Friday, March 31, 2023

Leonard Cohen - AGO

March 2023 - Toronto ON

We saw the Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows exhibit at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) this week.
We are huge Cohen fans!

Click here to see the Leonard Cohen exhibit we saw in Montreal in 2018.

An enduring artistic force, Canadian novelist, poet and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) is renowned the world over for his meditations on beauty, death, loss and the human heart.

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.

Click here for the AGO audio tour and soundtrack, it will describe in detail many of the photos below.

I didn't know that he was quite an artist.
Cohen 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 AGO always use the stairs to promote an exhibit.

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) was a Canadian poet, singer-songwriter and novelist. His music, lyrics and books, which have been read by generations of readers, are admired globally. Born and educated in Montreal, Cohen’s artistic career began in 1956 with the publication of his first book of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies. Over his long and productive career, he published numerous books of poetry and two novels, The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers, and in 1993, Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs. He has recorded more than a dozen music albums, and numerous tribute albums, in many languages, have celebrated his songs. He died in Los Angeles in 2016 (the day before the US election) and was secretly buried in Montreal a few days later.


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.
It establishes the origins of Cohen’s deep Judaic faith, which informed his world view even as he voraciously studied other religions and spent six years during the 1990s sequestered at a Zen Buddhist monastery.

Handwritten Everybody Knows.

The show offers a peek into the hundreds of pocket-sized notebooks that, over the years, Cohen would always carry with him, writing down ideas for couplets or for songs. Sometimes he would sketch or doodle on a napkin or a piece of cardboard.

The Spice-Box of Earth is Canadian poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen's second collection of poetry. It was first published in 1961 by McClelland and Stewart, when Cohen was 27 years old. The book brought the poet a measure of early literary acclaim.

On the Greek island of Hydra where, in the 1960s, Cohen found a creative refuge among its intellectual community and met his famous muse, Marianne Ihlen.

John, it is quiet as 10:30 to 11:30 is for members only. It got very busy after that.

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.

Did you know? Cohen's classic song "Hallelujah," which has been covered by hundreds of artists, originally appeared on his 1984 album, Various Positions. The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in December 2016 following his passing.

His daughter's cup.

The symbol of The Unified Heart that Cohen devised first appears with Book of Mercy, 1984: The Star of David transformed into two entwined, interlocking hearts. The Unified Heart refers directly to Cohen's personal and universal resolution of the existential twist. You can see it below in the left corner.

I found this image of the original book cover online.

2008 Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Cohen won his first career GRAMMY for 2007 Album Of The Year as a featured artist on Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters at the 50th GRAMMY Awards.

He was honored with a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. Songs Of Leonard Cohen was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2015.

2017 Grammy Award, Best Rock Performance for "You Want it Darker."

Who knew that this polymathic artist, poet, author and musician transformed Grandpa’s classic fedora into a weapon of mass seduction?

I had at least one of the albums - Songs of Love and Hate.



  1. Quite a wonderful tribute. I love the welcoming stairs.

  2. I find Leonard Cohen to be a fascinating person. Thank you for sharing this exhibit with us.


This blog does not allow anonymous comments.