Of all the developments during Toronto’s oughties-era flurry of new architecture, Frank Gehry–redesigned Art Gallery of Ontario was the most lust-worthy. The blond wood, tendril staircase and sylvan tranquility of the Galleria Italia were so stunning that the people who run the place would have been forgiven for treating it like the Mona Lisa: best seen but not touched. Instead, they flung open the doors and threw a block party. Paul Butler, the AGO’s inaugural artist-in-residence, invited the public to attend a series of informal programs. The movie nights, art etiquette workshops and money management classes came and went, but the morning yoga sessions endured. They started in the Henry Moore art gallery, a calm, capacious room where the sculptures themselves—Draped Seated Woman, Reclining Figure et al—appear poised to join in, but demand for the program quickly outgrew the space. The upcoming sessions, which begin this month, will be held under the 40-foot ceilings of Walker Court, where there’s enough room for 40 people to execute their triangle poses without knocking over the two Rodins nearby. The symbiosis is rather brilliant: the AGO increases foot traffic and generates a bit of cash during off-hours, while the public gets a community centre and exercise space that just happens to have Monets and Manets on its walls.
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