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Special AGO Exhibition Pays Tribute to Donor Ayala Zacks

Exhibition includes paintings and sculptures by modern masters

(TORONTO – April 2, 2012) A new exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) recognizes the extraordinary generosity of one the Gallery’s great patrons. A Tribute to Ayala Zacks (1912–2011) opens April 4, 2012 in the Frank P. Wood Gallery and includes significant works by celebrated artists including Marc Chagall, Giorgio de Chirico, Edgar Degas, Sonia Delaunay, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso.

Ayala Zacks and her husband, Sam Zacks, were committed and active supporters of the AGO. Following Mr. Zacks’ death in 1970, Ms. Zacks donated more than 300 works of European and Canadian modern art to the AGO collection. A Tribute to Ayala Zacks (1912–2011) honours the transformational effect that this gift had on the Gallery’s modern art collection and the leadership role that the couple played both at the AGO and within Toronto's artistic community.

The 17 pieces in the exhibition, selected by AGO curator of European Art Lloyd Dewitt, focus on figuration and the female body, and feature key works by women artists in the Zacks collection. It also explores the bond between two cities on which Zacks showered her devotion and generosity, Toronto and Jerusalem. Included in the exhibition is a video of reminiscences by friends about her extraordinary life and her collection.

Among the exhibition’s highlights is the first cast of Henri Matisse’s crucial early bronze, Figure décorative (1908), a powerful figure that the artist portrayed in his renowned painting Red Studio (1911). The work’s inclusion in A Tribute to Ayala Zacks (1912–2011) marks the first time in decades it is on view in Toronto.

"The 1971 Zacks gift transformed the AGO's modern art collection, and this tribute to Ayala introduces a new generation of museum goers to key works from that gift," said Matthew Teitelbaum, AGO Director and CEO. "The exhibition honours Ayala’s generosity and passion for modern art, which will enrich us for generations."

Born in Jerusalem, Ayala Zacks worked with the French Resistance and British Intelligence during the Second World War and moved to Canada in 1947. She supported a variety of educational and cultural institutions in Canada as well as Israel, where she spent her last decades up to her death in August 2011. This exhibition juxtaposes Ms. Zacks’ artistic taste with her extraordinary life, her wartime heroics, her role in the founding and building of Israel and her powerful personality.

Sam and Ayala Zacks both served on the AGO board, and today a large section of the Gallery, the Sam & Ayala Zacks Pavilion, hosts the AGO’s most prominent exhibitions. In 1971, the AGO presented a memorial tribute to Sam Zacks celebrating his contributions.

A Tribute to Ayala Zacks (1912–2011) is organized by the AGO and runs until February 2013. The Gallery is deeply grateful for the generosity of the late Ayala and Sam Zacks.

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

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 and more information, contact:

Meagan Campbell; News Officer, Communications
416 979 6660 x 372,

Caitlin Coull; Manager, Communications
416 979 6660 x 364,

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