Lights! Camera! Action! The AGO gets cinematic this winter

The world’s best artists grace the AGO’s silver screen

TORONTO— Winter 2017 marks the return of regular cinema programming to the AGO’s own Jackman Hall, as the AGO and Films We Like co-present a screening series featuring the best of films by artists, about artists. New feature documentaries, biopics, and artist film and video are complimented with guest experts to introduce the Wednesday evening premieres of each selected film. Highlights of the winter program include Burden, which gives audiences an inside look into the life and work of the late performance artist and sculptor Chris Burden, and the great Polish director Andrzej Wajda’s passionate biopic about avant-garde artist Władysław StrzemińskiAfterimage. Art on Screen debuts on January 18, 2017 with the Canadian theatrical premiere of Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey’s documentary on Robert Mapplethorpe, whose controversial photographs of the 1970s New York BDSM scene caused national debate.

Screenings run from January to March, with premieres on Wednesday evenings and repeat performances Thursday-Sunday.


Art on Screen Winter 2017 programme:

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures

Dirs. Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, 2016, USA/Germany, 108 mins

January 18-21, 2017

“Look at the pictures.” With these words, Jesse Helms denounced the work of Robert Mapplethorpe. Twenty-five years later, the first and most complete documentary about the artist since his death, by acclaimed directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, does just that,with unprecedented unlimited access to his archives and work.  

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures features interviews with key collaborators, friends and family, including his older sister Nancy and youngest brother Edward, however the most prominent voice in the documentary is Mapplethorpe's own. Thanks to a number of rediscovered interviews, he is our narrator.

The result is a portrait of the artist who dedicated his life not only to becoming an artist but also to making his chosen medium, photography, respected and valued as a fine art. He succeeded, his final show, The Perfect Moment, self-planned as he was dying of AIDS, proved to be a time bomb, igniting a culture war that still reverberates today.

Courtesy HBO Canada


Dir. Andrzej Wajda, 2016, Poland, 98 mins

February 1-4, 2017

The final film directed by the Polish master Andrzej Wajda, Afterimage tells the story of avant-garde painter Władysław Strzemiński (1893-1952) and his efforts to resist the socialist realism enforced by the Communist regime in post-war Poland. Strzemiński thrived in the early 20th century as a leader of the Soviet-spawned Constructivist avant-garde movement. The film focuses on the last four years of his life, starting with his vocal rejection of the Stalinist crackdown on abstract and his focus on formalist art in favour of a strict code of socialist realist propaganda. The tragic consequences of this struggle for artistic freedom in a totalitarian system of power unfold slowly at first, but gradually lead a charismatic, defiant man into the abyss.

Courtesy Films We Like

Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art

Dir. James Crump, 2015, USA, 72 mins

February 15-16 and February 22-25, 2017

Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art unearths the history of land art in the tumultuous late 1960s and early 1970s. The film features a cadre of renegade New York artists that sought to transcend the limitations of painting and sculpture by producing earthworks on a monumental scale in the desolate desert spaces of the American southwest.

Today these works remain impressive not only for the sheer audacity of their makers but also for their out-sized ambitions to break free from traditional norms. The film casts these artists in a heroic light, which is exactly how they saw themselves. Iconoclasts who changed the landscape of art forever, these revolutionary, antagonistic creatives risked their careers on radical artistic change and experimentation, and took on the establishment to produce art on their own terms.

The film includes rare footage and interviews which unveil the enigmatic lives and careers of storied artists Robert Smithson (Spiral Jetty), Walter De Maria (The Lightning Field) and Michael Heizer (Double Negative); a headstrong troika that established the genre.

Courtesy Films We Like


Dir. Christian Schwochow, 2016, Germany, 123 mins

March 1-4, 2017

Swiss actress Carla Juri stars as German Expressionist painter Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876 – 1907) in this compelling story of an avant-garde artist and feminist fighting to create art in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. 

Bein a painter was an unacceptable vocation for a woman in provincial Germany in the year 1900, but budding artist Paula Becker was determined to make her own rules. The exuberant 24-year-old rejected the conventional and explored her unique style. She flourished in the countryside art community of Worpswede, where she developed friendships with artist Clara Westhoff and poet Rainer Maria Rilke. 

However her marriage to fellow painter Otto Modersohn and the accompanying enforced domesticity took its toll on Paula's spirit, and she traveled alone to modern Paris  and embarked on a period that became her most creatively compelling. 

Courtesy Films We Like

Eva Hesse

Dir. Marcie Begleiter, 2016, USA/Germany, 108 mins

March 1-4, 2017

As the 1960s came to a close, Eva Hesse, a 34 year-old German-born American artist was cresting the wave of a swiftly rising career. One of the few women recognized as central to the New York art scene, she had over 20 group shows confirmed for 1970 and an upcoming cover story in ArtForum scheduled. Her work was finally receiving both the critical and commercial attention it deserved. When she died in May, 1970 from a brain tumour, the life of one of that decades’ most passionate and brilliant artists was tragically cut short.

As Jonathon Keats wrote in Art & Antiques Magazine "Yet the end of her life proved to be only the beginning of her career. A couple of solo gallery shows she hustled in the 11 years following her graduation from the Yale School of Art have since been eclipsed by multiple posthumous retrospectives at major museums from the Guggenheim to the Hirshhorn to the Tate." Her work is now part of many important museum collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and London's Tate Modern. 

Eva Hesse deepens the understanding of this extraordinary artist, not only in terms of her ground-breaking work, but also the life that provided the fertile soil for her achievements. With dozens of new interviews, high quality footage of Hesse's artwork and a wealth of newly discovered archival imagery, the documentary not only traces Eva's path but engages in a lively investigation into the creative community of 1960s New York and Germany. 

Courtesy Films We Like


Dir. Richard Dewey and Timothy Marrinan, 2016, USA/UK/Belgium/Sweden, 86 mins

March 15-18, 2017

For more than 45 years, Chris Burden’s work has consistently challenged ideas about the limits and nature of modern art. His pioneering and often dangerous performance works of the 1970s earned Burden a place in the art history books while still in his early 20s. He had himself shot (Shoot, 1971), locked up (Five Day Locker Piece, 1971), electrocuted, (Doorway to Heaven, 1973), cut (Through the Night Softly, 1973), crucified (Trans-fixed, 1974), and advertised on television (4 TV Ads, 1973–77). But as the 70s progressed Burden became disillusioned with the expectations and misconceptions based on his early works and as the pressure grew, the line between his life and his art blurred.

Burden quit performance in the late 70s and artistically reinvented himself, going on to create a multitude of assemblages, installations, kinetic and static sculptures and scientific models. His work has influenced a generation of artists and been exhibited around the world, but the provocative nature of his art coupled with his sense of privacy mean that most people know the myth rather than the man. Now, having followed Burden creating new works in his studio and with access to his personal archive of images, video and audio recordings, Burden will be the first feature documentary to fully explore the life and work of this seminal artist.

Courtesy Films We Like


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 – Feb. 12, 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

March 2018 – May 2018:        Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors

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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Samantha Chater, Communications Officer, AGO Communications

416-979-6660, ext. 504,

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