Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows opens at Art Gallery of Ontario

December 10, 2022

Art Gallery of Ontario has officially launched its new exhibition on the late Canadian icon Leonard Cohen. Remembered as one of the world’s greatest poets, songwriters and singers, the exhibition sheds light on the full artistic scope of Cohen’s talents.

Cohen (1934-2016) is mostly known as a poet and singer-songwriter, famously for his songs “Hallelujah”, “I am Your Man” and “Everybody Knows”, after which the exhibition is titled. Yet, this exhibition showcases that Cohen also had talents in visual mediums, in photography and drawing. His lifelong interest in graphic arts was kept relatively private until several exhibitions were staged in 2007. He did not want to be remembered as a visual artist, yet his albums and touring merchandise’s imagery had been influenced directly by his artworks.

The exhibition explores the creative process in which Cohen was functioning, from the sparks of inspiration to the artistic execution of his projects. He started his career as a poet and novelist in the 1950s and released his first music album in 1967. Photography was a critical medium for Cohen, who enjoyed documenting himself, being both in front and behind the camera. He carefully controlled his image. Also, his fascinations with everyday objects — from Shabbat candles to his son’s cup — is presented through polaroids, sketches and watercolours. His handwritten postcards and notebooks with well-known lyrics are on display for visitors to see.

Thanks to Leonard Cohen Family Trust the exhibition boasts an incredible number of personal items from the late artist — from diaries, letters and ephemera to hundreds of private photographs and even his Grammy award!

Cohen understood the importance of preserving his work, so he has been saving everything from the early stages of his career, and now hundreds of his personal items are part of the University of Toronto archives. Thanks to the vast amount of these, the exhibition is just a tip of the iceberg of the possibilities for further research, as commented by the CEO of Art Gallery of Ontario, Stephan Jost.

Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows beautifully illustrates Cohen’s life journey and the importance of places like Montreal, Greek island Hydra, Tennessee, New York and Israel. The exhibition starts with Cohen’s childhood home videos in Montreal and ends with a recording of his final concert in Tel Aviv in 2009. Cohen’s kaleidoscope of artistic talents and charisma shines throughout the exhibition.

Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows opened in Art Gallery of Ontario on December 7 for Members, and will open on December 10 for Annual Passholders and on December 13 for the General Public.

All photography by Darina Granik.


Story by Darina Granik

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