Glittering art from the Americas, Spain and the Philippines arrives in Toronto this summer, only at the AGO

Exhibit highlights artistic exchange across two oceans, features paintings by Velázquez and El Greco, jewelry, textiles, books, sculptures and never before seen historic photographs of the Philippines

Faith and Fortune: Art Across the Global Spanish Empire showcases works from the collection of the Hispanic Society Museum & Library

TORONTO— This summer, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) presents an eye-opening exhibition of sumptuous paintings, maps, textiles, jewels, rare daguerreotypes and religious objects from Europe, the Americas and the Philippines, from the collection of the Hispanic Society Museum & Library of New York. Faith and Fortune: Art Across the Global Spanish Empire opens at the AGO on June 8, 2022.  

Curated by the AGO’s Assistant Curator of European Art, Adam Harris Levine, the exhibition presents artworks by revered and unknown Latin American, Filipino and Spanish artists and explores the colonial frameworks that shaped their production and reception. A consultation panel of Toronto-based Latinx and Filipinx scholars and artists worked with the curator to help shape an exhibition that both highlights the beauty of these objects and the reality of their creation. Their voices are heard throughout the exhibition, as part of the exhibitions extensive audio guide.

For nearly four centuries, between 1492 and 1898, the kings and queens of Spain controlled large parts of the world. Their pursuit of gold, gemstones and natural resources created an empire that for a time, spanned both oceans.  Art, books and religious imagery were a powerful means of unifying their vast and varied empire, and the Spanish empire encouraged artistic production across its territories. Painters, sculptors, printers, and other artisans travelled extensively, creating, through artistic and material exchange, a rich and complex visual culture.

“These sumptuous and stirring works reveal cross-cultural exchange – of ideas, of people, of materials – on a global scale. As historic as these artworks were, embedded in their creation are issues that we continue to confront today – the persistence of anti-Indigenous stereotypes, of racial categories, of flawed legal systems, of pollution from resource extraction. In them, and in the context of their making, we better understand our present condition,” says Levine. “These four centuries of art provide a unique perspective on the lasting legacies of colonization and the role of art.”

Filipino-Canadian artist and designer Tahnee Ann Macabali Pantig joins the exhibition as guest curator, overseeing the installation of 15 never before exhibited daguerreotypes from the Philippines, dating from c. 1840-1845.  Only recently rediscovered, these significant images offer says Pantig “a rare window into the Philippines at a critical time of political and cultural change and an opportunity for those in the Filipinx community to reclaim these images as our own and to consider how colonialism has shaped how we see our history.”

Faith and Fortune: Art Across the Global Spanish Empire from the collection of the Hispanic Society Museum & Library is free for AGO Members, Annual Passholders and visitors aged 25 and under. AGO Members see it first, when it opens June 8, 2022.  Same day tickets can now be booked in person and online. For more details on how to book your tickets or to become a Member or Annual Passholder, visit



Organized chronologically, the exhibition begins with the earliest episode of colonization — Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. Illustrating the formation of the Empire is a selection of ceramics, textiles and religious paintings – objects all made in Spain with materials from the Americas and Asia, reflecting the dominant styles and techniques of European art. A gold pendant in the shape of a centaur, made of sapphires, rubies and pearls, c. 1580-1620 and a disc of gold bullion, dated 1622 from the Thomson Collection of European Art, are just a few of the glittering examples of the gold trade that fueled the Spanish Empire’s expansion.

Impassioned representations of Saint Jerome (1600) and Saint Sebastian (1603-7) by El Greco and Alonso Vázquez highlight a section dedicated to Catholic imagery and its role in empire building. From Peru, a processional shield from c. 1620-1650 depicting the Virgin Mary and the Nativity, of oil on copper and wrought iron, demonstrates the local adoption of and market for religious icons.

Sculpture, ranging from gilded wooden figures to a lacquered portable writing desk and elaborately carved wooden boxes, features prominently in the exhibition. Ecuadorean Indigenous sculptor Manuel Chili’s striking series of four wood carvings The Fates of Man (c. 1775) presents in feverish detail the potential rewards and pains of the afterlife.

A section dedicated to seafaring and map making, features some of the oldest objects in the exhibition, including a series of five charts illustrating the Atlantic Ocean from Iceland to Port of Good Hope from 1558. Diego Velázquez’s full sized portrait of Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares from (1625-26), is one of many works showcasing the Spanish Empire at the height of its power in the 17th century.

