Anthropocene exhibition explores human impact on the planet

Opening Sept. 28 in Toronto, the exhibition takes visitors on a revelatory trip across the globe though large scale photographs by Edward Burtynsky, short films by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, and cutting edge augmented reality installations

TORONTO — Our planet is changing, faster than ever. This September, internationally acclaimed photographer Edward Burtynsky, and award-winning Toronto filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier present the dramatic findings – through photographs, film and innovative augmented reality (AR) installations – of their four-year investigation into how humans have impacted the Earth.

Opening at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Sept. 28, Anthropocene features more than 50 extraordinary works that reveal the many ways in which humans are transforming the planet, from concrete seawalls off the coast of China, to potash mines in Russia, marble quarries in Italy, landfills in Nairobi, logging in British Columbia and more. Anthropocene is curated by Sophie Hackett, the AGO’s Curator of Photography.

“The artists’ collaborative use of multimedia – including photographs, film and augmented reality – speaks to the complexity of the issue the exhibition explores: how humans are changing the planet. No single media can convey that vital and pressing theme with as much power,” says Sophie Hackett, the AGO’s Curator of Photography. “No matter the media used or how far the location – be it Kenya, Chile or British Columbia, what unites the work is that what happens across the globe affects us all.”

Organized in partnership with the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and co-produced with Fondazione MAST, Bologna, Italy, Anthropocene marks the first time that the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa will present simultaneous, complementary exhibitions. This reflects the urgent, global nature of this conversation, a conversation being led by Canadian artists. 

At the AGO, Anthropocene will fill the Sam & Ayala Zacks Pavilion, where all internal walls will be removed, for visitors to encounter 40 new and recent large scale photographs by Burtynsky, suspended in an open-concept environment. In addition to this forest of images, the exhibition will include seven short films by Baichwal and de Pencier, several of which provide aerial views that reveal the scale of human impact on different locations. Anchoring each space are massive, highly detailed mural-sized photographs by Burtynsky. Embedded in the murals is film footage, that when triggered, brings viewers a deeper understanding of the activity within, and context around, each scene.

A highlight of the exhibition are innovative AR experiences. Composed of thousands of still images and assembled through a process called photogrammetry, each AR installation, when triggered, brings the visitor close to a near-to-life-size 3D image. These cutting-edge AR installations are accessible via an app that will be free for visitors to download on their tablets and smartphones. Look for more details closer to the exhibition launch.

Timed-entry tickets for Anthropocene go on sale to the public on Sept. 14, 2018. They are $16.50 for post-secondary students and youth ages 17 and under, $21.50 for seniors and $25 for adults. Tickets will be available online at, in person and by phone. Admission is free for AGO Members and for children five and under. Exclusive Members’ previews are Sept. 25-27, 2018. More information about the benefits of AGO Membership can be found at

To celebrate this extraordinary exhibition, the AGO is offering an exciting line-up of events including talks, podcasts and an immersive Nuit Blanche experience, perfect for exploring the exhibition’s works and ideas from multiple perspectives.

The AGO once again opens its doors from dusk till dawn for free on Sept. 29, 2018 for Nuit Blanche Toronto. In honour of Anthropocene, visitors are invited to experience a unique immersive environment in Walker Court that encourages visitors to consider profound and lasting human impacts to the Earth. A specially created video installation by Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky will enable visitors to experience both old-growth forest and deforestation on Vancouver Island. For more details visit

Join artists Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier in Walker Court, on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. to celebrate the opening of Anthropocene. Featuring remarks and a cash bar, the artists will be on hand to sign copies of the exhibition catalogue.

