The Art Gallery of Ontario—Ontario's Great Asset
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 14 Oct 1971, p. 21-32
Bovey, Edmund C., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
A tribute to Henry Moore by Honourable John P. Robarts, Former Premier of Ontario. Mr. Bovey begins with a review of the donation by Henry Moore, then a brief history of the Art Gallery of Ontario and its various stages of development. A description of the Capital Fund Campaign and its goal of raising $5 million to make up the balance between the Province's grant and the total cost of new facilities. A description of the project for the new Gallery buildings, to be built in two phases. The international standing of the AGO. Reasons why business and industry should be interested in supporting the AGO. The cultural role of the AGO.
Date of Original
14 Oct 1971
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Full Text
OCTOBER 14, 1971
The Art Gallery of Ontario--Ontario's Great Asset
CHAIRMAN The President,
Henry N. R. Jackman


This third meeting of the Empire Club's 1971-72 season is called for two purposes; first, to pay tribute to Henry Moore, one of the world's greatest artists; and, secondly, to hear about the plans for the extension of the Art Gallery of Ontario, a gallery which is rapidly becoming one of the greatest of its kind in the world.

As will be mentioned here today, the names of Henry Moore and that of the Art Gallery of Ontario are becoming inseparably linked, so that in the future one will not think of our gallery without being conscious of the magnificent work and contribution of our honoured guest and the special debt which we and future generations from this Province will owe to this great man.

To pay a special tribute to our distinguished guest, we have with us today the Honourable John Robarts. This, I might add, is the first time that we have had John Robarts officially at our head table since he retired as Premier of Ontario some seven months ago. We are indeed happy to have him here with us once again.

This is of course not the time or place to pay tribute to everything that John Robarts has done for this Province. However, I would indeed be remiss if I did not mention that if it were not for the sympathetic interest, the encouragement and the support given by Premier Robarts and his Government, the dream of Mrs. Zacks and her late husband and Ed Bovey and all those others associated with them, to make our gallery into the new Art Gallery of Ontario would not have been possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Honourable John Robarts.


Mr. Chairman, your Worship, Mr. Moore, honoured guests, and ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be included in this meeting today. I do not spend as much time in this room as I once did, and it is fun to be back, particularly on this occasion when we are paying a tribute to Mr. Henry Moore, who has done so much and is doing so much presently for our Art Gallery of Ontario.

As the Leader of the Government of course one becomes involved in many, many things; I suppose eventually in all aspects of the life of our people in this Province. My association with the Art Gallery and those who support it has been one of pleasure and enjoyment and benefit to myself. I enjoyed it very much indeed.

We decided some years ago that we needed to give a little more support as a Government to some of the artistic and cultural aspects of life in the Province. That is when we changed the Toronto Art Gallery to the Art Gallery of Ontario, in order that we would make it a province-wide institution which would thus warrant and merit greater support from the Provincial Government.

At that time Sam Zacks and Mrs. Zacks were personal friends of Mr. Moore's, and the whole idea of a Moore Gallery came into being. Sam Zacks came to see me, and from there the whole idea developed its own impetus, although I do feel myself that without Sam Zacks' constant persistence and his very close personal connection with Mr. Moore we might not be doing what we are doing today.

I am delighted, sir, to say thank you on behalf of the people of Ontario whom I used to represent, because these events did take place--at least, a great part of them took place during my term of office. We are all grateful to you.

We are delighted that you take such an interest in our City and our Province and in our Art Gallery. We are creating something here that will be a lasting memorial to you and to your art and to your genius. It will also be a long and lasting source of enjoyment, education and appreciation to our people in this Province.

I thank you Mr. Jackman, for giving me the opportunity of coming here today and expressing these few thoughts.

Mr. Moore, I hope your visit to Toronto will be pleasant; and I hope that you will be properly entertained, as I am sure you will. Our most sincere thanks to you.


Thank you Mr. Robarts.

Before coming here I said I hoped I would not have to speak, because I think that sculptors and painters--it is not their job. But I cannot sit and just say nothing after the wonderfully warm welcome and the great friendliness that one feels.

I think this is now my third visit to Toronto. On the first occasion I felt such a warmth and natural friendship. And I felt I had been here before. There is something about Toronto that immediately made me feel at home. The second visit was the same. And here we are on the third one; and I feel just the same.

