Celebrate Mother’s Day at the AGH

It is a well known fact that Mothers are inherently busy, therefore, as art imitates life, we are planning a flurry of activities at the Art Gallery of Hamilton for Mother’s Day!


In addition to being Mother’s Day, Sunday May 8 also falls on Doors Open Hamilton 2016 – a festival that invites visitors to get out and enjoy the unique spaces that make Hamilton a great city to live in.  Here at the AGH, in honour of Hamilton’s bi-centennial, co-curators Bill Manson and Devin Therien created the exhibition Saga of a City: Hamilton at 200 Years. On Sunday, May 8 they will be hosting a series of free talks and tours at the Gallery that will highlight the history of our storied city.  At 12:15 pm we are featuring Bill Manson’s talk entitled Hamilton’s Hamilton examining the intriguing life of city founder George Hamilton. Hamilton’s Hamilton will be followed by a tour of Saga of a City by curators Bill Manson and Devin Therien at 1:00 pm.  Also as part of Doors Open Hamilton, enjoy a complimentary tour of our permanent collection exhibition offerings at 3:00pm. All activities and admission to Gallery Level 2 are free for Doors Open Hamilton.


Prudence Heward (1896-1947), At the Theatre 1928, oil on canvas, 101.6 x 101.6 cm, MMFA, purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest Photo MMFA, Christine Guest

On Gallery Level 1, Mother’s day is also your last chance to see the highly acclaimed exhibition, 1920s Modernism in Montreal:  The Beaver Hall Group.  This exhibition brings together works from Montreal’s Beaver Hall Group.  Made up of some of Canada’s most avant-garde artists of the 1920s, this is one of the first exhibitions to chronicle their contribution to art history and the cultural history of Canada. Ticketed admission to Gallery Level 1 applies.

If you need a break from the exhibitions, the Horse and Train Bistro, located in the lobby of the AGH, is hosting a special Mother’s Day High Tea with seating on the hour between 1:00-4:00pm (book ahead to ensure space).  With a booking of four or more, Mom is free for tea! *One free mom per booking.


For something really special, make Mother’s Day last all year long by purchasing an AGH Gift Membership for Mom.  Starting as low as $40, AGH Membership lets Mom enjoy everything the AGH has to offer from this Mother’s Day right through to the next!  Also, if you purchase a Gift Membership before May 8, you have the option of purchasing a Sunday High Tea at the Horse and Train Bistro at a $10 discount! (High Tea must be purchased at the same time as gift membership to enjoy this special offer.)

Whether you are enjoying our exhibitions or shopping for Mom, the AGH is the place to be this Mother’s Day!

Curator Daniel Strong on The Art of John Scott

The AGH is pleased to partner with the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College in Iowa. Daniel Strong, Associate Director and Curator of Exhibitions there, originated the John Scott exhibition in 2012; surprisingly, it was John’s first exhibition in the United States. Daniel shared his insight on the project with us during the public opening reception on February 20. It was so nicely written we want to share it here with you.

First, I have to say this is a humbling experience for me, a curator who works for a private college of about 1,500 students in a small Iowa town of only 9,000 people. You could comfortably fit every human being I know into this room and not run out of chairs.

If you drew concentric circles around Grinnell, Iowa, on a map you would find two cities that are one hour away; another ring of larger cities like Omaha and Kansas City that are three hours away, and then cities like St. Louis and Chicago that are five hours away. Within those rings we like to call ourselves centrally isolated. So how does John Scott come to have his debut United States retrospective in a place like Grinnell?

Well, living and working in the middle of a cornfield has its perks, one of which is that I can pretty much show what I want. I also have the luxury in meeting those desires by being able to go where I want. (Life in a small town is perfectly livable, even referable, so long as you can get out.) In 2008 I was at an art fair called Art Chicago with a friend who caught up to me in the maze of exhibitors and said, “I have to show you something. I don’t know anything about it, but I think I have to buy it.” She did buy that piece, the first she or I had ever seen by this artist we’d never heard of named John Scott. The piece is not in this exhibition, but it graces the cover of the exhibition catalogue.

