Art Gallery of Ontario: Selected Works


463 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 0-919777-79-1
DDC 708.11'3541




Reviewed by Virgil Hammock

Virgil Hammock is president of the Canadian section of the International
Association of Art Critics and Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts
at Mount Allison University.


True to its title, this book presents hundreds of high-quality
reproductions of selected works from the AGO collection.

The book begins with a 58-page introduction, giving the history of both
the Gallery and its collection. Following the introduction are sections
on European art, historical Canadian art, contemporary art, and Inuit
art. The text accompanying each illustration—a committee effort,
written by the curators who also selected the works illustrated—is
informative, but, in most cases, deadly dull. The curators do not make
clear why the works included here were chosen. (One assumes that they
are the “jewels” of the AGO collection; indeed, there are many
high-quality works in the collection.)

The AGO may never have a historical European art collection that
compares in quality or size with those in the great European and
American galleries; nevertheless, by making careful choices with its
collection policy, it has done a very good job with its limited
resources. Its collection is one that all Canadians can be proud of.
There is some real depth in its European holdings and there have been
some very smart buys in non-Canadian contemporary art. Although some
have complained about the Gallery’s focus on collecting contemporary
Canadian art (particularly contemporary Ontario art), this is mostly
sour grapes. The AGO has a far larger mandate than exhibiting works
mainly by Ontario artists and has done an excellent job promoting both
Canadian and Ontario art.

This beautiful book is useful for anyone who wants to know about the
Gallery’s collection. Recommended for public libraries.


“Art Gallery of Ontario: Selected Works,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 20, 2024,