Monday, September 13, 2004

Everybody on Max Stern


I seem to be fixated. Apologies if you're getting tired of me flogging this particular horse, but until I get it all out of my system, I'm not quite certain if I'll be able to concentrate on anything else. There are two exhibits about Max Stern happening here in town right now. The first is at Concordia University and the second is at the Musée des Beaux Arts. As you might have guessed, they ammassed an awful lot of press last week.

In no particular order:

Jeanette Kelly for CBC Radio, September 8, 438 words or 1 minute, 41 seconds.
Jérôme Delgado, La Presse, September 12, 679 words.
Bernard Lamarche, Le Devoir, September 11, 1,260 words.
Concordia News, 734 words.
Claude Couillard, Radio Canada, 357 words.
Marie-Christine Trottier for the radio program Désautels on Radio Canada, August 31, 227 words, or 5 minutes, 35 seconds.
Marie-Christine Tremblay, Decormag, 810 words.
Presse Canadienne via Canoe, September 1, 195 words.
Concordia University Press Release, August 31, 903 words.
Barbara Black, Concordia's The Thursday Report, September 9, 512 words.
Musée des Beaux-Arts press release, 1,031 words.
TOTAL = 7,146 words
Number of art exhibits on now in Montréal that aren't about Max Stern = 98

I'm not certain what to make of this. On one hand, I really like the idea of two exhibits being designed around an art dealer (no matter how hard I try to get rid of it, I still do have an ego), one at Concordia University, and the other at the Musée des Beaux Arts. I also realize that when you get two not small organizations pushing stuff to the press, they are quite likely to be very successful. Then if you add on the fact that Max Stern's estate (or in other words, his family (oops, my bad, according to M. Lamarche he didn't have a family)) gave whacks of cash to make the exhibits possible, thereby enabling the museum and gallery to save their money for other stuff, it all adds up to make me go "hmmmm." I'd like it if some of those other exhibits got some of the press that Max Stern got.

Briefly, I stuck the links to the two press releases so that I could compare which publications did more than regurgitate. To sum them up, Dr. Stern was a really nice guy who died in 1987. He was an art dealer who sold a bunch of paintings by artists who are much more famous now than they were then (partially because some of them are dead too), the Musée des Beaux Arts is showing 50 pieces that Dr. Sern's donated to a variety of museums in town. Concordia is also showing 50 pieces (not the same ones) that have been hanging around the houses of some really wealthy people, after passing through Dr. Stern's hands. And then to top it all off, everybody is going to be doing a bunch of cool stuff to commemorate the memory of Dr. Stern.

From all the wordiness about these exhibits, there ain't an awful lot more than what's in the press releases. Ot the nine articles written, there are only two people who write anything original. ANd each of them seem to limit themselves to a paragraph each, the first, M. Lamarche, writes:
Dans le magnifique catalogue qui accompagne cette double présentation, l'historien de l'art François-Marc Gagnon souligne que le goût de Max Stern aura été de facture classique avant tout : l'importance est donnée à la forme plutôt qu'au contenu, à la bonne composition ainsi qu'à l'harmonie des couleurs. Les oeuvres qu'a côtoyées Stern donnent de la beauté une vision consacrée. Et il faut bien donner raison à François-Marc Gagnon, ce qui revient à dire qu'il y a dans ces expositions beaucoup à voir.
Or if you want a quick and dirty translation, "The kick-ass catalogue states that Stern's taste was fairly conservative, beauty ruled. You gotta give props to François-Marc Gagnon because 100 works of art is a lot to see."

And then M. Delgado writes:
Les deux expositions, elles, sont somme toute décevantes. Oui, c'est toujours plaisant de voir en une salle plusieurs Borduas, mais l'ensemble est éclaté et inégal. Ce qui est dommage, c'est ce qui domine: paysages peu délicats, surréalisme douteux et couleurs extravagantes. Comme quoi s'opposer à l'académisme n'est pas gage de qualité.
Or "The two exposures, they, are altogether disappointing. Yes, it is always pleasant to see in a room several Borduas, but the unit is burst and unequal. What is a pity, it is what dominates: not very delicate landscapes, doubtful surrealism and extravagant colors. As what to be opposed to the academism is not pledge of quality."

OK, so let me get this straight, if I understand the reviews, Dr. Max Stern was a really important art dealer who was instrumental in getting Canadian art on the map and making careers for artists like, Alfred Pellan, E.J. Hughes, Emily Carr, Goodridge Roberts, J.E.H. MacDonald, Jean Dallaire, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Jean-Philippe Dallaire, John Lyman, Jori Smith, Marian Scott, Paul-Émile Borduas, and Stanley Cosgrove but despite a really great catalogue the art in these exhibitions suck.

Looks like I gotta go see it.

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