Rumors about an expansion of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) have been circulating for a while, but now it’s a done deal. The Museum of Toronto announced on April 27 that it has contracted Selldorf Architects, Diamond Schmitt and Brian Porter’s Two Row Architect to lead the design phase for what it calls the AGO Global Contemporary, a 50,000-square-foot gallery of comprehensive modern and contemporary art for the gallery. Collection.
According to AGO CEO Stefan Jost, the global contemporary volume compares favorably in size to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. “It’s no small project,” says Jost. “We have global ambitions. We will help our visitors see the world differently.”
The cost of the new addition is not yet known, according to a museum spokesperson. “Determining the total cost of building the expansion is the result of the current design phase,” the spokesperson says.
This marks AGO’s seventh expansion in its 122-year history and the first since Frank Gehry transformed the gallery in 2008.
A group of talent was expected to win today, Jost says, noting that bidders applied as teams. It’s quite the trio, Sildorf being a pioneer in exhibition and museum design with the transformation of railroad depots in Luma Arles in France and the ongoing expansion of the Frick Collection in New York among its projects, while Diamond Schmitt boasts the David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center and the Ryerson Picture Center in Toronto. Two Row Architect’s Fort Severn Resilient Duplex project received the Social Justice Design Award.
But there is still a lot to do if we are to achieve the hoped-for launch date of 2026-27. “Hiring an architect is real, but there is a long way between here and cutting the tape,” Jost says. “If all goes really well, we will start in a couple of years. There are a lot of bridges to cross.”
Jost says AGO can use the extra space to a great extent, noting that his collection is growing rapidly and additional treasures are likely to follow. “This is a flexible space,” he says. “We need space to accommodate future gifts – a lot of unusual artwork has been purchased by Toronto residents.”
Annabelle Selldorf leads the design team. Her company’s other clients include the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art, the National Gallery in London and the recently expanded Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.
Diamond Schmidt, with offices in New York, Toronto and Vancouver, is also attributed to Buddy Holly Hall in Lubbock, Texas, Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, the National Center for the Arts and Ingenium Center in Ottawa and La Maison Symphonique de Montreal.
Two Row Architect’s biography includes the National Center for Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria and the Aboriginal Student Center at the Newnham Campus of Seneca College, as well as several other projects in the United States.
The AGO project will go through a review and final approval process by the Museum’s Board of Trustees, with a public presentation likely to follow later this year.