Fast-forward three years to 2011 in New York City. I’m again wandering through an art fair when something in the corner of my eye makes me turn around. I move closer and I can recall thinking, “I know what that is.” And this time it is I who buys the piece off the wall for the Grinnell College Art Collection, a collection of about 7,000 objects, mostly works on paper, the focus of which is art of social and political activism. We often say that the spiritual core of our collection is Goya’s “Disasters of War,” of which we have two complete sets. In light of the presence of works by Goya and other artists like Hogarth, Callot, Picasso, and the German Expressionists in Grinnell College’s collection, I hope you can appreciate how and why the art of John Scott might catch my eye. The piece I acquired for Grinnell — also not here in Hamilton, I’m afraid — is on page seven of the exhibition catalogue.

Our “Dark Commander” arrived in Grinnell as most oversized works of art on paper do, rolled in a tube. I unrolled it on a table and stood over it, wondering, “what should I do with this?”

The answer, of course, was clear.

Because of where I live and work and its attendant freedoms, my exhibition ideas typically arise from my personal interests, and few in the past 17 years more than this one. While I had never heard of John Scott before 2008, his work struck a personal chord, one that may have nothing to do with his actual intent or his importance in the grand arc of Canadian artistic achievement, in the study of which I am sadly still a novice. My first reaction to John’s Dark Commanders was squarely in the context of the second Iraq war, which had been an ongoing unmitigated disaster by 2008, compounded at home and abroad by the just-then-dawning reality of a crippling economic collapse. I had clear associations in my head (without naming names) with sinister, blind, political and corporate Napoleons blundering their way across the surface of the earth.

As I learned more about John, with the invaluable assistance of the people at Nicholas Metivier Gallery in Toronto — particularly Nicholas himself, Sarah Massie, and the dauntless Greg Manuel, all of whom are here with John today — I discovered that there was more to his work than my limited and time-bound associations; more to him, and more to my connection to his work. His life traces a line along the border between our two countries, through cities of industrial and commercial might and blight like Windsor and Detroit, where John spent his youth; Hamilton and Buffalo, once estimable industrial powerhouses; and Niagara Falls and Rochester, NY, where I was born and raised. John’s worldview matured in the 60s and 70s against manufacturing decline and the backdrop of an unpopular war raging in Southeast Asia. I was born in modest circumstances in 1966. Images on television of the war in Vietnam comprise some of my earliest memories. My oldest brother died there in 1971, when I was five.

Now 45 years later the price still costs. Many if not most lessons go unlearned, and the 21st century has begun as none of us might have imagined. None, perhaps, except for the man we are here to honor today.

I purposely began my foreword to the exhibition catalogue with Spaceman, from 1974, to leaven the presence of the Dark Commanders that surround him in the front of the book, and to mitigate the darkness that some are too quick to use as a descriptor of John’s work as a whole.

Sure, he seems to like the word, “APOCALYPSE.”

The sublimity of his mean machinery, like the matte black muscle car in this exhibition that truly makes it a blockbuster, leaves little space for doubt. Perused quickly, his work doesn’t exude “sunny ways.” Yet there are, if you look closely, childlike wonder, wry humor, and an unmistakable rejoinder that there is a clear way back from the brink. He reminds us that an apocalypse, at least in the Western tradition, is not something that simply happens, like a natural disaster, or is fated or even doomed to happen. Apocalypse has to be caused; it has to be led. Apocalypse has to be driven.

Blind horsemen. Blind commanders. Blind corporate magnates. Blind presidents.

John’s work is cryptic; “apocalyptic.” It transcends particular circumstances and is open-ended like the future itself. As I like to say, any of John Scott’s works over the past four decades could have been made next year. To this I say: let’s hope.

In everything he has done and is still doing, I don’t think John Scott is telling us what to see. I think he’ll be happy if we just open our eyes.

