Toronto: ROM and AGO

Royal Ontario Museum
Royal Ontario Museum

We visited both the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), spending several hours in each (not on the same day – that would be too much!) Coming from a country where state and municipal museums are free, our first impression was that they were expensive. We paid $25 per person (including the special exhibition on tattoos) at ROM and $19.50 at AGO. If I lived in Toronto, I would probably pay to be a member which gives unlimited access – I could then go in and concentrate on one gallery whenever I pleased. As it was, we walked through every gallery determined to get our money’s worth, stopping at a few artefacts in each to get a flavour of the collection.

Royal Ontario Museum

ROM opened in 1914 and was extended in 2007 with Michael Lee-Chin’s Crystal which bursts out of the original walls (see above). I rather like it. Below are some highlights of what we saw inside – as you can see, the dinosaurs were a particular hit.

Art Gallery of Ontario

Art Gallery of Ontario
Art Gallery of Ontario

AGO has also been extended, this time by Frank Gehry. The interiors were pretty smart too. Inside the glass frontage, above, was the Galleria Italia where we enjoyed a post-lunch coffee in the Espresso Bar. (In both places, we used the self-service café for lunch. Neither was a memorable culinary experience, but AGO was better than ROM.) Walker Court has a beautiful spiral staircase.

Here are some of the exhibitions we particularly enjoyed.

Song Dong’s Communal Courtyard

One hundred vintage Chinese wardrobe doors transform the gallery into a series of walkways and small rooms reminiscent of Beijing’s densely populated hutongs. Seems we both had the same selfie idea!

Manasie Akpaliapik

Sculptor Manasie Akpaliapik is originally from Baffin Island and his work reflects a concern for the vulnerability of his Arctic homeland. Beautiful or scary? I can’t decide.

Norval Morriseau

Norval Morrisseau was born in Sand Point Reserve, Ontario, in 1932 and died in Toronto in 2007. These six panels are collectively called Man changing into Thunderbird. I loved them.

Benjamin Cheverton

In the 1820s, Benjamin Cheverton perfected a sculpture-copying machine which produced exact, miniaturised copies of full-sized busts by other sculptors. There were numerous examples on display as well as a case showing how it was done based on a bust of James Watt – one of John’s heroes, so how could he not love that?

We were very impressed with both ROM and AGO, but each day we retired punch-drunk. Culture can be so tiring!



  1. Hey, I love the building of the ROM. That’s an example of how old and new can merge together and enhance each other.
    I have to say, I’d probably be taken with the dinosaurs too 😉

    Love Norval Morrisseau’s art.


  2. I thought for sure I commented here:) I have mixed feelings about the new addition to the ROM. Love the AGO and yes…it is costly to go which is a shame. I think they should be free like in Europe


  3. I’ve never been to Canada, but like what the current government is up to very much. I love the Royal Ontario Museum exterior, Libeskind is still at the top of his game. This is similar to his Museum of Military in Dresden.


  4. These look like great museums, both in terms of architecture and the collections! It’s too bad that they cost so much to enter. New York has the same problem with many museums (for example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History each cost about $25), but many of the museums are free for at least one day or evening per week. The museums are definitely much more crowded on free days, but at least it’s an option.


  5. Hi Anabel – they look to be two interesting sites, with lots of fascinating galleries to look at – let alone the architecture … I get exhausted visiting museums … but I’ve got hooked at a few galleries or special exhibitions at the British Museum .. I still need to write them up …

    I’d visit both if I ever got to Toronto – but would be museumed out – yet intellectually stimulated .. cheers Hilary


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