The Artistry of Leonard Cohen to be Celebrated in New Art Gallery of Ontario Exhibition

Leonard Cohen. Self Portrait, 1960s. Black and white instant print [Polaroid Type 107], Overall: 10.8 × 8.3 cm. Photo: © Leonard Cohen Family Trust

For the first time, the full artistry of Canadian poet, singer-songwriter and novelist Leonard Cohen will be on display in a new exhibit presented by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). The exhibit, called Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows, features more than 200 materials ranging from artworks, notebooks, photographs, videos, poetry and prose — many of which have rarely been seen by the public. The exhibition will open in early December. 

Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows is expected to illustrate how multifaceted Cohen was as an artist, according to Julian Cox, AGO’s Deputy Director and Chief Curator. Cox curated Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows with the support of the Leonard Cohen Family Trust and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.

“It’s when you see his sketches, his photographs, his watercolours, his lyrics for ‘Hallelujah,’ that a fulsome portrait of the artist is revealed — a creator at once playful, wry and deeply spiritual,” Cox said in a statement. 

The exhibition features materials on loan from the Leonard Cohen Family Trust, the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Stephen Bulger Gallery and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. 


Leonard Cohen. Max’s Kansas City, 1967. note on menu, Overall: 16 × 11 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Photo: © Leonard Cohen Family Trust


Some parts of the exhibition will introduce visitors to Cohen as a young man with home movies. Another part of the exhibition includes two large-scaled multimedia installations to highlight Cohen’s voice, music, and stage presence. 

As the first museum to present holdings from the Leonard Cohen Family Trust, the AGO will display journals, letters, self-portraits and other objects that reveal Cohen’s cultural impact.  A multiple Grammy and Juno award winner, and inductee into several music Halls of Fame, the Montreal-born Cohen died in November 2016 at the age of 82.

“This exhibition is a celebration of Cohen’s innate artistic force, and we are excited for visitors to discover — or re-discover the artist they think they know,” Cox added.

Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows is free for AGO Members, Annual Passholders, Indigneous people, and guests aged 25 and under. The exhibit opens for AGO Members on Dec. 7, Annual Passholders on Dec. 10, and the general public on Dec. 13.