The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and its architectural partners Diamond Schmitt, Selldorf Architects and Two Row Architect, revealed initial designs for the Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery, the museum’s expansion project. The addition will increase the museum’s gallery space by 40,000 square feet, with at least 13 new galleries across five floors – increasing the AGO’s total space available to display art by 30 per cent.

Launching this project is a monumental lead gift of $35 million from Dani Reiss. This generous donation is among the largest gifts in the AGO’s history. Dani is the Chairman and CEO of Canada Goose, member of the Order of Canada and an art collector. The size and timing of this gift will help the AGO move forward this expansion with confidence.

From the exterior, the expansion will quietly complement the AGO’s existing built environment, respecting the scale of the surrounding neighbourhood. The Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery will sit one story above the AGO’s existing loading dock, nestled between the AGO and OCAD University. It will seamlessly connect to, and be accessed by, the AGO’s existing galleries from four locations, substantially improving visitor circulation throughout the museum.

This expansion will significantly increase gallery space for a growing collection of modern and contemporary art. Inside the Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery, at least 13 exhibition spaces of varying scale and ceiling height are being designed. These new column-free galleries will be highly functional and very flexible – dynamic enough to display the works of today’s great modern and contemporary artists, and adaptable to the needs of future generations of artists working across all media.  Galleries are being designed to adjust to the needs of the program – as large open spaces, or easily divided into a series of more intimate galleries. Designed to encourage intimate encounters with art, the fluidity of these open spaces is enabled by a robust structural capacity, intended to make the installation of complex immersive artworks easier and more accessible.

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“The Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery is more than an expansion project – it’s how we fulfill our mission to bring people together with art, propel global conversations that speak to the issues of our time, and reflect the diversity of Toronto, Ontario and Canada,” said Stephan Jost, the Michael and Sonja Koerner director, and CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario. “In the past decade we’ve welcomed more than 20,000 artworks into the collection and now thanks to both a monumental lead gift from Dani Reiss and the vision of our architect partners, we’re set to display them in a thoughtful, dynamic, and truly beautiful space. I’d like to thank Jay Smith Co-Chair, Rupert Duchesne, President and Co-Chair and the entire AGO Board of Trustees for all the work they have undertaken to date. Like Toronto itself, the Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery is driven by both generosity and creativity.”

The Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery is being designed to operate without burning fossil fuel. The all-electric mechanical plant will use no operational carbon and create no emissions, while seeking CAGBC Zero Carbon Operating Building certification – making it one of a very small number of museum spaces to accomplish this. It will also be built to Passive House standards, for maximum heating and cooling efficiency.

“Diamond Schmitt is thrilled to partner with the AGO in creating an expansion that will host extraordinary collections and be a catalyst for global conversations about art reflecting the diversity of Toronto, and further the museum’s role as a cultural anchor of the city,” said Donald Schmitt, principal at Diamond Schmitt.

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This will be the seventh expansion that the AGO has undertaken since it was founded in 1900. The project is currently in the early stages of the municipal and public review process. Construction is expected to commence in 2024. Estimated construction development costs at this early stage is approximately $100-million. EllisDon is the project Construction Manager.

“We saw the expansion as an opportunity to extend the conversation into the very architecture of the place. The team of architects has created a welcoming addition where trust can be built, and relationships nurtured. The design integrates craft, cultural narratives, and the values of Indigenous peoples that can contribute to a curriculum of learning, sharing, healing, and celebrating,” said Brian Porter, principal at Two Row Architect.

Featured image: Aerial rendering of the future Art Gallery of Ontario expansion, the Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery, looking northwest. (AGO, Diamond Schmitt, Selldorf Architects, Two Row Architect, Play-Time)

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