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The AGO’s Art Rental + Sales Gallery

Art matters.

“Art matters!” proclaims the Art Gallery of Ontario. But while the earnest gallery labours to engender its motto, what place does art really hold in the day-to-day lives of most individuals? If we take this motto to heart, it’s harder to endure framed postcards, generic reproductions and crafty homemade wall fillers. Original art is expensive, after all. And how do you know you’ll like it when you get it home? What if you’re one of those people who is constantly shuffling the furniture?

Well, the AGO hears you. It’s been hearing you since 1965, the inaugural year of its Art Rental + Sales Gallery, established specifically to help bring “art and people together”. Sure, you can buy the art; but for roughly three per cent of the purchase price each month, AGO members can rent any piece for three to six months at a time.

Imagine the freedom. Not only does this allow one to test drive a potential purchase (the first three months’ rent will be put toward the purchase price should you decide to keep it), it allows for art to be consumed in a whole new way: as an occasional indulgence. Need a striking focal point for your dining room this holiday season? Or how about a conversation piece for your living room? Perhaps your office could use a touch-up on client appreciation day…

No, you can’t rent a Henry Moore, but you can select from a well-rounded roster of paintings, drawings, photographs, original prints and sculptures sourced from esteemed galleries and independent artists from across Canada.

In fact, the rental gallery, on Toronto’s University Avenue (located there until further notice while the AGO gets its Frank Gehry makeover), is a one-stop shop for keeping abreast of the Canadian art scene. Modular racks resembling a giant filing system harbour an ever-changing collection of works from both established and up-and-coming contemporary artists, with styles ranging from realism to abstract art. “Chances are, anyone who is anyone in Canada has been showcased here,” says art rental coordinator Barbara Shadbolt, pointing out artists like Kazuo Nakamura, Edward Burtynsky and Michael Snow. So if you’re looking to invest in a new work of art, perhaps renting a masterpiece is the way to go. Just be sure to watch those late fees.

Photo ©2007 Art Gallery of Ontario.