Pottery and lacquer ware from Mexico and Columbia, exemplify how Indigenous artisans, working for settler patrons and drawing upon examples and artistic traditions imported from across Asia, the Americas and Europe, created their own recognizable styles. These works, reflect the importance of the Spanish trade routes between Acapulco and Manila.

The exhibition concludes with a selection of never before exhibited daguerreotypes, dating from c. 1840-1845. An early form of photography, using silvered copper plates, daguerreotypes were popular in the mid-19th century. Guest curated by Filipino-Canadian artist and designer Tahnee Ann Macabali Pantig, these images offer stunning views of Manila and its surroundings, including the Marikina River and Laguna province, and are thought to be the work of Jules Alphonse Eugene Itier (1802-1877), a French Government official whose career took him around the world.

On Saturday, June 11, exhibition curators Adam Harris Levine and Tahnee Ann Macabali Pantig join interpretive planner Gillian McIntyre for a free conversation about Faith and Fortune: Art Across the Global Spanish Empire. For more details and to register, visit  

Celebrate the sounds of the Americas and Philippines! Beginning Friday, June 17 and continuing on select Fridays through July, Small World Music presents free live musical performances by Latinx and Filipinx performers in Walker Court from 5 to 9 p.m.

On Thursday, June 23 at 4 p.m., exhibition curator Adam Harris Levine joins Florina Capistrano-Baker, a curator and renowned expert on the art history of the Philippines in conversation The two will examine and highlight objects from Faith and Fortune: Art Across the Global Spanish Empire and examine the Philippines' era of Spanish colonisation, and local hybrid art forms. Free via Zoom. For more details about this free Zoom talk, visit

Opening on June 25, 2022, on level 1 of the AGO, also from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library, comes Treasures of Ancient Spain,  a selection of 28 objects from three important periods in Spanish history, dating as far back as 2500 BCE. Featuring, metalwork, rare Bell Beaker ceramics, Celtic jewellery and marble sculpture, these artifacts attest to Spain’s long history as a home to many cultures. Archer M. Huntington, the founder of the Hispanic Society Museum & Library was a passionate collector of ancient Spanish artifacts, funding numerous archeological digs. 

@AGOToronto | #SeeAGO 

This exhibition has been organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.  

Signature Partner: RBC

The Hispanic Society Museum & Library (HSM&L) is the primary institution and reference library dedicated solely to the preservation, study, understanding, exhibition and enjoyment of art and cultures of Portuguese and Spanish speaking countries and communities. Located in Upper Manhattan in the dynamic Washington Heights neighborhood, the museum has, since its inception, remained free of charge, providing unrivaled access to the most extensive collection of Hispanic art and literature outside of Spain and Latin America.

The museum’s permanent collection is unparalleled in its scope and quality, with half a million items that address nearly every aspect of cultures in Spain, Portugal and Latin America from antiquity to present day. HSM&L is unmatched in its multi-disciplinarity and broad historical and geographical extension of its art collection and library, highlighting Hispanic art and culture’s incredible breadth as seen through its diversified religious, cultural and geographical influences. The collection includes masterworks by El Greco, Velázquez, Rodríguez Juárez, Goya, Campeche, Arrieta, Sorolla, Orozco and Tàpies; sculptures by Pedro de Mena, Luisa Roldán and Caspicara and masterpieces in all areas of the decorative arts. The collections of the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books are among the most extensive outside Spain and the Library is available as a preeminent center for research on the history, art, and cultures of the Hispanic world,open to the public by appointment only.

Founded in 1904 by American scholar, philanthropist and collector Archer M. Huntington, the HSM&L was established on the premise of a passion for and curiosity of Hispanic and Latin American art, culture and history. While the HSM&L is one of the most historic cultural institutions in New York City, the museum has continued to adapt and serve the local community and growing Hispanic and Latino populations in the United States at large, opening its doors to inspire, enrich and educate the public.

Located in Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario is one of the largest art museums in North America, attracting approximately one million visitors annually. The AGO Collection of more than 120,000 works of art ranges from cutting-edge contemporary art to significant works by Indigenous and Canadian artists and European masterpieces. The AGO presents wide-ranging exhibitions and programs, including solo exhibitions and acquisitions by diverse and underrepresented artists from around the world. In 2019, the AGO launched a bold new initiative designed to make the museum even more welcoming and accessible with the introduction of free admission for anyone 25 years and under and a $35 annual pass. Visit to learn more.

The AGO is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. 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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