I would like to thank all of you-Mr. Robarts, Ed Bovey, Ayala Zacks, and of course if Sam were alive, him too, and everybody, for the kind welcome that you have given me.

Thank you all very much.


Our principal speaker today is Edmund C. Bovey, immediate past president of the Art Gallery of Ontario. And when he is not engaged in the work connected with the Art Gallery he has a part-time job as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Northern and Central Gas Corporation.

To make a formal introduction of Ed Bovey to those of you here who are friends of the Gallery would be as equally unnecessary as to make an introduction to a group of financial and business executives who know him equally well.

As Chief Executive of the Northern and Central Gas Corporation for the past six years, he has been primarily responsible for changing that company from a small natural gas utility serving a few isolated towns in Northern Ontario into one of Canada's truly great corporations with interests in almost every province and supplying natural gas to a service area which includes almost one out of every four Canadians.

At a time when we hear more and more about foreign domination of our natural resource industries the creation of a truly great company which is Canadian in every way is certainly a remarkable achievement.

When the biographer of the late John David Rockefeller, the Standard Oil multi-millionaire was searching for a title for his book he entitled that biography "A Portrait in Oils". I think, ladies and gentlemen, that you will probably consider it inappropriate (particularly when I am going to be asking him to speak to you in about one minute's time) if I were to suggest that when the definitive biography of Edmund C. Bovey is written, it be entitled a portrait in some other petro-chemical substance.

But I will leave comparisons of John D. Rockfeller and Ed Bovey to history. I would simply like to pay tribute not only to Mr. Bovey but to our entire free enterprise system that men with his ability and intelligence can devote so much of their time and energy to providing the means whereby the cultural life of our community can be enriched for the enjoyment of us all.

His business accomplishments speak for themselves--a member of the Board of Governors of Seneca College, a director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; but most important of all to us here today, a trustee and immediate past president of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

I now have the great pleasure of presenting to you Mr. Edmund Bovey, who will speak to us on the subject "The Art Gallery of Ontario, Ontario's Great Asset".


Mr. President, guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is my great pleasure to share this head table and program today with such distinguished visitors. I apologize to all of you for taking advantage of this event to talk to you about my favourite subject, the Art Gallery of Ontario, as I am sure you would much rather hear more from either Mr. Moore or Mr. Robarts. But you were duly alerted in the advance notice of this luncheon that I would be speaking to you, so I assume since you are still here, that you intend to hear me out, regardless of the consequences.

It will be three years ago this coming January, that a number of us present today, attended a memorable dinner at the White Tower Restaurant in London to acknowledge Henry Moore's splendid gift to the Art Gallery of Ontario and the people of Ontario, in fact, the people of Canada. There was also another reason. Quite frankly, we wanted Premier Robarts to meet Henry, as the main condition of his gift was that the AGO would build an addition to house the many pieces of sculpture which we would receive. To do this, we needed provincial assistance, and as you all know by now, we have not been disappointed. The Province's generous grant of twelve million, seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars will make it possible to build, not only the Moore Wing, but also a very major expansion which will enable the Gallery to house the other magnificent collections we have since received--namely, the bequest of more than 500 works of 20th century art from Sam and Ayala Zacks, and the Charles Band, the J. S. McLean and Douglas Duncan collections.

All of these developments, along with John Robarts' deep understanding and appreciation of what was in store for the people of Ontario, served as important catalysts to make it possible for all of us to attend this luncheon, and for me to give you some of the highlights of a truly exciting story.

Mr. Moore is giving to the Art Gallery of Ontario, and to Canada, a priceless collection of his sculptures and drawings. But, and perhaps this is equally important, with the Henry Moore collection, and the other gifts that I have mentioned, we were given something additional; the much needed stimulus required to work towards enlarging the gallery's facilities, and to help bring to the AGO, the recognition it deserves; that is, an art gallery of international calibre and renown.

I feel it says a very great deal for Canada, and for the Art Gallery of Ontario in particular, that this famous artist should wish to entrust an important collection of his works to us, making our city one of the very few world locations where the creative genius of Mr. Moore may be viewed and studied under ideal conditions.

