Friday, February 06, 2004

About last night


Due to the kindness of two people, I got invited to the vernissage at the Musee d'Art Contemporain last night. Not only did I get to see the exhibitions, but I also got to smoke inside the Museum! Sometimes it helps having friends.

First and foremost - the exhibitions are "kick-ass." I only briefly scanned them, but it was sufficient to make me pick my jaw up off the floor many, many times. As it was the opening, there were a bunch of people there, so it was sorta difficult to get any real good sense of the art, but I will go back, and give a full report. Promise.

But the things that I found most interesting where the social politics and dynamics that were happening during the vernissage.

ver�nis�sage \'ver-ni-"sazh\ noun [F, day before an exhibition opens reserved for artists to varnish and put finishing touches to their paintings, lit., varnishing, fr. vernis varnish � more at varnish] (1912)
: a private showing or preview of an art exhibition
(C)1996 Zane Publishing, Inc. and Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. All rights reserved.
Or in plainer language a Party! In this case hosted by a certain Marcel Brisebois. Now while I wasn't keeping an eye on him the entire night, I never did see him step foot into any of the galleries, but he might have when I wasn't looking. Then, if a vernissage is going to function as a private showing, or as a preview, then there should be some sort of distinction, between it, and the rest of the time that the exhibition is up on the walls. Although they did manage to sell about 20 beers, and a dozen glasses of wine, there were by my estimation about 250 people there. Now, last I heard aficionados of contemporary art were not the same as members of Alcoholics Anonymous. And while it seems that the trend in government-sponsored art is to separate with Art from the alcohol, it still doesn't explain why so many teetotalers.

That might be the influence of the Soci�t� des relationnistes du Qu�bec. For some unknown reason they were there in full force to launch their recruiting campaign. My initial thought upon hearing that they were there, was "what?!? The museum needs to host two completely different events in order to make sure that they get sufficient numbers of people to make the place look like it is full?" Not cool in the least bit. Especially when there is yet another speech that needs to be listened to before we get to see the art.

Speaking of speeches (and the certain Marcel Brisebois) I cannot understand why he has not availed himself of the second floor as the place from which to make his speeches. It would be a natural, gazing down fondly upon the gathered masses, with a paternal familiarity.

But the fun really started after I got ushered upstairs to what had initially the air of some top-secret meeting between Oliver North and the Nicaraguan contras, but quickly degraded into a variation on a badly organized high school reunion. Beyond the magnetic thing-ys designed to keep the riff-raff from storming the palace, there was the certain Marcel Brisebois shaking the hand of everybody coming in, next to him was Manon Blanchette. I said "Howdy!" to both of them, and that was the extent of my interaction with the majordomos of the museum. Yes, you can call me chicken.

Now, normally if I'm hosting a party, I try and make sure that everybody is happy, and that everybody is comfortable. This particular bit of snobbery was happening in the museum's offices. They had been shorn of almost every computer (which must've taken a major amount of work) and a thing that I found fascinating was that there wasn't a single piece of art anywhere in sight. (Now, I might be blind, and I didn't go around checking into every closet, but, you'd think that there might be some kick-ass something or other hanging out, even if it was only the conference room section of the museum). And while I attempt to make the gallery here as comfortable and inviting as possible, most offices aren't, on first blush, the sorts of places where a person would want to kick off their shoes and do a shimmy on the shag. (and in yet another in an endless list of asides, there wasn't any music there either - when was the last time you were at a great party where there wasn't any music?)

Now we get to the food, apparently it was duck, salmon, couscous, and a cold pasta salad. Yes, I ate some, but I had to rely on friends in order to identify what I was eating. It was done buffet style, and the only table that would have been suitable as a dinning room table (the conference table) was designated as the serving table, leaving everybody to eat at and around various work stations. My guess is that it probably cost the museum in the neighborhood of $25 a person, and there were about 25 people there. So we got a bill of $718.90 for the food (can't forget the taxes!).

Now, if they had taken that money and invested in a case (or two) of wine that could have been served downstairs in the hallway leading to the exhibitions, and then if Mme. Blanchette, discreetly gave the artists 50 tickets each, to be passed out among friends and acquaintances, each ticket good for a glass of wine, I think that it would have been money much more wisely spent.

The crowd (if it can be called that) at the party seemed to split up into three distinct groups - the artists' friends, museum staff, and government mandarins. There wasn't any mixing between the crowds that I could see, and I am certain that the artists' friends would have been much more impressed with the museum's generosity if they had the potential for getting snookered on the museums' tab.

Then, as they did have a case or two of wine, they could have taken the money that they spent on that and taken the artists out for a really nice dinner at a fancy-ass restaurant with one or two mandarins, and I am certain that both artists, and the mandarins would have been much happier. But then again, I could be entirely wrong, too. After all, I don't think like those people, and the mandarins and museum staff might actually have been having the time of their life.

Now, I realize that I am running on here, and I probably should try to close things up, so I'm going to have to leave some details aside (nothing juicy, but remind me to tell you about the smoking in the museum, and how they treat junior management, ok?) However, there is one truly bizarre moment that I must pass on to you, and then I can call it quits for the day.

After the festivities were over, and everybody realized that it was time to go home ("hey! Where'd everybody go? Why are you cleaning up? Things were just starting to get fun!") We all were capable of finding the elevators on our own. But once we got down to the entrance, it became obvious that getting out of the museum would be best accomplished with the help of somebody who knew their way around. Eventually a security guard (I hope a supervisor) showed up and directed us to the top-secret passageway between the museum and the PdA underground plaza. What took my breath away was that on these white-painted cinder-block walls, was a whole whack of the museum's collection. As we were all interested in leaving, there wasn't any time to read the tags, and my knowledge of contemporary Quebecois art isn't sufficiently up to snuff, that I could've id'd them right then and there. But I wondered aloud, whether or not, that these pieces were special enough that the support staff of the museum had been designated for a treat, or that this was some sort of purgatory for bad purchases. Nobody was able to give me an answer.

And as an aside, if you're reading this here blog for the first time, and you're reading it because you first read the Gazette then the blog entry that Mr. Perusse referred to is here.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

    Your Ad Here

      << Home