Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Geh-reat

I spend a lot of time talking about how I'd love to live in Montreal or New York. About how nothing much exciting is going on around me. About the relative joylessness of Toronto - a city associated with commerce, order and the middle of the road.

Then recently, it occured to me that, in lieu of complaining, I should (perhaps) attend some of the big deal events that are free to everyone. We are, after all, a people of street festivals and "grand openings", new buildings and artists.

When Belette suggested that she loves Frank Gehry and that she envied my opportunity to see his new add-on at the AGO, I was all "I hate additions." and "I hate the new facade." (which, rather interestingly, I've been able to watch go up because it's on my walking route to work) and "I hate November. Why didn't they open in August?"

How snivelly.

But jury duty dispersed at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and the free, open-to-the-public AGO reopening was scheduled for 4:00 p.m. I was walking right by. There were reporters and news trucks and large TV screens displaying intriguing details about the project. I would have been stupid not to join on in.

Now, I didn't expect the line to end 2 miles from the front doors. I didn't expect to wait 90 minutes on the queue. Old, cynical Krissie would have said "Um, excuse me. I'm from Toronto. I don't wait on lines! I make reservations. (And if you choose to keep me standing there because of your wretched planning, I will bestow upon you long, whithering looks before huffily walking away.)"

However, the new me made friends with a little old lady who knew a lot about British crime fiction and Rothko and the time went by. At 4:30 still a mile from the entrance, dismayed, I thought I'd have to leave in order pick up M from daycare. Then I noticed a message on my cell phone from a mom-friend inviting M over to her house for dinner and a sleepover. Egad, responsibility absolved! I mean, seriously, the art gods wanted me to see this thing.

Finally the time came. I made it inside and thought - I'm like a big city journalist with my camera and my notepad. (Of course the real journalists saw it last week and they didn't wait.) That's till the security guy told me no photos were allowed. So I just pretended I was talking on the phone while surrepticiously snapping away.

For starters, the line up:

Here's a gloomy pre-dusk shot of the facade. Yes, that's TO in November at 4:15...:

On entering the building I was presented with this guide:

Which I didn't really need because it's much the same inside - except for the big, new, fancy glass part:

In truth, the wood (all douglas fir) is beautiful. Cool glass and warm, soft wood are delightfully juxtaposed...

Here's a shot of the cool new winding staircase:

And another of this wood branch sculpture suspended high up the wall. Note the different wood tones and the light where the glass meets the rafters...

Interesting Canadiana sculpture:

And view from the North facing windows:

So, Belette: Though it's not the same as being here, ceci est pour toi! xo


  1. This is beautiful! It makes me homesick. I love Toronto, partly for the academic culture around U of T, but also because it's not as dull as Ottawa (sorry, nation's capital) nor as crazy as Mtl or NYC. In fact, I'd love to find a way to move there . . .

  2. I am Geh-reen with envy. This is so very sweet of you to share this with me,I mean us. It looks gorgeous. Those windows, the wood, the curved angle---it is all so perfectly Gehry. And, that staircase!! Le sigh!
    I cannot thank you enough for this beautiful post. Merci!! And, I want to come to see you more than ever.:-)

  3. OK, I work about 2 blocks from A Gehry (The Weisman Art Museum), and it's all big a shiny and cold. THIS museum looks like somewhere I'd like to LIVE. All that warm wood and glass ... gorgeous. Thank you for sneaking these shots, K!

  4. I LOVE TO!!
    I know maybe if I'll live there I would be so sure...
    But I loved being there in all seasons, and winter was something different from what I'm used too.


  5. Thank you, Miss C for reminding me that people who live elsewhere might be happy to live here instead. You've made a good case for TO!

    Belette: Hilarious - geh-reen! You know, I really did go see it with you in mind. You were my target audience. And I knew I'd have to come up with something fun to show!

    Sal: I'm going to tell you, I still don't like the outside. I don't think it suits the space, it's too huge and monolithic and sterile and cold. So I understand what you are talking about.