This fall the AGO welcomes an exciting line-up of internationally renowned speakers whose experiences and research connects to how humans are shaping the planet. Speakers include:

  • The Walrus editor and author Harley Rustad, who launches his book, Big Lonely Doug: the story of one of Canada's last great trees, in early September. The book tells the story of a 226-foot tall Douglas Fir tree in B.C.'s Gordon River Valley and the logger who saved it from a clearcut. Rustad will be interviewed by Sarain Fox on Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. in Baillie Court. Tickets are $15 for Members, $17 for the Public and $12 for students. Tickets are on sale now at
  • Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier take the stage in Baillie Court on Wednesday Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. for a conversation about the making of Anthropocene. Tickets are $15 for Members, $17 for the Public, and $12 for students, and go onsale August 15 at

The AGO explores Anthropocene after dark with Climate Change, an exciting evening of performances and installations on Oct. 4, 2018. Tickets go on sale on Sept. 13, 2018 at

Launching on Sept. 28, in conjunction with the Anthropocene exhibition, the AGO presents Into the Anthropocene: Our Impact on Earth, a multi-episode podcast series hosted by storyteller and activist Sarain Fox. Featuring a diverse line up of scientists, writers, artists, poets, professors and activists, including Elizabeth Kolbert, Sheila Watt-Cloutier and Dr. Winnie Kiiru, each episode broadens the conversation sparked by the exhibition. The podcasts will be available for download on iTunes, Google Play and wherever you subscribe to podcasts. For more information visit

shopAGO will celebrate the exhibition with a variety of eco-friendly products. Highlights include recycled stationery products that can be planted, ethically produced T-shirts and tote bags, refillable water bottles and a selection of publications including both the AGO’s Anthropocene exhibition catalogue and the 224-page Anthropocene book published by Steidl. For more information visit

Full details for all Anthropocene events, programs and offerings can be found at

Anthropocene is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada, in partnership with Fondazione MAST, Bologna, Italy. Follow #AnthropoceneProject for updates.

Edward Burtynsky is known as one of the world’s most respected photographers. His remarkable photographic depictions of global industrial landscapes are included in the collections of over 60 major museums around the world, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California. His imagery explores human systems imposed on the land.

Burtynsky’s distinctions include the TED Prize, The Outreach Award at the Rencontres d’Arles, the Roloff Beny Book Award and the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award. He sits on the board of directors for the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival and The Ryerson Gallery and Research Center and is the Co-Founder of the Scotiabank Photography Award. In 2006 he was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Canada and in 2016 he received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. Most recently, Burtynsky was named Photo London's 2018 Master of Photography and the Mosaic Institute's 2018 Peace Patron. He currently holds eight honorary doctoral degrees.

Jennifer Baichwal has directed and produced documentaries for over 25 years. Her films have appeared around the world, winning awards nationally and internationally. Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles won an International Emmy in 1999. The Holier it Gets won Best Canadian Film at Hot Docs in 1999 and three Gemini Awards. Manufactured Landscapes, about the work of Edward Burtynsky in China, was released in 12 countries and won numerous international awards, including Best Canadian Feature Film at TIFF 2006. Act of God, about the metaphysical effects of being struck by lightning, opened the Hot Docs Film Festival in May 2009. Payback, an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Massey Lectures produced by Ravida Din and the National Film Board, premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012 and was released in Canada and the U.S. that spring. Watermark (co-directed by Edward Burtynsky, produced and filmed by Nicholas de Pencier) premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2013, won the Toronto Film Critic’s Association prize for Best Canadian Film 2014 and the Canadian Media Awards prize for Best Documentary 2014. Baichwal sits on the board of Swim Drink Fish Canada, and is a member of the Ryerson University School of Image Arts Advisory Council. She has been a Director of the Board of the Toronto International Film Festival since 2016, and is a passionate ambassador of their Share Her Journey campaign, a five-year commitment to increasing participation, skills, and opportunities for women behind and in front of the camera.

Nicholas de Pencier is a documentary Director, Producer, and Director of Photography. Selected credits include Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles (International Emmy), The Holier It Gets, (Best Canadian Doc, Hot Docs), The True Meaning of Pictures (Gemini, Best Arts), Hockey Nomad (Gemini, Best Sports), Manufactured Landscapes, (TIFF Best Canadian Feature; Genie, Best Doc), and Act of God (Gala Opening Night, Hot Docs). He was the Producer and Director of Photography of Watermark, (Special Presentation, TIFF & Berlin, Toronto Film Critics Award, Best Canadian Film, CSA Best Documentary), and Black Code (TIFF 2016), which he also wrote and directed. de Pencier is on the board of directors of Hot Docs and DOC Toronto.