Ideal conditions, unfortunately, are precisely what the Art Gallery of Ontario has been less and less able to provide in its galleries and rooms which it has occupied for 60 of its 71 years of existence.

The Gallery, originally the Art Museum of Toronto, was actually founded in 1900, although it had no home whatsoever for 11 years, until Mrs. Goldwin Smith donated The Grange. The Art Museum was officially opened in 1913, and the first modest expansion was carried out in 1918, the year before the name was changed to the Art Gallery of Toronto.

Further expansions were carried out in 1924, again in 1926, and in 1935. Since then, no expansion has taken place, incredible as that may seem. I think it is no exaggeration to say that the Gallery, much as its friends regard it highly, has assumed a certain state of obsolescence. In short, it is straining at the seams.

On September 9th, Premier Davis officially "broke the ground" for the addition of extensive new facilities. This was especially significant, because it marked the actual start of an almost $18 million expansion program.

The $5 million needed to make up the balance between the Province's grant and the total cost of the project, is to be raised from the public. I am honoured to be the Chairman of the Capital Fund Campaign whose responsibility it is to raise this amount. I am pleased to advise you that we already have an important amount of our objective on hand as a result of advance gifts from trustees and corporations. In my role as chairman, it is my very great pleasure to be associated with the many distinguished citizens of Ontario who have volunteered their help.

The Capital Campaign is now underway, and I am confident we will be successful, because the people of Ontario are aware of the importance of the contribution which the AGO makes to the life of the Province. It is the first campaign of its kind conducted by the Gallery since 1935, and the amount we are expecting to raise should carry the Gallery through until the end of this century.

The new Gallery buildings, to be built in two phases, will be completed in 1975, providing five and a half times more space than is now available. This will mean not only more space for hanging pictures and displaying sculpture, but also much improved working facilities for receiving and shipping, education and extension; and for curatorial and executive staff.

Statistics, as we all well know, are both boring and suspect, and I do not propose to inflict any on you this afternoon; however, I would like to point out that the exhibitions organized by the Gallery in recent years have attracted astonishing numbers of people, not only from Toronto, but from other communities in the Province.

Such is the international standing of our Art Gallery, and the professional reputation of its staff, that private and public owners in many parts of the world have readily lent famous paintings, drawings and sculptures for such memorable exhibitions as "Rembrandt and His Pupils", "Picasso and Man", "Canaletto", Henry Moore, Mondrian, Van Gogh, Delacroix, to name a few, which have been seen by nearly 400,000 visitors.

An example of leadership in the international art world is the exhibition of works now on view at the Gallery by Edouard Vuillard--a most important post-Impressionist artist.

The AGO initiated and organized this comprehensive and fully documented show, gathering examples of Vuillard's work from all over the world. Being able to do this, is in my view, a good example of the reputation of the AGO as one of the world's important art galleries, and as such should certainly be a source of pride to every Canadian. The Vuillard show will go from Toronto to San Francisco's Palace of the Legion of Honour, and then on to the Chicago Art Institute. These prestigious museums have asked the AGO to make the exhibition available to them; yet another indication, surely, of the international status of our Art Gallery.

These notable exhibitions to which I have just referred, have certainly identified Toronto as a cultural centre.

The dividends which the lively and active Art Gallery of Ontario yields cannot, perhaps, be accurately measured in dollars and cents. Its value goes far beyond this. Of course, the visitors which it attracts to our city do spend significant sums of money here . . . so that the dividends are none the less real, tangible, and of great and growing importance to our community. They are, moreover, important to business and to industry; to you and to me personally, because the Art Gallery adds much to the amenities of life in our Province. More specifically, whether it is the executive at his desk, the engineer, lawyer, doctor or countless other men, women and children who all contribute to the fabric of our society, we all benefit from the presence on Dundas Street of this splendid store house with its imaginative appeal to our senses; a witness to much of our heritage, and, as I have said on another occasion, a mirror of the creative trends of our day.

There are many more reasons, as valid as any I have attempted to convey, why business and industry in this Province should wish to identify with the Art Gallery of Ontario. This can be done in many ways: by volunteering to serve on its various committees, by contributing to its campaign fund and by speaking for the Gallery where their voices command respect.

I think it must be recognized that, over the past few years, the modern corporation has evolved into a social as well as an economic institution. It has developed ideals and additional important responsibilities. It has become a full-fledged corporate citizen of the community, of the city and of the country.

