Ask Torontoist: Whither the AGO Neon?
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Ask Torontoist: Whither the AGO Neon?

Ask Torontoist features questions posed by you, and answered by our elite team of specially trained investigative experts (also known as our staff). Send your questions to [email protected].

Reader Eric Foley asks:

I was wondering if you knew what happened to the light sculpture that flashed electric shapes at the west corner of the AGO. It disappeared during the renovation. Do you know if it was destroyed or if it might be installed elsewhere? I used to love to watch it move at night.

Photo by blairware.

Torontoist answers:

The kinetic neon sculpture that used to grace the corner of Dundas and Beverley was almost as iconic to the gallery’s old exterior as the Henry Moore sculpture is to the east. The artwork was computer-controlled to generate a unique pattern every day for a two-year period. The piece is called All Things Being Equal (1978), and it was created by light artist Michael Hayden, who was also responsible for the neon rainbow that used to animate the vaulted glass ceiling at Yorkdale subway station whenever a train arrived or departed. Another Hayden piece, York Electric Murals, was incorporated into an escalator bank at York University’s Scott Library, but it too no longer operates (Hayden told us that, to his knowledge, this “electric sculpture” is not defunct, but merely switched off).
Unlike York and the TTC, who apparently didn’t plan for the maintenance of their commissions, the AGO says that All Things Being Equal is currently in storage at the gallery as a “valued part of [their] permanent collection,” and that reinstallation will be discussed once the design is finalized for the entrance to the new Learning Centre. According to the AGO, any plans to restore the work would closely involve the artist.