Gardiner Museum

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Not to be confused with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Gardiner Museum
Established 1984
Location 111 Queen’s Park,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Type Museum of Ceramic Art
Director Kelvin Browne
Curator Meredith Chilton
Public transit access Museum subway station
Bay subway station

The Gardiner Museum is Canada's national ceramics museum. It was founded by George and Helen Gardiner in 1984 to house their collection of ceramic art. It is located on Queen’s Park just south of Bloor Street in Toronto, opposite the Royal Ontario Museum. The nearest subway station is Museum.


The Gardiner Museum was founded in 1984 by George and Helen Gardiner. It was originally opened as the George R. Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art to house their collection of ceramic art. From 1976, when they started collecting ceramics, to 1981, when they decided to share their treasures with the public, George and Helen had assembled several astounding specialized collections in the fields of pottery from the Ancient Americas and European ceramics that would become the core of the Museum when it opened. For instance, in their depth and breadth, the Gardiner's collections of Meissen porcelain, rare Du Paquier porcelain from Vienna (the second factory to successfully produce hard-paste porcelain in Europe) and Hausmaler decorated porcelain are of world importance. The Gardiners also established one of the best collections of Italian Renaissance maiolica in Canada, and the most comprehensive collection of figures from the commedia dell'arte in a public institution.

Between 1987 and 1996 the Gardiner Museum was managed by the Royal Ontario Museum, located across the street on Queen's Park Crescent. In 1996, an endowment from George Gardiner supported the Museum becoming an independent institution again. In January 2004, the Gardiner Museum closed temporarily to implement a major expansion, with funding for this provided primarily by the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and Helen Gardiner. Building on the qualities of the original structure, designed by architect Keith Wagland, the architectural firm of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg added galleries, larger educational, administration and studio space, a new retail shop, and a new cafe and special events area. During this period, the Museum temporarily relocated to a warehouse at 60 McCaul Street. When the Gardiner Museum re-opened in 2006, the renovation received great acclaim and is often cited as one of the most beautiful buildings in Toronto. This over 14,000 square feet of additional space also allowed a broader focus for the Museum, an expanded collections purview, more special exhibitions, and opportunities for greater public participation.

As the Museum grew, sophisticated, dedicated ceramic collectors were attracted to what had become one of the most significant centres of ceramics in North America. For example, The Radlett Collection of Eighteenth-Century English Porcelain is now an important component of the Museum, the 1760 Beer Jug with a portrait of General James Wolfe being one of the best known pieces in this collection. The Robert Murray Bell and Ann Walker Bell Collection of Chinese Blue and White Porcelain is another highlight, including the Qing dynasty Bianhu (flask). As well, The Macdonald Collection of Japanese and Japanese-inspired porcelain, including the Kakiemon cup and saucer with the "Lady in a Pavilion", forms a very special aspect of the Museum. It is one of the collections with an intriguing story to tell, particularly one of the connection between the cultures of Japan and Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The Hans Syz Collection, donated in 1996, is a remarkable assemblage of European porcelain. The Norman and Cecily Bell Collection, donated in 1998, consists predominantly of English transfer-printed wares of unique quality. The Thomas Henry Clark Collection, donated in 1999, comprises important pieces of English and Continental tin-glazed earthenware. In 1991, Helen Armstrong bequeathed the Vernon W. Armstrong Collection of eighteenth-century porcelain. Some of the Gardiner's finest Minton pieces have been donated by Robert and Marian Cumming since 1991. In 2008, Jean and Kenneth Laundy donated a significant collection of eighteenthand nineteenth-century creamware, and in 2012 and 2013 the Gardiner received outstanding examples of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French faience from Pierre and Mariel O'Neill-Karch. Many others have given exceptional ceramic art to the Museum including Aaron Milrad and Diana Reitberger. One of the recent and transformative donations was The Raphael Yu Collection of Canadian Ceramics, made in 2011, which added 318 objects. The Museum is committed to building the finest collection of Canadian ceramics in the country, as well as ensuring that vital curatorial work about these ceramics is undertaken.

Today the Museum boasts an expanding permanent collection, a full schedule of exhibitions and programs (including popular clay classes for adults and children) and a growing audience.


Its permanent collection of over 2,900 pieces, includes works from the Ancient Americas, Italian Renaissance, English Delftware, Chinese and Japanese porcelain, European porcelain, and a contemporary gallery. In addition to the permanent collections, the museum mounts three temporary exhibitions per year.


The museum offers programs and lectures. It has a clay studio in which clay classes for adults and children are provided.


The Museum is affiliated with the Canadian Museums Association, Canadian Heritage Information Network and the Virtual Museum of Canada.

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Coordinates: 43°40′05″N 79°23′35″W / 43.668163°N 79.393151°W / 43.668163; -79.393151