What a smashing opening!

March 1, 2020

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) officially opened the art exhibition Illusions: The Art of Magic on February 22, which celebrates the Golden Age of Magic.

The Toronto exhibition features fifty-five spectacular posters from the 1880s to the 1930s including images of Alexander and Adelaide Herrmann, Harry Kellar, Howard Thurston and, of course, Harry Houdini. The posters are drawn from the Allan Slaight Collection, which is now housed at the McCord Museum in Montreal.

Magicana’s artistic director, David Ben, is a guest curator for this exhibtion, and he also co-curated the original exhibit, which was launched at the McCord in 2017. David recently wrote an opinion piece for The Globe and Mail declaring: “Magicians are the original purveyors of ‘fake news.’ They can’t help it.” He was also seen on Global News performing for Jennifer Valentyne, he spoke with Piya Chattopadhyay on CBC Metro Morning and was interviewed by Liz Braun for the Toronto Sun.

The exhibition focuses on many social issues, including the appropriation of culture and the few women in magic—then and now. Magicana’s executive director, Julie Eng, sat down with Tom Power from CBC q to discuss these issues, and she also spoke with Mark Wigmore on The New Classical FM. Julie was also interviewed by Sue Carter for the Toronto Star in an article that looks at why “More than 120 years after the ‘Queen of Magic’ was catching bullets, women magicians are still scarce.

In addition to the colourful chromolithographic prints, there are also several pieces of ephemera on display throughout the exhibition, ranging from Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser’s trick card from about 1850, to Dai Vernon’s cups and balls from the 1920s, to historical memorabilia tied to Toronto’s own magic history. Houdini’s straightjacket is also on display, alongside a pair of handcuffs; and visitors can also see vintage video clips of Harry Blackstone Sr. and Houdini performing. There’s even an interactive area where you can make your own magic poster! Add daily magic performances by the Toronto Magic Company and you have one magical experience.

The exhibition is on now at the AGO until May 18, 2020. For tickets and more information, visit this link.

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