Corporations are expected to meet certain standards of good citizenship. They are expected to initiate their share of socially responsible action and not merely respond submissively to outside forces. Corporate support of the arts, which until comparatively recently was of a relatively minor dollar and cents nature, has broadened to a much more active involvement. And there is growing evidence of this involvement.

In short, I feel that business now more realistically recognizes that what is good for the community is good for business--and good for the country.

If living and working in Ontario today is much fuller of interest and opportunity than it used to be ten, twenty or thirty years ago, some of the credit for the changes must go to the contribution which the Art Gallery of Ontario has made.

Toronto has a growing reputation as one of that international "club" of cities which exerts an attraction not only to tourists, but also to potentially new corporate citizens and new residents. London, Geneva, Rome, Paris, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro are members of the "club".

They all share one common feature--the excellence of their art galleries and museums. Can one think of Paris, for example, without the Louvre coming to mind? Or of Rome without thinking of the Capitoline Gallery? Madrid has the Prado and London, the Tate Gallery. The Art Gallery of Ontario, even with its limited facilities, has been to Toronto what these other galleries and museums are to the cities in which they are located; and it will become even more so with its expanded facilities.

I would like to give you, very briefly, some figures which will help to explain the very important work done by the Education and Extension Department of the Art Gallery, which serves many centres in Ontario outside of the city of Toronto.

In 1970-71, the AGO sent a wide range of circulating exhibitions to 123 communities throughout the province. These exhibitions were seen by approximately 132-million people.

Every year, in addition, the audio visual library of the Education and Extension Department offers for loan a comprehensive collection of 23,000 colour slides, together with explanatory teaching portfolios to illustrate lectures and discussions in Ontario's schools, colleges and universities.

Together with this, many special programs, such as lectures in conjunction with exhibitions; tours; films; theatre; and evenings organized by universities and community colleges, are regularly arranged during the winter and spring.

The very considerable work of preparing these extension activities, of assembling and hanging the great series of exhibitions in the Gallery itself year after year, of caring for and displaying the Gallery's own permanent collections, is still going on in premises to which no addition has been made in over thirty years. Because of this, it has not been possible to show more than a fraction of the Gallery's collection at any one time.

We are now witnessing however, the start of a new era of vastly improved facilities. Premier Davis has broken new ground for the Gallery. The architects next month will call for tenders for construction of the new complex.

I cannot, in conclusion, resist the temptation to mention a cartoon I noticed in, I think, "Saturday Review", the other day.

Presenting his bill to a solitary diner in a corner off the crowded main restaurant of the Waldorf Astoria, the waiter tells him: "It appears, sir, that you have inadvertently been served the $200-a-plate dinner for the Republican candidate . . . ."

Yours, then, ladies and gentlemen, has been the $5 million lunch for the Art Gallery of Ontario!

Seriously, I regard your kind invitation to speak to you today about the Art Gallery of Ontario, its present and its future, as a very important indication that our campaign will experience the support from the people of Ontario which will make it an unqualified success.

Thank you.

Mr. Bovey was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada by Mr. Marvin Gelber.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Henry Moore, O.M., C.H., one of the world's foremost living artists had recently donated to The Art Gallery of Ontario, a priceless collection of his sculptures and drawings. This magnificent gift coincided with generous bequests of works of art from the collections of the late Samuel Zacks, Charles Band, J. S. McLean and Douglas Duncan.

To house these works of art, The Art Gallery of Ontario announced an $18-million addition to its present premises to be completed by 1975. This address coincided with the official sod-turning ceremony and the launching of a public campaign for the necessary funds.

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The Art Gallery of Ontario—Ontario's Great Asset

A tribute to Henry Moore by Honourable John P. Robarts, Former Premier of Ontario. Mr. Bovey begins with a review of the donation by Henry Moore, then a brief history of the Art Gallery of Ontario and its various stages of development. A description of the Capital Fund Campaign and its goal of raising $5 million to make up the balance between the Province's grant and the total cost of new facilities. A description of the project for the new Gallery buildings, to be built in two phases. The international standing of the AGO. Reasons why business and industry should be interested in supporting the AGO. The cultural role of the AGO.