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Acclaimed international artist Francis Alÿs mixes politics, play and poetry in timely solo exhibition at AGO

Featuring large-scale video installations, paintings and drawings, A Story of Negotiation opens with free curator and artist talk on December 7

Celebrated for his artworks that engage with some of today’s most relevant and urgent social issues, Belgian-Mexican artist Francis Alÿs (b. 1959) returns to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) this winter with a solo exhibition of over 300 works. A Story of Negotiation features three of the artist’s most important videoworks from the last decade, each accompanied by a selection of Alÿs’ paintings, drawings and sculptures. Fascinated by how children create their own worlds, Alÿs takes an approach that is equally poetic and political, often drawing on familiar childhood games to make sense of the world’s larger social issues, including migration patterns, contemporary warfare and shifting borders. The exhibition opens on Dec. 8, 2016 and runs to April 2, 2017.

Organized in conjunction with the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City and making its only Canadian stop in Toronto, A Story of Negotiation is curated by Mexican curator and historian Cuauhtémoc Medina, and coordinated at the AGO by Kitty Scott, Carol and Morton Rapp Curator, Modern & Contemporary Art.

Situated in the fifth floor of the AGO’s Contemporary Tower, the exhibition is organized around three films: Tornado (2000–10), a depiction of the artist’s encounters with Mexico’s “dust devils”; Don’t Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River (2008), an imagining of a bridge across the Strait of Gibraltar, which separates Africa and Europe; and REEL-UNREEL (2011), a film set in Kabul whose narrative begins in the children’s game of hoop and stick. Each of these large-scale video works is amplified by a selection of small paintings and drawings.

“Some of the issues and themes addressed in Francis Alys’s paintings are highly relevant to the contemporary migrant experience,” says Kitty Scott. “In translating his own experiences, he invites us to join a global conversation.”

Francis Alÿs: A Story of Negotiation is created by Francis Alÿs in collaboration with Emilio Rivera, Daniel Toxqui, Julien Devaux, Elena Pardo, Rafael Ortega, Felix Blume and Raul Ortega. It is organized by the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo and the Fundación Olga y Rufino Tamayo, A.C.

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, exhibition curator Cuauhtémoc Medina will give a free talk followed by a Q&A with the artist on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. Tickets for the talk, which begins at 5:30 p.m. in the AGO’s Baillie Court, can be reserved online.

Free with general admission, Family Sundays in February engage with the artist’s often playful themes, with a variety of drop-in programing happening each Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. For more details visit

The Kids Gallery of Ontario returns on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017, for another artful Family Day of fun. Inspired by Francis Alÿs: A Story of Negotiation, the “KGO” presents artful activities for all ages, including kite-making, free film screenings, games and gallery-wide activations. More details will be announced in the New Year.

Born in 1959 in Antwerp, Belgium, Francis Alÿs originally trained as an architect. He moved to Mexico City in 1986, where he continues to live and work, and it was the confrontation with issues of urbanization and social unrest in his new country that inspired his decision to become a visual artist. Alÿs’ immersive approach to his projects allows him to capture ways in which works on canvas and paper can be a mode of broader reflection on social and geopolitical issues. Alÿs’ work is found in collections worldwide, including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate Gallery, London; and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

This exhibition is generously supported by:

Robert Harding and Angel Yang
Nadir and Shabin Mohamed
Jay Smith and Laura Rapp

With assistance from:

The Jack Weinbaum Foundation
Elisa Nuyten and David Dime

With a collection of more than 90,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’s masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002, Ken Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. The AGO has an active membership program offering great value, and the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre offers engaging art and creative programs for children, families, youth and adults. Visit to learn more.

Oct. 22, 2016 – Jan. 29, 2017:  Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more

April 22 – July 30, 2017:          Georgia O’Keeffe

Sept. 30, 2017 – Jan. 7, 2018: Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism,Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.

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