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The mighty ROM does not disappoint

Stephen Borys, Director & CEO, exhibition curator

The visits to the Toronto-area museums and galleries for the 100 Masters loan discussions took place over several separate trips. Months before my visit to the Royal Ontario Museum in June 2012, I had discussed the exhibition project with Janet Carding, the ROM’s Director and CEO, at an Association of Art Museum Directors meeting in San Francisco. Her first question was what was I really looking for from her museum of six million objects. After our conversation, she promised to have her curatorial team assemble their own lists; however, before the lists came a lively debate on the definition of a masterwork and how best to represent the ROM’s vast collections in the exhibition.

Struggling to come up with a list of works, I was grateful for the curators’ input and thrilled when I saw what they were willing to part with for the exhibition. It was also at this point that we agreed the ROM loans would be from the decorative art collections, with one exception, a painting by Cornelius Krieghoff. This suited me fine as their recommendations were simply too good to turn down. Contributing to the ROM list were curators in the World Cultures department including Arlene Gehmacher, Robert Little, Brian Musselwhite, and Corey Keeble. Meeting with Robert Little, the Mona Campbell Curator of European Decorative Arts, we toured the galleries and storage areas where I was able to see everything on the curators’ list. Examining several key English silver-gilt pieces, which Robert had assembled in a vault anteroom, I would have been content stopping there, but the tour of the decorative art galleries and period rooms yielded more treasures for consideration.

The lone painting on the ROM list, Cornelius Krieghoff’s Officer’s Room in Montreal from the Sigmund Samuel Collection, has been a personal favourite ever since my graduate days at the University of Toronto. Later, recalling Janet Carding’s first question about what I wanted for the show, I realized it had been capably answered by her own curators.

Matthias Walbaum, German, 1554–1632, Diana and the Stag drinking vessel, 1600-1605. Silver: raised, cast, chased, repoussé, partially gilded and jewelled, with internal metal mechanism, 26.4 x 35.4 cm. From the Collection of Viscount and Viscountess Lee of Fareham, given in trust by the Massey Foundation to the Royal Ontario Museum; 997.158.152.1-2. Lent by: Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. With permission of the Royal Ontario Museum © ROM

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