Sunday, 26 April 2009

photo id

or ... the AGO starts to suck.



As readers of this blog know, I have been loving the new Art Gallery of Ontario (see here and here). Yesterday I met a friend there. I went to the membership desk and was asked for photo i.d. to prove that I was the person named on the card.

Photo i.d. to get into an art gallery! Get outta here!

But no ... I was told this is the new policy. The only photo i.d. I possess is my passport and I do not take it on trips to the art gallery. They let me in anyway but it was all kinda tiresome.

It is weird, but that interaction sucked some joy out of the visit. I had been so happy that the new architecture seemed to be accompanied by a new attitude. It felt as if the AGO was being run by the artists and craftspeople; that the technocrats had finally been banished. But it turns out that they have just been hiding. It seems that whole new open, chocolate sprinkles, art belongs to everyone attitude only lasted as long as it took to sign us all up. Now we are back to the stodgy, art is artifact attitude that long plagued the AGO. Perhaps I am overreacting but, for me, it is crap like this that makes the AGO third rate.

Having been introduced to the new policy regime at the front door, it came as no surprise that the man who guards the entrance to the member's lounge greeted us, not with the usual smile, joke and friendly welcome, but with the question, "What are you doing here?" and a demand to see proof of membership. Sigh.

UPDATE: The AGO has changed back. My dad asked about the photo i.d. policy when he was renewing his membership and the AGO rep said, "We are not doing that any more." I went to the AGO on May 28 and was not asked for any special i.d. and they were not checking anything at the member's lounge. Yay! the AGO FTW!

UPDATE 2011: The AGO has returned to the photo i.d. policy. I told the woman about how we had been assured at membership renewal time that this policy had been discontinued. She reiterated the policy. I said that it was mid-term policy changes that might discourage me from renewing again. She seemed unconcerned. 

Ranting about this on Facebook, I was told by a friend that in San Francisco a membership that allows you to bring guests is only $40 and they NEVER ask for i.d. My AGO membership that allows me to bring 2 guests is $190. I do not mind paying more in Toronto because we have less public support for the arts and we have a smaller population but I think I should at least be accorded the same respect as the San Franciscans.

In April an AGO rep called about renewing my membership. I asked about the policy and was told that they would be doing spot checks. That is fine but I do not want to be subjected to spot checks at an art gallery so I decided not to renew my membership. When I told the rep that I thought the memberships were expensive enough to warrant better service, she suggested I get a cheaper membership with fewer privileges.

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