A man in a red jacket balances on top of his wife's shoulders, toasting the world with a glass of wine in a work of art that exudes joy and celebrates the deepest of loves. The man on the canvas is Marc Chagall, one of the most beloved artists of the 20th century, and the painting is "Double Portrait With Wine Glass," an 8-foot portrayal that is the masterpiece in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto that runs through Jan. 15, 2012.
"Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde" includes 118 works from the Centre Pompidou in Paris, with 32 Chagall pieces, most of which were donated by the artist himself or as bequests by family members, giving a unique, personal quality to the exhibition.
The show aims to "change how we look at Chagall," says Angela Lampe, curator of the Musee National d'Art Moderne at the Pompidou. Previous exhibits emphasized the artist's unique genius, but Lampe explains that he was not an artist living in isolation from his peers.
"The best place for his art is within the context of Russian modern art. He himself wished for this dialogue and with this show, it becomes reality."
Alongside Chagall's signature, dreamlike, colorful paintings hang the work of his Russian contemporaries, including Wassily Kandinsky, Natalia Goncharova and Kasimir Malevich.
The exhibition is divided into five thematic chapters: "In Search of Roots," "Artistic Advances in Paris and Russia," "Return to Russia," "Art and Revolution" and "The World of Theatre and the Circus." Within them, visitors appreciate not only Chagall's vibrant colors and topsy-turvy world of rural scenes and flying figures, but also what existed outside of them. The artist's strong connection to his hometown of Vitebsk in what is now Belarus, the artistic influence that surrounded him and the revolutionary times he painted through are all explored in this compelling show.
> About the AGO
Redesigned by "starchitect" Frank Gehry in 2008, the Art Gallery of Ontario is striking in itself. A ribbon of glass, the length of a city block, wraps around the gallery, and two sweeping glass masts lead your gaze upward to the sky. Inside, you will find a collection of more than 79,450 works of art, including an extensive Group of Seven Collection and Rubens' masterpiece "The Massacre of the Innocents." Other highlights are the Galleria Italia, a dramatic 450-foot arcade of towering firs and glass, and the largest Henry Moore sculpture collection in the world.
Dining options inside include the upscale Frank and the more casual Cafe AGO, both of which have specials to celebrate the Chagall exhibit. For $65, you can tour the exhibition and then indulge in a three-course Russian-themed prix-fixe menu designed by Chef Anne Yarymowich. Borscht, pan-fried stuffed egg with caviar, trout fillet on buckwheat blinis and apple charlotte russe are just some of the menu choices.
> Other exhibitions:
Leonardo da Vinci is the focus of the Ontario Science Centre's new exhibition that runs through March 18. Visitors can explore the Renaissance man's visions with 20 scale models of his inventions, including the Mechanical Lion, Robot Soldier, Self-Propelling Cart as well as the famous Great Kite flying machine. Five hundred of his ideas are brought to life on touch screens that generate 3-D images of more than 500 sketches from his notebooks.
Opening Nov. 19 is the Royal Ontario Museum's exhibition "Maya: Secret of their Ancient World." Working with Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History and the Canadian Museum of Civilization, this exhibition explores the world of the Maya, from its royalty to the lives of everyday people. It also looks at the mysteries surrounding the collapse of this ancient civilization.
> If you go:
Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St. West, Toronto (www.ago.net; 877-225-4246). The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, except Wednesday, when it is open to 8:30 p.m. Exhibition tickets are $25; $21.50 seniors; $16.50 students and youth; ages 5 and under admitted free; a family pass (two adults and up to five children ages 17 and under) is $62.50. Subway: Exit at St. Patrick Station on the University subway line. Walk one block west along Dundas Street.
Accommodations: The Delta Chelsea, located nearby, offers ticket packages from $176 that include one-night accommodation, hotel parking and two adult tickets to the Chagall show; (800) 243-5732; use rate code AKR.
Le Meridien King Edward, Sheraton and Westin Harbour Castle also offer packages.