First, the good news: Frank Gehry's building deserves all the accolades, and it looks as terrific outside as in. To fully appreciate Gehry's triumph, stand in Grange Park behind the gallery and notice how the titanium wall reflects the blue of the sky.
More good news: the AGO hosts touring shows that rank with the best (e.g., the recent show on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera). They can be crowded so be sure to book ahead.
Now for the not-so-good news: the AGO consistently sells its collection short. If you arrive knowing little about art (and Canadian art in particular), you'll leave not knowing a whole lot more.The AGO takes great pains to tell you which donor funded each gallery, but tells you next to nothing about why the contents are important and what they reveal about the unfolding story of art. Who was Emily Carr and what was revolutionary about her? What was the Group of Seven? Canadian art buffs already know, but what about everybody else? This museum seems to be talking to itself and its most loyal fans. As AGO members who recently completed a road trip to 49 U.S. museums, we're chagrined to see how badly our home town museum stacks up: galleries not meaningfully labeled, explanatory notes few and far between (or tucked into a wall rack where you might not even see them), Group of Seven paintings hung like wallpaper with no breathing room. Yes, there's beauty here. The AGO boasts a stellar collection of Canadian art, with first-rate pieces by our greatest painters. But you have to work hard to appreciate the jewels in this crown. While many people here have clearly enjoyed their time at the AGO, I can't help but wonder how many others left scratching their heads, thinking, "Guess art is not for me."
The AGO cannot be blamed for the weakness of its European collection. Unlike many U.S. cities, including secondary and tertiary ones, Toronto didn't have a pool of rich, art-loving philanthropists to buy up old masters while they could still be had in significant numbers. But why is Toronto burying its finest European painting--Rubens' "Massacre of the Innocents" in a back gallery, with no explanatory notes for the visitor? Be sure to track this one down. It's part of the Thomson Collection.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.