Reviews

Art Gallery of Hamilton

It is impossible to walk through this new gallery and not be proud to live in Hamilton.

By Jason Leach
Published May 31, 2005

The Art Gallery of Hamilton re-opened on May 28.
The Art Gallery of Hamilton re-opened on May 28.

After 19 months and almost $20 million spent on renovations, the Art Gallery of Hamilton re-opened to the public on May 28. The experience I had walking through this new facility can be described in one word: amazing.

This literally is a new building. The only thing you'll recognize is the location of the elevators, stairways, bathrooms, gallery shop, and front desk. The entire building subtly screams class and art. The great pieces of art that greet you at the front lobby are a wonderful treat to accompany this new lobby space.

With two stories of glass, light and granite, you'll realize that you are in a completely new AGH before hitting the first step. Upstairs, everything is laid out in a very easy-to-follow manner. The visitor is also greeted with the newest addition to the gallery, 1010 Café, decorated very smartly and very cool in keeping with its artful surroundings.

The AGH main entrance from King Street.
The AGH main entrance from King Street.

The new AGH will undoubtedly become a favourite spot for lunches and coffees, and I'm sure the younger crowd is overjoyed at having a new, cool and comfortable date spot in the heart of the city.

The galleries have been renovated with wonderful hardwood flooring and new lighting. The community gallery used to be a dark, dank spot for meeting or concerts, but has a new airy feel to it. The new pavilion and sculpture garden weren't open on this visit, but judging by the look of the pavilion from the outside, it too will become a hotspot for events and meetings.

Photo images of the sculpture garden indicate that there will be a small grass area with a water feature, lights, plenty of new trees, sitting areas, and, of course, sculptures. I would urge the AGH to continue the excitement surrounding this new gallery by putting out a request for proposals for a new, colourful, and exciting sculpture to be located here.

It should be highly visible from Main Street and will catch the attention and imagination of everyone who sees it. Many of the older sculptures that will be brought back to Commonwealth Square, while being wonderful pieces, are black or grey and more representative of the old AGH. The new AGH seems to have struck a wonderful balance between sophisticated and unbelievable. This same new attitude should be on display in the sculpture garden.

The AGH Plaza would benefit from the attitude that went into the building renovations.
The AGH Plaza would benefit from the attitude that went into the building renovations.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the new gallery is the sculpture atrium on the second floor. The new attitude and spirit of the AGH is fully on display here, in the form of Kim Adams' Bruegel-Bosch Bus. This piece is amazing, towering high above all the other sculptures in the atrium and would take hours to analyze and see completely.

The sculpture atrium is surrounded by the Tanenbaum collection. I'm not an art expert by any means, yet I was stunned by the amazing collection that Joey and Toby Tanenbaum donated. It is a must see for all, whether you love art or not.

Kim Adams (Canadian b. 1951): Bruegel-Bosch Bus 1996-ongoing - 1960s Volkswagen bus, figurines, mixed media 243.8 x 168.9 x 414 cm
Kim Adams (Canadian b. 1951): Bruegel-Bosch Bus 1996-ongoing - 1960s Volkswagen bus, figurines, mixed media 243.8 x 168.9 x 414 cm

Anyone who spends any time in the heart of our city knows that things are changing. Businesses are opening. People are buying funky lofts and condos. There is a new energy and it is highly visible on the streets, in the cafes and plethora of new galleries.

In my view, three recent developments symbolize the New Hamilton:

The first was the incredible success of the Core Lofts at Bay St. S. by Main St. This project sold out more quickly than any other in the province and was so successful the developers didn't need the loan they had qualified for from the city.

The second is the new public art installation at Pier 8 on Hamilton's waterfront. This wonderful piece is bursting with flair and optimism. I'm confident that we are well on our way to soaring to new heights and becoming a city of fun, excitement and positive energy.

The third and final development is this new Art Gallery of Hamilton. It is impossible to walk through this new gallery and not be proud to live in Hamilton. This is another symbol of our rebirth, another place for people, another attraction that will draw thousands of visitors and locals alike.

The old Hamilton was firmly on display in the old AGH. Dark, boring, uninviting, and second rate. The new AGH is another example of the new Hamilton. We're becoming more bold, more proud of ourselves, and more comfortable as a city. The future is bright in Hamilton and the AGH is the shining jewel in our crown.

Your humble scribbler on display in the AGH upper lobby.
Your humble scribbler on display in the AGH upper lobby.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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