Pros: “He’s my favorite artist. I love the shapes and colours.”
Cons: “Too many naked people.”
Thus did my nine-year-old daughter provide her pithy review of our recent visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and its star temporary attraction, the Picasso exhibition.
Spread out over a large area of the gallery’s second floor, the collection includes many of Picasso’s seminal canvass works as well as a number of fascinating sculptures. While covering a broad spectrum of pieces across all of the important periods in Picasso’s artistic career, the exhibition includes a few welcome surprises. A series of photographs taken by Dora Maar (a ‘significant other’ at one time in Picasso’s life and his muse for many of his most famous works) chronicle the creation of what is perhaps the artist’s best known masterpiece—Guernica—in an almost stop-motion animation style.
The well-crafted audio tour is a worthwhile accompaniment to the exhibition itself. I was particularly pleased to find that the AGO has paid special attention to the gallery’s youngest visitors with a shortened audio tour designed specifically for children. Dial up this audio track on your wand and the children will listen to conversations by other children about the piece they are now viewing. It’s a simple and clever method to allow kids to appreciate art in their own way and at their own pace while buying parents some precious time to take in the same piece with the adult narration while standing side-by-side with the kids.
With Picasso garnering all the limelight, this was a perfect opportunity to enjoy the rest of the AGO in near-privacy. My kids got a kick out of the contemporary exhibition that includes a bed doing its best rollercoaster impression and a bathroom made entirely out of vinyl tissue. Not surprisingly, Canadian art is well represented through masterworks by Group of Seven artists and others. Boys will naturally gravitate to the impressive model ship collection in the Gallery’s basement donated by one of Canada’s wealthiest boys—the late Ken Thomson.
We even took the opportunity to create our own art in the AGO’s ‘hands-on’ arts and crafts workspace that includes a selection of costumes for an impromptu game of dress-up and, somewhat incongruously, a pair of ping pong tables. Performance art anyone?
Although the AGO makes a great family outing any day of the week, if you want to catch the Picasso exhibit you only have until Aug. 26th. To help manage the crowds and provide the best experience, tickets are sold for a specific entry time. Buy yours in advance at www.ago.net.