    Seeker: Come in winter. I mean, get your whole Canadian experience all in one go!

    Great Marina! Can't wait to see what shoes you've got up today...

  6. Sometimes buildings take a while to settle into their surroundings, so give the facade some time, it may soften.
    Good on you for doing something about your mood and going outside your comfort zone, its important to remember to do these things.

  7. I'm glad you waited in the line, because it means I get to see all these really cool photos. Thanks for taking the time.

    I kind of like it. Mind you, I don't know what the building looked like before, and I don't have any emotional attachment to it. But the design looks cool. I love the wood and glass. It's warmer than metal and glass. The staircase is really cool, too.

  8. I love it! If DC ever got a Frank Gehry designed building. . . I would smile for weeks.

  9. I'm so glad you went! I thought about it...looked at the rain pouring on Saturday and decided I'd be better off slobbing around the house in pajamas.

  10. I visited Toronto for the first time in 32 years (really!) this summer, and now I want to go back again. Didn't get to see the AGO and it looks well worth a visit -- thanks for enduring the lineup so you could share this with us.

  11. How sweet and kind of you?

    Well this is a bit like my story. Perth.. not so great I thought but there are more things happening than I realised. I don't have time nor money to go and see all funky things...so I stopped complaining (How I loved Paris and Dubai was super fun Hong Kong was great etc etc).

  12. It's beautiful. Thanks for the tour!

  13. Cybill: It's so true. Thanks for your comment!

    E: You raise some valid points about what inspires one about architecture. If you have no attachment, and you're not there to see it, is it really meaningful? For a long time I couldn't look at design blogs because I couldn't find attachment in the photos. Then, all of a sudden I could. Who knows why?

    E8: You have so many other landmark buildings. (What's one more??)

    Tanya: I'm so glad I went on Friday. There is no way I would have hauled ass on Sat.

    Materfamilias: Thanks for your comment. I love to hear about people who come here for actual relaxation and fun! Please come back soon...

    Thanks Wendy.

    Songy: How does anywhere seem exciting after Paris?

    Janet: You're welcome!

  14. I sat in my first Frank Gehry in LDN in the summer time as he has the temporary summerhouse outside the Serpentine gallery in Hyde Park. And it is all those curvy wooden surfaces and levels and tree house type windows. Fantastic to see a permanent structure incorporating such a theme.
    Thanks to you and La Belle I now know about 3 Frank Gehrys*. Guess me and Mr H are gonna have to go to Bilbao now and write up a post for youse all.
    Isn't the blog world fab for re-opening our minds to the beauty around us?
    *before that my only knowledge of FG came from an episode of "Arthur" where he appeared as a rabbit architect.

  15. What's up with the AGO and no photography policy? Every other major gallery I've been to (including the one in Ottawa so it's not just a Canadian thing) allows photography -- as long as the flash is turned off and it's only in the permanent collection.

  16. That was me. Hit the wrong button before I finished typing my name.

  17. you got me there. yep. Paris was great but I have to 'live' don't I? :)

  18. Hammie: I never saw that episode of Arthur. That's hilarious. And yes, it's your turn to take photos and post!

    Y: I really don't know. I was totally surprised because there wasn't much new stuff to show - it was all regular collection. It was chaos there though, so maybe they were being all conservative that day.

    Songy: A really good friend of mine is about to move to Dubai. How long did you live there?

  19. I'm with Sal on this one, I'm not usually a massive Gehry fan but this one definitely harks back to his pre-titanium days. The photos look lovely and warm (no photo policy? Pffft!) so thanks for sneaking photos and sharing with us :)

  20. Ms. U: You'd think they'd want us to spread the word with photos of the gorgeousness, huh?

  21. The ceiling detail really is beautiful! Thanks for the fantastic pictures, and I agree with you, there's certainly something that pulls you to the city over anywhere else!