AGO's annual fundraiser promised the future and failed to deliver.
Last night, the Art Gallery of Ontario threw its massive fundraiser, the Massive Party. In its eighth year, the party took place over three floors of the AGO. The great news is that the event, a sold-out affair, meant lots of people came out in support of the cultural institution and in appreciation of the physical space.
Now, the bad news.
Massive Party was utterly unambitious and, in many places, clumsy. While the night’s theme was “The Future of Art” (vague to begin with), you’d have no way of knowing that based on the event.
Too much of Walker Court on the main floor was taken up by a glorified photo booth with a few Victorian props, made more difficult to get around by the two bars that flanked it. The basement was, oddly, playground-themed, but slow to fill up—likely because there wasn’t much signage leading to it. There was, at least, an interactive display where attendees could see their tweets on a monitor and see their silhouettes made of bubbles, but the future it wasn’t: this kind of presentation would have seem dated even in the early days of the Nintendo Wii, let alone the more powerful Microsoft Kinect.
More embarrassing was the line-up to get to the sparsely decorated third floor. Actually, there were two line-ups, theme-park style, as there was a bottleneck to get out of Walker Court, before another line-up for the elevator to get to the third floor. Trying to get back to the main floor from the third meant having to shove through the bottleneck, which got more difficult as the night went on.
This, in addition to unmemorable drinks and awful food—at turns imbalanced, too salty, or bland—meant that most of the evening, we were left wondering how this happened. Inside the gorgeous Frank Gehry–designed building, why both the lack of attention and ambition?
Maybe we were expecting too much, and from cursory glances at the crowd, attendees appeared to be enjoying themselves. Yet, when we left, we couldn’t help but feel disappointed. It’s perhaps what happens when promised the future and given something much less shiny.