Canada Museums and Galleries
Aga Khan Museum
77 Wynford Drive, Don Mills
Light served as the main inspiration for Pritzker Prize–winning architect Fumihiko Maki when tackling this commission. Situated on seventeen acres, the building is saturated with light, and, depending on the time of day, it animates the walls with color. The museum, a passion project of Aga Khan (a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammad), is meant to foster a mutual understanding and respect between cultures, and to highlight the creative contributions of Islam. The collection comprises over 1,000 pieces of art, pottery, manuscripts, and drawings.
Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas St. W., Grange Park
Reimagined in 2008 by Frank Gehry (who incidentally grew up just down the street), the AGO's exterior resembles a giant wood-framed glass ship gliding through the city. The permanent collection is equally impressive, with over 5,000 Inuit works, Postimpressionist and Dutch Master paintings, plus the biggest collection of Henry Moore sculptures anywhere in the world (reason alone to visit). If you haven’t caught it in Copenhagen or LA, the traveling Yayoi Kusama exhibit arrived at the AGO in March 2018.
Canadian Centre for Architecture
1920 Rue Baile, Old Montreal
Opened to bring public awareness to the crucial role architecture plays in shaping the identity of a city and, by default, improving the lives of residents, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, with its incredible gardens, is a calming oasis. The imposing nineteenth-century building houses a significant archive, exhibit halls, and fascinating restoration labs, where you can see the painstaking steps involved in restoring portions of older buildings and their decorative effects. A must-visit (especially with littles) is the sculpture garden, a totally novel space filled with architectural reproductions of sections of the Architecture Centre itself, with plants and vegetation winding their way around the deconstructed fixtures.
1920 Rue Baile, Shaughnessy Village
Founded in 1979, The Canadian Centre for Architecture provides exactly that: A pretty impressive compound for understanding the significance of architecture and design on everything. There’s a massive permanent collection, a gorgeous garden, a bookstore, and an events space for a packed-calender of “Open Sessions” from visiting historians.
Daniel Faria Gallery
188 St. Helens Ave., Brockton Village
After several years honing his craft, Daniel Faria, a veteran of the Toronto gallery scene, was ready to go it alone. His namesake gallery—housed in a rapidly gentrifying part of town in what was once a body shop—now plays host to Canadian and international artists, like Douglas Coupland. The high-ceilinged, open space is a perfect match for the large-scale installations and performance pieces that come through. If you miss out on a visit while in you're in town, the gallery has a presence at almost all the international art fairs.
Le Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal
185 Sainte-Catherine Ouest, Old Montreal
Devoted to both the performing and visual arts, this compound revolves primarily around artists from Québec, including the largest collection of pieces by abstract painter (and Canadian) Paul-Émile Borduas, who was ultimately ostracized before his death in 1960 for advocating for the separation between church and state.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
1380 Rue Sherbrooke W., Downtown
Founded in 1860, the Montreal Museum of Fine Art has since acquired more than 41,000 artworks spanning the mediums of painting, sculpture, photography, and the decorative arts. The museum itself is enormous, and the art is divided for display purposes between four pavilions—international art, world culture, Canadian Art, and design. Upcoming exhibits include a comparison-based show of Picasso works and non-Western artists, and a collection of paintings depicting court life under Napoleon. Aside from the collections, the museum offers some interesting educational and health initiatives, like art therapy programs, workshops for toddlers, and painting classes for seniors.
Museum of Anthropology
6393 NW Marine Dr., University Hill
The Arthur Erickson-designed Museum of Anthropology is structurally spectacular—built in 1976, mostly in concrete—the exterior echoes the jagged West Coast mountains, while the interior mimics a First Nations Longhouse. Erickson sought to respectfully capture and honor the evolving Canadian identity through the building, which looks out onto the sea. Crafting enthusiasts will love exhibits focused on blankets woven by the Salish people in the 1800's, Amazonian textiles and ceramics, as well as a permanent collection of ethnographic objects from First Nation communities. The museum’s mission is to promote discourse around the relationship between Vancouver and the people who settled there, while also highlighting communities and ways of life under threat.
Museum of Vancouver
1100 Chestnut St., Kitsilano
The founding mission of the Museum of Vancouver has major civic undertones: The facility seeks to encourage inter-community understanding via an incredible archive of photographs that document the century of public activism that has shaped the city’s identity. The permanent collection comprises ethnographic, archaeological, and natural history objects. A real bonus is the kid's program: the museum regularly schedules day trips to archaeological digs, organizes hands-on experiences with ancient artifacts, and hosts scavenger hunts through the galleries for the whole family on weekends.
The Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queens Park, Yorkville
A serious cultural destination, the Royal Ontario Museum consistently has an enviable roster of exhibits, plus a notable permanent collection under its belt. With no specific focus, the permanent galleries span African and Middle Eastern art, Chinese architecture, ancient dinosaurs and mammals, Bronze Age artifacts, and textiles to name a few. Recent exhibits have included a retrospective of Christian Dior haute couture, an exploration of the Vikings (perfect for kiddos), and a unique examination of the role played by architecture in Auschwitz titled The Evidence Room.
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