Matthew Teitelbaum says goodbye to the AGO

Gallery director gave new energy to a staid institution

Matthew Teitelbaum is so busy preparing his exit strategy, he can barely keep up with current art issues.

The AGO director recently announced that, after 17 years, he’s leaving the gallery to take up the directorship of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts where, he says, he’s excited to be working at an institution with such an immense global reach.

He wouldn’t give an opinion on Luminato’s decision to rethink programming the controversial Exhibit B installation from South Africa. Curators are worried about criticisms that the show is racist.

“I don’t know about that. They’re keeping me here in my office,” Teitelbaum laughs. “Maybe they’re afraid of what I’m going to say.”

Teitelbaum is, however, happy to talk about his record at the AGO, including his First Thursdays art parties, innovative exhibits and Frank Gehry-designed edifice.

“I’m proudest of the way we’ve been touching people’s emotions and of the new ways gallery-goers have been thinking of art in terms of contemporary life.

“It’s turned into a place for convening, with an energy that didn’t exist before.”

Under Teitelbaum’s direction, the AGO has seen a significant increase in politically pointed shows – Ai Weiwei’s in particular – and an rise in the number of works by women and first nations artists.

But a gap still exists when it comes to African-Canadian artists.

Teitelbaum’s philosophical about that.

“A healthy institution creates yearning for better representation,” he says. | @susangcole

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