More recently, Baichwal and de Pencier have moved into video installation work, producing content for the Tragically Hip’s Fully Completely and Man Machine Poem tours (2014/2016), as well as collaborating with the Rheostatics for Music Inspired by the Group of Seven at the AGO (2015). Their latest installation Ice Forms was part of The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris, also at the AGO. In 2017, Baichwal and de Pencier co-directed Long Time Running, a feature documentary on the Tragically Hip's poignant final tour. The documentary premiered at TIFF 2017, and was released by Elevation Pictures, and broadcast by Bell and Netflix.

Anthropocene is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada, in partnership with Fondazione MAST.

Presenting Sponsor                     Scotia Wealth Management                                        In Partnership with          TELUS

Lead Supporter                           Hal Jackman Foundation

Generous support from                Greg & Susan Guichon
                                                 Richard M. Ivey and Richard & Donna Ivey 
                                                 Suzanne Ivey Cook and Rosamond Ivey
Robin & David Young

Generous assistance from            Michael Barnstijn & Louise MacCallum
                                                 The McLean Foundation
Gretchen & Donald Ross

With additional assistance from     Donner Canadian Foundation

Government Partners                   Canada Council for the Arts

This event has been financially assisted by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund of the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport administered by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund Corporation

Special thank you to Panasonic for its assistance with the Nuit Blanche installation.

Located in Toronto, Canada’s largest city of 5.9 million, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of the largest art museums in North America. The AGO’s collection of close to 95,000 works ranges from cutting-edge contemporary art such as Untilled by Pierre Huyghe to European masterpieces such as Peter Paul Rubens’s The Massacre of The Innocents; from the vast collection by the Group of Seven to works by established and emerging Indigenous Canadian artists; with a photography collection that tracks the impact of the medium with deep holdings of works by artists such as Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus; and with focused collections in Gothic boxwood miniatures and Western and Central African art. Drawing on this collection—as well as collaborations with museums around the world—the AGO presents wide-ranging exhibitions and programs, taking special care to showcase diverse and underrepresented artists. A major expansion designed by Frank Gehry in 2008 with lead support from the family of Ken Thomson makes the AGO a highly-photographed architectural landmark. Visit and follow @AGOToronto to learn more.

The Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada is a creative and innovative centre dedicated to sharing, collecting, and questioning photography in all its forms. It brings people and communities together at the museum, online, and around publications to see, appreciate, and study photography. The Canadian Photography Institute was established in 2015 and officially launched in October 2016. Its collections build upon the National Gallery’s Photographs Collection. The Institute benefits from the unprecedented support of CPI’s Founding Partner Scotiabank, the Archive of Modern Conflict and the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. For more information, visit:

The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada’s premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st centuries, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @NatGalleryCan, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

The MAST Foundation is a non-profit institution in Bologna, Italy, created in 2013 to develop a cultural centre (MAST), which aims to promote corporate and social welfare, to foster creativity among the younger generations by offering educational programs for children, teenagers and adults, and to support projects related to photography. The MAST Collection consists of over 3000 works that trace the history of photography and tell the story of the extraordinary significance of industry and labour from the end of the 19th century until today. The PhotoGallery is an exhibition space curated by Urs Stahel presenting group and solo projects by celebrated photographers and younger talents. The MAST Foundation also organizes Foto/Industria, Biennial of Photography on Industry and Work, which reached in 2017 its third year with 14 exhibitions.

July 12 – Oct. 21, 2018:                   Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental

Sept. 28 2018 – Jan. 6 2019:           Anthropocene

Feb. 16, 2019 – May 5, 2019:          Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and More

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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