Daniel Strong
Associate Director and Curator of Exhibitions
Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College
Grinnell, Iowa, USA


Bringing 1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group to Hamilton

It is a rare privilege for us to present some of the most exciting paintings made in Canada in the first half of the 20th century. Ontarians have long known about their beloved Group of Seven — the men, the mythology and windswept canvases — but those of us who grew up in Quebec had a very different artistic touchstone and that, in part, is what makes this exhibition such a landmark undertaking. 1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group is the first exhibition devoted to Montreal’s Beaver Hall Group and levels, so to speak, the art historical playing field. As contemporaries of the Group of Seven (A.Y. Jackson was actually a member of both Groups), these painters and sculptors turned their brushes to portraits, genre scenes and village and urban life in a vibrant counterpoint to the Group of Seven. And so, when the exhibition was offered to us several years ago, we jumped at the chance to present this landmark exhibition in Hamilton. But bringing over 100 art works doesn’t happen overnight – here are a few behind-the-scenes photos of how the paintings moved from galerie to gallery.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) sent the exhibition in four shipments with a total of 51 crates and 6 pallets of exhibition furniture! The crates came off the truck and directly into our newly painted exhibition spaces. We had to wait 24 hours before opening the crates in order to allow the paintings to adjust to the temperature in the space.

Uncrating the paintings took a few days as our team of preparators — Greg, Paula, Tina and Jay — and MMFA Head Technician Marcel Marcotte worked carefully and efficiently to get everything out of the crates and unwrapped.

As paintings were unwrapped, our Collections Manager/Researcher Christine, began the painstaking task of examining each of the paintings and sculptures to ensure no damage or change to their condition had occurred while in transit.


With the works uncrated and laid out in a preliminary way, the curator of the exhibition Jacques Des Rochers, travelled to Hamilton to work on the installation. Exhibition layouts are always worked out in advance (you need to make sure the show will fit in the space!) but once you get the works in the gallery spaces, their placement often changes. Jacques and I worked together to finalize the layout.

There are many tiny details that need to be worked out, like the height at which the paintings will be hung. Every institution has its own standard and the AGH and MMFA have slightly different approaches. Jacques and I debated the merits of 58” inches versus 60” to centre. Guess who won?


By Friday afternoon the show is almost ready ….

Please come celebrate with us tomorrow for our Opening or be sure to come and see this amazing exhibition while at the AGH (closing May 8). You won’t be disappointed!

– Tobi Bruce, Director of Exhibitions and Collections & Senior Curator

1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group is organized by the
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts



The Making of Fearful Symmetry

We are thrilled to be putting the final touches on Fearful Symmetry: The Art of John Scott. This is one of those projects that has taken a village to put together, and it shows—there is a tenderness in the installation, which comes through because all those working on the show truly believe in the artist’s persistent and extraordinary vision, and many of those working on the show have been fans of Scott’s work for decades.

The AGH team of preparators worked closely with the artist and with Art Gallery of Ontario Conservator Sherry Phillips. Sherry led that institution’s generous loan of the Trans AM Apocalypse No. 3, which needed care and conservation in order to be exhibited. The exhibition curator Daniel Strong, and his team at Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College, Iowa, provided invaluable insight on Scott’s work through the didactics and the exhibition catalogue. Our partnership with McMaster Museum of Art, Director and Chief Curator Carol Podedworny and Senior Curator Ihor Holubizky, allowed us to share the scholarship and distinct opportunity to show a range of Scott’s work in context with the Fall 2015 exhibition at MMA. Greg Manuel and Nicholas Metivier from Nicholas Metivier Gallery have provided their generous assistance with all aspects of the exhibition planning, loaning most exhibition works from their inventory, and providing us with invaluable information from the artist’s files. Lucky for us at the AGH, past curators such as Andrew Hunter and Ihor Holubizky have made great contributions to the writing on Scott’s work, so we have many handy resources to draw from in preparing the research and writing on this new show.

Scott, a Toronto-based artist, has been working for nearly 40 years with a tenacious vision about the role we all play in the destruction of the world. Through his frenetic, rough and completely unique style of image making, he portrays bunnies as victims and agents, war missiles for what they are, but also as anti-war statements; both of these have become icons of his practice over the years.


