Do not adjust your interweb: What you're about to read may disturb you.
Is it me, or is the old AGO looking pretty damn good these days? I've made a personal side project over the past few years of incessantly carping on about ye olde public institution's many and various shortcomings -- and in truth, they've provided me with material aplenty to work with -- but I have very little to complain about at the moment.
This is bolstered significantly by the massive General Idea show that arrived from Paris a couple of weeks back, and buttressed by smart exhibition decisions that permit some critique -- however mild -- of the musuem's own history and priorities. I'm thinking specifically of the Brian Jungen's neo-primitive/post-modern sculptural fusion set loose in Henry Moore's canonized Modernist temple, and the play given to the experimental sideliner Kathleen Munn, whose interest in and devotion to Modern upheavals of the 20th century -- Fauvism and Cubism in particular in her case -- relegated her to the margins in her hometown as the greater art world fawned over and eventual canonized a gang of men stuck fast to the practice of Post-Impressionistic landscape painting well past its sell-by date.
Bigger than that, at the moment, the mix, between contemporary, historical, local and international contexts is just right: Factor in AbEx New York -- an import blockbuster, true, but far from standard fare; it's mesmerizing -- the intimate and intoxicating show of Robert Motherwell drawings from the AGO's collection that helps deepen it, and the pending shows of Picasso and Chagall and the Russian Avant Garde (Kandinsky in particular, who never fails to thrill, or thrill me, anyway), and you're starting to see a (cough, cough) world class museum. Now, if we could only do something about Galleria Italia ... but let's count our blessings, shall we?
You can grouse about how some of these things happened -- we know the AGO mostly provided materials and a landing pad for Haute Culture, curated as it was by a Parisian, where it opened first -- but offering up two floors of the tower to house it is no mean feat, and not one without risk, and the gallery should be commended for taking such a significant part of history and allowing it to be done right.
I still have a moderate quibble about the museum's lack of attentions to emerging and mid-career artists right here at home -- Toronto Now, for all its good intentions, remains a mild insult to that community, in my opinion, divorced from the gallery's proper collections and exhibitions as it is, annexed out in back of the restaurant -- but we're getting there. A few short years ago, we were being stared down at the entrance by a towering, plasticized Anubis. We've travelled miles from there. Here's hoping the journey continues.