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Witness Michelangelo’s creative struggle at the Art Gallery of Ontario this fall

AGO offers once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see works on paper by Michelangelo

TORONTOMichelangelo Buonarroti (b. 1475), one of the world’s most celebrated artists, pays a visit to Toronto this fall at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Despite his enduring fame, Michelangelo was dogged by relentless struggle, disappointment and even defeat throughout his 77-year career. Due to the fickle demands of important patrons, many of his most ambitious projects remained unfinished. Revealed through a selection of rare drawings, Michelangelo: Quest for Genius tells the story of a Renaissance master and the frustrations of his creative process. Michelangelo: Quest for Genius opens in Toronto on Oct. 18, 2014, and runs until Jan. 11, 2015.

Organized by the AGO in collaboration with the Casa Buonarroti, Florence, whose collection is formed from Michelangelo’s own, the exhibition centres on a loan of 30 drawings by Michelangelo’s hand. These drawings are among the best of the esteemed Casa Buonarroti’s collection and represent the range of Michelangelo’s work. Dating from before and after the completion of the Sistine Chapel, the works on display include preliminary drawings  both architectural and figural sketches  as well as presentation drawings.

Organized thematically, the exhibition takes a critical look at the notion of the genius at work, locating the creative search at the axis of ambition, exploration, frustration, defiance and unrealized dreams. Drawings will be grouped according to these issues. Developed by Lloyd DeWitt, curator of European Art at the AGO, and David Wistow, interpretive planner, Michelangelo: Quest for Genius will feature computer animations that bring to life some of Michelangelo’s most ambitious and ultimately unfinished designs.

“This exhibition offers a direct and personal encounter with extraordinarily rare works that almost never travel by this great artist’s own hands,” said DeWitt. “We are thrilled and honoured to work with the Casa Buonarroti to bring these precious works on paper to Canada and to tell the real story behind their making, debunking the myth that genius is easy and great work untroubled. What they tell us about the motivations of a genius and the creative process is incredibly revealing.”

“The drawings are an inspiration. Creativity is a basic human activity,” said Wistow. “No matter what our background we can relate to the blood, sweat and tears behind Michelangelo’s masterpieces.”

The exhibition also examines the significant influence that Michelangelo had four centuries later on the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (b. 1840). For Rodin, whose greatest works were routinely rejected by the press and public alike, Michelangelo represented a spiritual and artistic father figure. Rodin was 36 when he produced his first major sculpture, inspired by Michelangelo’s evocative and emotional presentation of the human body. Nine sculptures from the AGO’s collection will be on display, including representative works from the Burghers of Calais (1884-1917) and his final commission, the work for which he suffered the most criticism, Balzac (1898).

AGO members will be offered free admission to Michelangelo: Quest for Genius and an exclusive preview in the days leading up to the exhibition’s public opening. More information on the benefits of AGO membership can be found at

This exhibition is organized by the Associazione MetaMorfosi in collaboration with the Casa Buonarroti and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

It has been financially assisted by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund a program of the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, administered by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund Corporation.

Technology Partner: LG Electronics Canada

Generously supported by: E. and G. Odette Foundation | Charles & Rose Tabachnick

Promotional Partner: Holt Renfrew | Italian Cultural Institute in Toronto

Government Partners: Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund | Celebrate Ontario

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 Ken 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.

April 5, 2014 – July 20, 2014: Francis Bacon & Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty

Aug. 23, 2014 – Jan. 4, 2015: Alex Colville

The Art Gallery of Ontario receives additional operating support from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.


For press inquiries, please contact:

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

Laura Banks; News Officer, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 504,

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

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