Visiting the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art in Toronto, Canada

Photos and reporting by Robert Kokenyesi, Ceramic Artist, Beachfront Pottery, Godfrey, IL, 62035, USA.  If you enjoyed this post, then give me a “like” on my Facebook page.      There is additional information about Beachfront Pottery on my web site.

This blog is a brief summary of my visit to thew Gardiner Museum on August 6, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. In the near future I will be publishing details on the contemporary ceramics, the Japan Now, the Chinese and Japanese porcelain exhibits I explored in the museum.

If you’re in Toronto, and like ceramic art, don’t miss out on this museum!!!  Visually rich, and full of learning opportunities!!

History of the museum

The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art was opened in 1984 by George and Helen Gardiner to house their collection of ancient American artifacts and European pottery and porcelain.  George Gardiner was a stock broker who collected  ceramics, so his interest in the founding of the museum was natural.  Between 1987 and 1996 it was managed by the Royal Ontario Museum, but a generous endowment from George Gardiner allowed it to regain its independence.  Attendance, membership, and program participation more than doubled over the next seven years, and the Museum became an important centre for ceramics in North America. The Museum was closed from 2004 to 2006 for a major expansion. Today the Museum boasts an expanding permanent collection, a full schedule of exhibitions and programs, and a growing audience.

As you enter

The street entry was under construction during my visit.  On the left you can see the temporary wooden ramp.  Behind it is the the building constructed especially to house the museum.  The “Clay” sign advertises the recently opened restaurant inside the museum.  The picture on the right shows the entrance level with the entry way towards the right.

This is the view right after entering the museum.  In front is a long glass case of works for sale, and at the far end is the ticket/reception desk. The back wall was the location of the small “Japan Now” exhibit (will be detailed in a separate post).







If you look to the left after entry you see the museum shop.







Exhibit floor 1

About half of the exhibit space is on the 1st floor is occupied by the “Mesoamerican pottery” exhibit. Very useful maps show the geographical locations of Central and South American cultures that left pottery traces.

Right next to the Mesoamerican pottery exhibit is the extensive Ducth, Italian and English pottery exhibit.  This is more of a continuation of the story of the porcelain that starts on the 2nd floor.


This picture shows the entry to the smallest exhibit on the first floor.  This is the “Contemporary Ceramics” exhibit.  This exhibit was under reconstruction, but during the construction breaks I managed to take a few pictures (will detail the content in a separate post).







Exhibit floor 2

As you arrive at the second floor to the right this is what you see. On the shelves of two consecutive rooms there are dozens of organized and dated Japanese and Chinese porcelain (details will be in a separate post).  There is a very clear description of the story of porcelain production in China from the 7th century, and the explanation of the spreading of porcelain manufacturing to Japan.



If you go to the left on the second floor, you’ll see the description of the effort of European countries to obtain the secret of making porcelain.  It’s cool to follow the establishment of the first secretive porcelain plant in Meissen, Germany, and the subsequent spying, stealing, and worker seduction by other German principalities, and France. Lots of ceramic pieces illustrate the process.

Lower level


The lower level has clay studios for program projects.  You can see the chairs and the pottery wheels through the narrow window on the left.





Restaurant and 3rd floor


On the third floor there is a decent size exhibit space.  At the time of my visit there was an interesting special exhibit about what young artists thought would be the ceramic artifacts an archeological dig would find from their apartment.

The newly-opened “Clay” restaurant is also on the third floor.  The picture on the left shows the entry and some of the seating of the restaurant.   Great food selection for a quick lunch.  Very good service.

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