Toronto’s best-kept secret: the Gardiner Museum

Kelvin Browne, the new executive director and CEO of the Gardiner Museum, one of the world’s great collections of ceramics, brings an exuberant vision to the unique but little-known museum, located on Queen’s Park Crescent, just south of Bloor Street in Toronto.

Formerly VP of Marketing and Major Exhibitions at the Royal Ontario Museum, across the street from the Gardiner, Browne started out at the ROM more than a decade ago as managing director of the Institute for Contemporary Culture. During his time at the ROM, Browne helped implement bold new programs such as Friday Night Live and some of the museum’s best-attended exhibitions ever, including “The Dead Sea Scrolls” and “The Terracotta Warriors.” Browne’s appointment as executive director and CEO at the Gardiner Museum heralds an ambitious next chapter for the museum, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Says Browne, “The Gardiner is an extraordinary museum, with remarkable collections and programs dedicated to revealing the world’s finest ceramicists and artists working in clay – past, present and future. My goal is to open our doors wide to Toronto, Canada and the world.”

He continues, “The Gardiner offers something for everyone. Our world-famous permanent collection showcases more than 3,000 pieces, including treasures ranging from pottery from the Ancient Americas, to rare examples of Meissen, Du Paquier and Chelsea porcelain, to Chinese blue and white porcelain. We also house an exciting collection of contemporary works and stage compelling, multi-disciplinary exhibitions of up-and-coming and world-recognized artists. I believe everyone can love clay, and to prove it, we hold weekly clay classes for children and adults, where you can roll up your sleeves and create something beautiful that is uniquely your own.”

An architect by training, Browne has an energized new vision for the Gardiner, which is in sync with the museum’s first exhibition of 2014, “Ron Thom and the Allied Arts,” a travelling show which opened at the West Vancouver Museum last summer and will be hosted at the Gardiner from Feb. 13 to Apr 27 before travelling to Trent University and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery later this year. The exhibit – curated by Adele Weder – showcases the works of Ron Thom (1923 to 1986), one of Canada’s greatest architects, who believed in creating not just a building, but a gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art. Thom’s crowning achievements, which include Toronto’s Massey College and Trent University, demonstrate a profoundly holistic approach, where the fields of architecture, ceramics, visual arts, furniture and landscape form a seamless unity.

The exhibition’s dramatic plywood-based design was created by Vancouver-based Public, the multi-disciplinary design firm formerly known as Public: Architecture + Communication. 

For more information, please visit: 

The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art was launched in 1984 by Toronto cultural philanthropists George and Helen Gardiner to house their priceless collection of ancient American artifacts and European pottery and porcelain. The Gardiner was managed by the Royal Ontario Museum from 1987 until 1996 when George Gardiner made a generous endowment, which allowed the museum to regain its independence. The museum expanded in 2004 to create more space for a larger permanent collection, more special exhibitions, and greater public participation in the Gardiner experience.

The Gardiner is dramatically situated behind a gigantic, larger-than-life, striped black and white, glazed ceramic and galvanized steel head, created by artist Jun Kaneko in 2002, perched just off the sidewalk on Queen’s Park Crescent. Visitors are welcome to explore the museum’s ever-expanding permanent collection, a full schedule of exhibits and programs, and clay classes for children and adults. Ranked one of the best museum shops in the world by Vogue Magazine USA, the Gardiner Shop features an acclaimed array of sparkling ceramics, glass, jewellery and gifts for the home. The museum’s third floor restaurant, the à la Carte Bistro, offers scrumptious modern cuisine and an outdoor rooftop patio. The building is also a popular and exclusive special event venue, providing a unique backdrop for any type of celebration.

To celebrate the museum’s 30th anniversary, Mr. Browne is taking his big ideas for the Gardiner to the streets. This summer, the museum is set to open a brand-new, outdoor street-facing plaza café, while will host a regular Friday night series with live music, food and drink, designed to attract and build a welcoming clay-appreciation community.

Located in the heart of Toronto on Queen’s Park Crescent across the street from the Royal Ontario Museum, the Gardiner Museum is Canada’s national ceramics museum, and one of the world’s great specialty museums. The Gardiner is committed to making a contribution to the medium of ceramics, as well as the community it serves, and is an inviting destination that inspires and connects people, art and ideas through clay. The Gardiner’s permanent collection comprises several extraordinary collections from sophisticated, dedicated collectors, making it one of the most significant centres of ceramics in North America. The breadth of the Museum’s holdings include pottery from the Ancient Americas, rare examples of Meissen, Du Paquier and Chelsea porcelain, Chinese blue and white porcelain, Japanese and Japanese-inspired porcelain, to contemporary ceramics – including an exceptional donation from Raphael Yu.

For more information, for details on exhibitions, events, workshop, clay classes, and more, visit