Detail view of Trans AM Apocalypse No. 3, on loan from the Art Gallery of Ontario

The Trans AM Apocalypse No. 3 is the centrepiece of the exhibition. As John has said, “if the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse were to arrive today, surely it would be in an 80s muscle car.” The accompanying pictures cannot capture its many powerful details—he inscribed the entire Book of Revelations into its surface—so please visit soon and experience Scott’s extraordinary works for yourself. Further information about the artist and exhibition may be found on the AGH website.

Check out this video of the installation of John Scott’s Trans AM Apocalypse No. 3:

The exhibition is on view at the Art Gallery of Hamilton until May 15.

The official opening reception, with the artist in attendance, is Saturday, February 20, 3 pm to 5 pm. Free admission. All are welcome.

A rare opportunity to meet and hear from the artist will take place Thursday, February 25, 6:30 pm, when highly acclaimed art critic Robert Enright interviews John Scott. Free admission.

– Melissa Bennett, Curator of Contemporary Art

Gods and Goddesses: Mythology and Religion in Art

Gods and Goddesses have dominated art for millennia. From Asia to the Americas, our earliest ancestors painted on walls or carved small religious figures in stone. Such early icons as the Woman of Willendorf were created over 20,000 years ago. This tiny sculpture emphasizes the importance of women as fertility goddesses in early civilizations. Over the centuries, similar figures became symbols of worship around the world. Both male and female gods were engrained in the Ancient religious cultures in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.


Doré TriumphChristianity - crop

Fig. 1 Gustave Doré (French 1832-1883), The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism 1868, oil on canvas, Art Gallery of Hamilton, The Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection, 2002

The Art Gallery of Hamilton has numerous works representing Ancient African, Middle-Eastern, Greco-Roman, and Nordic gods and goddesses. Gustave Doré’s Triumph of Christianity over Paganism (1866) (Fig. 1) and Luca Giordano’s Massacre of the Children of Niobe (c. 1685) (Fig. 5) are the most prominent. Doré’s painting depicts a monumental figure of Jesus Christ dispatching the Archangel Michael and his angelic soldiers to overthrow the Greco-Roman, Nordic and African gods and goddesses depicted in the lower half of the picture. Worshipped for millennia, the overthrown gods and goddesses continue to play an important role in the folklore and mythological heritage of many countries.


The centrally depicted and physically dominating figure of Zeus holding his thunderbolt represents the greatest threat to the armed angels (Fig. 2). The Nordic God Thor can be seen to the left of Zeus raising his hammer (Fig. 3). Identified by their ornate crowns, the Egyptian Goddess Isis and God Osiris, are to the left of the Egyptian priests  (Fig. 4). Among the many Gods and Goddesses depicted, Zeus, Thor and Venus continue to play important roles as the ideal prototypes of masculine power and feminine sexuality in modern culture, seen particularly in movies and television today.

Giordano - Massacre of the Children of Niobe - AGH - 1780s.jpg

Fig. 5 Luca Giordano (Italian), The Massacre of the Children of Niobe c.1685, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection 2002

Giordano’s Massacre represents the Ancient Greek God Apollo and the Goddess Artemis slaying Niobe’s children (Fig. 5). They were dispatched by their mother Leto, the mistress of Zeus, to teach the earthly Queen Niobe that she should not claim to be sexually superior to the Gods. Despite the prominence of Apollo, the story behind the picture emphasizes feminine power and sexuality. Centuries after the arrival of Christianity, Artemis continued to be worshipped as the Goddess of the hunt, fertility and virginity. The importance of these traits can similarly be found in many modern cultures despite the presence of Christianity or other religions. Unlike Doré’s painting, Giordano’s celebrated the Ancient myth in a Christian environment.

In short, both pictures demonstrate the cultural clash between Ancient and Modern deities.

