20 Notes from the AGO’s Massive 10

By: Daniel Reynolds


I agreed to attend the AGO’s Massive 10 party at the behest of my friend Antonio. I’d never heard of the event before. While I like to believe myself to be something of a social person, the more “glamourous” events in Toronto are usually something I look to avoid. Still, a party is a party. Even if it’s in an art gallery. I ironed a new shirt, prepared a suit, and shaved (in a rush; kids, never shave in a rush. There will be blood.) Upon arriving at the venue, I saw one young woman immediately change, on the sidewalk, from her flats to her heels. This party is apparently serious business.



Do you read those BlogTO fashion posts? I peruse sometimes. They evoke something akin to stepping into an alternate dimension. Here be the documents of an age, where everyone is super proud of their outfit and they all have nebulous professions (“marketing”, “actress”, “publicist”). There’s a page up for the Massive 10. Not surprisingly, I did not make the cut. I was in my navy Indochino Steve Nash suit. Antonio showed up in an untucked grey shirt, burnt umber khaki pants and red shoes. His sister talked him out of wearing a leather Peruvian ball cap. I don’t know, maybe that would have earned him a spot on the page.


Not ten minutes in the door, a tray of Martinis goes by. The waiter begins explaining what is in the beverage but, really, she had me at ‘vodka’.


Speaking of which, every trip to the bar included an order of at least one vodka soda by someone within earshot. I may have ordered a few. It was the unofficial drink of everyone, I swear. Unrelated: has anyone quantified or correlated the effect the bar industry has on lime farms? No one? Someone call FiveThirtyEight.


We descended to the basement space, a veritable concrete cavern. There is a lot going on. Some aged ladies groove to music, people greet each other in a flurry of hugs, and at least twice I think people are talking to me until I realize they are looking over my shoulder at someone else approaching. A confrontation begins brewing in a line-up to take photos in front of some bizarre overly decorated backdrop. Antonio and I wisely step out of the way. These people are adults.


Things start to flag until John Tory, candidate for mayor, walks by. Surprising myself, I engage him in conversation and desperately try not to accidentally spit in his face while I talk. Tory is smooth, and visibly lights up when I mention I am a municipal employee. We talk shop for a few minutes. Antonio gets familiar and pats Tory on the back at least twice while explaining his current line of work. Tory seems impressed. I broke out into a sweat.


A band plays on in the background. I’ll be honest, the music is nothing special but there is a huge black stage behind them with the letters PERFECT STRANGERS spelled out. So I guess that’s their name? Or are they just big time Balki Bartokomous fans? Hard to tell.


Not sure who’s decision this was but there was a roving band of hockey players (sans skates) patrolling the floor and making a ruckus. Couple this with the following: greeters flashing “10” placards upon entry, shirtless muscle men offering fingerless skeleton gloves, and I’m pretty sure I saw a man dressed for a prize fight. The art world, man.


Let’s take a break to talk about the art. You’re not going to believe this but as the night went on this became less and less important to me (and, presumably, everyone else). There were a couple of gallery hallways that we wandered through. And Antonio was thoroughly mesmerized by a wall of screens that showed people applauding and cheering rapturously. I felt bad for the artists sketching on easels in near darkness adjacent to the performing band. They were working away with their backs to the dance floor while people walked by with drinks and the band droned on. Plus, seriously, it was dim. That can’t be good for the eyes.


Oh yeah, the ping-pong table. There was an oversized ping-pong table and a surplus of paddles.


In one of the main atria, I overhear the first whispers of the party to be had upstairs. You have to take an elevator to get there. So, of course, there is the requisite line.


We hit peak existential tedium: waiting in line in an art gallery, waiting for an elevator to go up to a different part of the art gallery, to go… dancing in an art gallery. I try to engage in philosophical conversation with my fellow line-goers. It doesn’t take.


The top floor dance party. First impression: feels like a more stylish, and more populated, wedding reception. The DJ is better though. I don’t hear “YMCA” or the “Ra Ra Rasputin”. On the flip side, I hear “Get Lucky” at least two other times.


After wandering around, I run into a girl I went on one date with a few months ago and never contacted again. If you’re still reading this column, now we’re coming to the salacious parts. Join me at number 15.


OK, that was a tease. Nothing salacious happened (though this column is starting to make me sound a tad louche). She revealed to me that the “creative” types at the party were spending most of their time laughing at the lawyers and financial types. This is Toronto Civil War material. This woman in particular works in magazine publishing. I like to call myself a writer, but I’m also a municipal employee. She eventually, curtly, sent me on my way. But this definitely highlighted a fascinating (to me) divide between the stated intent of a party (an appreciation of art?) and its actual participants (people with money, generally).


I drank more vodka and tried to get out of my own head.


I’d like to get this notion down on digital paper: If you are at a club on the dance floor and you can spin around with your arms out, you are at a dead club. There.


I didn’t mention this until now but the open bar policy at the Massive 10 did not allow for the ordering of “doubles”. I lose count of how many times I head to the bar. Unclear as to whether my subsequent recollections may have suffered.


All in all, at times the party felt a bit like a lower rent version of The Great Beauty (with far fewer Italians, and no dwarfs that I could see). Much like my experience watching that film, I spent most of my time vacillating between trying to have a good time (drinking, shuffling my feet to a rhythm) and thinking about what I was seeing as it was happening. I feel like maybe this is what happens when one is trying to organize an event for writing purposes while the event is going on.


At some point it sunk in that it was Thursday night at 1 am, then 1:30 am, then with lights on and a rapidly dwindling crowd, it was 2 am. I’ll be the first to say that this supposed “massive” party felt like it dissipated quickly in a cloud of smoke. I took a cab home, collapsed in bed at 2:30 am.

The alarm clock went off at 6:50 am. A massive hangover was all I had left.

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