The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and its architectural partners Diamond Schmitt, Selldorf Architects, and Two Row Architect have revealed initial designs for the Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery, the museum’s new expansion project.
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. Reiss is the chairman and CEO of Canada Goose, member of the Order of Canada, and an art collector.
The addition will significantly increase the museum’s gallery space by 3,716 m2 (40,000 sf), with at least 13 new galleries across five floors, increasing the AGO’s total space available to display art by 30 per cent. From the exterior, the expansion will quietly complement the existing built environment, respecting the scale of the surrounding neighbourhood.
The Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery will sit one storey above the AGO’s existing loading dock, nestled between the building and the Ontario College of Art & Design University (OCAD U). It will seamlessly connect to and be accessed by the AGO’s existing galleries from four locations, substantially improving visitor circulation throughout the museum.
Inside the new gallery, at least 13 exhibition spaces of varying scales and ceiling height are being designed. These column-free galleries will be highly functional, flexible, and dynamic enough to display the works of today’s great modern and contemporary artists; while being adaptable to the needs of the future generations of artists as well.
The galleries are being designed to adjust to the needs of the program: as large open spaces or as 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.
Initiated in 2022, the design of the Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery is being informed by ongoing consultation with indigenous leaders and communities, led by Two Row Architect. These conversations and others are instrumental in leading the team to adopt adaptability, accessibility, relevancy, zero-carbon goals, and inclusivity as their guiding principles. The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (Tkaronto’s Host Nation) played a crucial part in this consultation process.
The new 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 Canada Green Building Council (CAGBC) Zero Carbon Building (ZCB) performance 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.
This will be the seventh expansion 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. At this early stage, estimated construction development costs are approximately $100 million. EllisDon is the project’s construction manager.
“The Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery is more than an expansion project—it is 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,” says Stephan Jost, Michael and Sonja Koerner director and CEO of the AGO. “In the past decade, we 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 are set to display them in a thoughtful, dynamic, and truly beautiful space. I would 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.”