– Devin Therien, Adjunct Associate Curator, European Art

quest10ns – Kim Adams

The nice thing about working with living artists is that we can ask them about their work and process. We can get behind the scenes to get a sense of what makes them tick. In the quest10ns series we ask exhibiting artists at the AGH ten questions about a variety of topics. We recently caught up with Kim Adams, while he was on-site working on the Bruegel-Bosch Bus, and asked him about his work, tools, process, and more.

Repeatedly in his work, Canadian artist Kim Adams has explored the patterns of a mobile society, creating works of art that are eccentric hybrids of the readymade. Blending humour, satire and seriousness, he builds “worlds” as a means of social critique. Adams’ installations exist comfortably in the space that divides life and art.

Adams - BBBus

Kim Adams Bruegel-Bosch Bus (detail),  1996-ongoing, photo by Mike Lalich

A magnificent visual masterpiece, Bruegel-Bosch Bus consists of a 1960 Volkswagen that appears to pull a post-industrial universe displaying a cornucopia of fantastic and seductive worlds that play with our senses. This futuristic diorama is a permanent fixture in the AGH Sculpture Atrium overlooking the Irving Zucker Sculpture Garden, past Hamilton City Hall and the Niagara Escarpment.

Kim Adams was on-site at the AGH this past December to update and maintain the Bruegel-Bosch Bus. Stop by and see if you can spot what is new!


Kim Adams working on the Bruegel-Bosch Bus this past December.

1. time of day you are most productive …

any day of the week

2. a tool you most commonly use to make your art …

a welder and glue

3. the “eureka moment” for the Bruegel-Bosch Bus creation …

there is no specific moment, it is a coming and going process

4. the part of the Bruegel-Bosch Bus that most reflects you …


this represents the old studio building that got torn down due to gentrification, beside the building, on the billboard is an image of an older work of mine

5. was the work always envisioned with a bus at the heart …


6. your latest work was inspired by …

it is using oversized boulders – faux rocks that are 6 x 6 x 6 feet – the work is dealing with isolation and living on top of a mountain; it will be shown in Quebec

7. last exhibition you saw …

are you experienced? at AGH and Mark Rothko retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

8. an artist you’ve recently (re)discovered …


9. person/s (dead or alive) you’d like to grab a coffee with …

Gordon Matta-Clark

10. an item recently scratched off your to-do wish list …

going on a roller coaster – I have not done it, but I crossed it off my list

Rare Early Italian Renaissance Painting Now on View at the Art Gallery of Hamilton

The Art Gallery of Hamilton is proud to present the special viewing of a painting by the 15th-century Italian court artist Ercole de Roberti. Born in 1450, Roberti was a contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli and was well known in his time.


Circle of Ercole de’ Roberti (about 1450-96), The Adoration of the Shepherds c.1480s oil on panel. Promised gift from the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection, 2016 Photo: Bob McNair

Entitled The Adoration of the Shepherds, the painting unites three events central to the story of Christ’s birth: the nativity in the manger, the adoration of the shepherds and that of the three kings. Painted nearly 600 years ago, the condition of the work is exceptional.

“This is a rare and significant acquisition for a Canadian public institution, and the condition of the work, along with the provenance is extraordinary,” said Shelley Falconer, President and CEO, Art Gallery of Hamilton. “An exquisite example of early Renaissance painting, Roberti’s work will help bolster the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s position as an important repository of European art. We are delighted and enormously grateful to the Tanenbaums for their tremendous wisdom and foresight in strengthening and supporting the depth and breadth of the AGH collection.”

Previously owned by Bernard Berenson, one of the most famous and influential authorities on Italian Renaissance paintings and drawings, the painting hung for years in the study of his Tuscan villa, I Tatti. It was subsequently purchased by art collectors and AGH benefactors, Joey and Toby Tanenbaum, who were among the five Canadian individuals and couples named in ARTNews magazine’s most recent list of the top 200 art collectors in the world. Since 2002, the Tanenbaums have donated more than 400 works of art to the AGH, including The Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection of 19th-century European art, which is among the finest in the world.

Adoration of the Shepherds is on view until March 20, 2016, on Gallery Level Two, where admission is free, courtesy of Orlick Industries Limited.