Thursday, December 22, 2011

Year-End List Time! My Top 3 Art "Things" of the Year at

Aw, yeah, it's year-end list time! Today I got to join in the action with my top 3 art "things" of the year posted at

All of my picks had to do with institutions. An excerpt:

1. Some Downward Pressure on Public-Museum Admission Fees

This year, I completed a rather unexciting transition—from being a writer whose main concern is art to being a writer whose main concern is art’s institutions, in particular our large, publicly funded museums and galleries. Over the past decade—despite museum policies that mandate as much equitable access as possible to their publicly held collections—major museums and galleries in Canada have tended to eliminate free access to such collections, at the same time implementing admission-fee hikes that well outpace inflation. In 2011, for whatever reason, that trend has, thankfully, started to stall (and even reverse somewhat). On October 27, the Royal Ontario Museum—until that point in time, by my calculation, the most expensive museum to visit in Canada—announced it was lowering its admission fees from $24 per adult to $15 per adult. On November 16, during a public talk in Toronto, National Gallery of Canada director Marc Mayer said he wanted to restore free permanent-collection access at the nation’s largest art museum. And on November 22, the Power Plant announced that admission would be free for one year beginning in March 2012 in honour of its 25th anniversary. None of these actions can come close to mending wholesale the relationship between public art institutions and the constituencies for which they were ostensibly founded. (And in highlighting these few nominal improvements, I recognize that I’m failing to cheerlead for the museums and galleries that have bothered to maintain free public-collection access and other free access over the years, from the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal to the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art and beyond.) But it’s a small start to what I hope will be a more equitable and people-friendly art world of 2012.

To read my other two points, head to

(Image of the Royal Ontario Museum admissions desk Copyright 2009 Royal Ontario Museum)


Gareth Bate said...

In regards to the #2 about the AGO.

Every semester I take my students to the AGO. At the end we visit the Toronto Now Gallery.

I have yet to have to student who even knew it was there. Many are AGO members. It is so sad. It is a real shame as they've had some good shows there and highlighted people who deserve recognition.

I think a solution would be to make it accessible from outside. So put in a door and steps leading up to it. And also add a sign on the outside that makes it clear there is a gallery space there.

It would also be nice if it had a docent who could talk to people.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi Gareth,

Thanks for your comment. It's great for me to learn more about how the space is used.

I agree that an entrance from the outside and more information for viewers would likely enhance viewers' experiences of the space.

But the space itself remains problematic to me in terms of the message it delivers about local/regional artists: That their work is not good enough to merit regular showing in the museum proper, that it's simply an bonus add-on to lunch or a drink or something.

If the AGO was using the space to show works from non-Canadian artists, I would likely feel differently, but given that this is the space our regional artists have been accorded, I continue to feel, as I said, that it's a case of damning with faint praise, architectural-context-wise.