is a hallmark of the transformed AGO."

The revised budget also covers additional construction costs including conservation upgrades to art display cases, an enhanced inventory control system for the retail shop and completion of the complex timber system on the north façade of the building.

"It's an extraordinary feature of the project, with more than 1,000 uniquely-designed pieces of wood forming the grid visible from Dundas Street," says Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO's Michael and Sonja Koerner director, and CEO. "We want to ensure that Frank Gehry's vision for the AGO is fully realized. This is our opportunity to get it right, from the building finishes to the installations of art work. We will continue rigorous tracking of the project to ensure we meet or exceed our visitors' expectations. They will be the judge when we open in November. In the interim, we'll continue managing our project responsibly - with equal measures of discipline and daring."

With a permanent collection of more than 68,000 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 will dramatically enrich our visitors' experiences and provide greater access to the full vibrancy of the art museum.

Transformation AGO is generously supported by the Government ofCanada and the Province of Ontario through the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program. The launch of the transformed AGO is generously supported by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund.


For media information or visuals, please call:
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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