Friday, April 30, 2004

Some quick hits and no brainers


In today's Gazette, Bill Brownstein takes a sort of everyman approach to art in writing up, and then saying good things about Galerie 1225 Art et Vin. He uses words like "swank" and "ubiquitous" and then follows it up with the line: "Don't know much about art. But know what I like. And that would be wine..." It would be nice if he did not assume that art was only for the wealthy.

The CBC kicks in with a small bit about the protest in Ottawa over the dismissal of a tour guide at the National Gallery. I'm not certain why this is newsworthy, but then again, given the current state of affairs between the union and CBC management, maybe this is because of some hidden agenda.

Le Devoir has a small write up about how the exhibition Les Femmeuses was a smashing success. 5,500 folk wandering through and 122 pieces (out of 153) sold along with 40 Clémence DesRochers prints for a total take of $175,000. Or in other words, an average price of $1,080. Who says art has to be expensive?

Over at Artnet, some guy named Richard Polsky has his "insiders" take on who certain things work in the world of art. Remember when you're looking at some work by Ed Moses, don't let your girlfriend ask about earlier stuff.

And then last week in the Washington Post, Henry Allen positively gushes over cramming as much art as possible into The Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery. With a little luck, this could be the beginning of something big.

I also have four articles about the Riopelles kissing and making up. I'll save those for tomorrow, ok?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Writing about art


I just finished an article about the Bill Burns exhibit at the Saidye. Stealing (or since I wrote it, shouldn't it recycling?) the first line: "Bill Burns has taken the concept of a Natural History museum, turned it on its head, grafted a warped ideology stolen hook, line and sinker from PETA, and shoved it all into something the Canadian Government is willing to call freakin' contemporary art." If I run out of things to write here, I might post the whole article.

I was disappointed in myself, as I really wanted to fit in or at least mention the Argentine lake duck. Don't ask me why, but on the National Geographic website they had this paragraph:

Researchers from the University of Alaska discovered that the penis of Argentine lake duck Oxyura vittata, when fully extended, measures about 17 inches long. When not in use, the corkscrew-shaped penis retracts into the duck's abdomen. - link
And it fascinated me. OK, the Argentine lake duck is a small animal, that's why I was looking it up, yeah, right. Plus, you should know that the Argentine lake duck itself is only 16 inches long. I wasn't able to get the mention in, which while being a tad disappointing probably made the article better. I gave up entirely on trying to mention Diane Nyland Proctor or the old TV series which I never saw called "The Trouble With Tracy." But learned tons about early Canadian sitcoms and how bad they were. If you want to know why, I thought that Mr. Burns could've used a Canadian Sally Struthers to do some sort of infomercial for his museum, and Diane Nyland Procter was the closest person I could find. Look for the article (without the useless pop culture and biology references) in the next issue of Motel Magazine, ok?

Now I gotta get back down to work and hang Philip's show, after all this is an Art Gallery, right?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Not quite clear on the concept


Today for reasons best left unwritten I was in the neighborhood of UQAM. So naturally I decided to stop in the gallery. Naturally it was closed. However I was able to take advantage of the benches outside the gallery to collect my thoughts, and then because of the copious quantities of coffee I had consumed I needed to go to the bathroom. Now, I know what you're thinking, "too much information!" Trust me, this is worth it.

I ended up in one of the bathrooms for staff of the gallery. Now it seems that UQAM has struck some sort of deal with Zoom Media to place those 13" x 17" ads above the urinals, my guess would be that they struck the deal 'cuz, like most universities they're looking for cash anyplace they can find it. Why they would stoop to something along the lines of $10 per urinal per month, I dunno. That wouldn't even pay the cost of cleaning the sucker.

But the thing that got me, was that some bright guy at Zoom Media had obviously put some thought into these particular placements.

Slight digression: Initially the ads bugged the hell outa me, something about having to deal with a new commercial intrusion where previously there had been none. Now that they've been doing them for a while, my dander doesn't get up as much - you should have seen the mess I made the first time I saw one of the ads! It also might have something to do with the fact that I don't really frequent places that are likely to have ads over the urinals as I was say, 10 years ago. Then (I told you that this was a digression) I noticed about two years ago, that some bright wag at Anna Goodson Management had talked with somebody at Zoom about sticking illustrators' portfolios above the urinals. My reaction there was "Wow! Wicked Cool!" And I contemplated for a moment perhaps trying to do something with the artists who exhibit here. But then quickly let that idea dribble on to the floor, where it died a quick and painless death.

Now back to the matter in hand. Imagine my surprise upon finding these ads for illustrators above the urinal that I was using at the UQAM Art Gallery.

Monika Melynchuk (no other known details, sorry)

Steve Adams (no other known details, sorry)

Nathalie Dion (no other known details, sorry)

Mylene Henry (no other known details, sorry)

Now let me show you some pictures of what they have (or will have, or had) at the UQAM Gallery (I think I've linked to some sort of Flash thing-y, you might want to click on it a couple of times to see the various pictures)

Notice a difference? Somehow I don't think that the person responsible for ad placement at Zoom Media understands what they're doing at UQAM. On the flip side, I don't think that the folk at the UQAM gallery go to the bathroom all that often.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Stuff happening here and not here


Two short quick things for today, it has been an ugly day.

On Wednesday, if you're in town, don't miss Decasia. It is playing at the Cinematheque Quebecoise, 8:30 pm

On Saturday, don't miss the vernissage for Philip Bottenberg's show, here. 3955 Saint Laurent. The fun starts at about 8 pm

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Montreal Visual Art Review Round Up


In no particular order, ok?

Radio-Canada: Claude Couillard writes 342 words on the UQAM Design students' show. Very cool pictures, short sweet and to the point. Nothing ground breaking, but giving students column inches is a good thing. I can also mention in passing that the VAV gallery at Concordia and the Lina and Beonard are also doing something similar, over at the blokeschool.

Voir: Nicolas Mavrikakis writes 501 words on Albrecht D�rer and Toucher l'art, on at the Musee des Beaux Arts. Now, I am very surprised that Mr. Mavrikakis is writing about somebody who has been dead for almost 500 years, but you learn something new every day. He still manages to write that he is smarter than his reader with this sentence: "Vous connaissez certainement plusieurs d'entre elles: Le Rhinoc�ros, La Repr�sentation de la M�lancolie, Adam et �ve, Saint J�r�me, Le Chevalier, la Mort et le Diable... " (or for the blokes in the house: You most certainly know all of the prints, such as The Rhinoceros, Representation of Melancholy, Adam and Eve, etc." Heck, if I'm been reading Mr. Mavrikakis for Contemporary Qu�becois Visual Art, why in the name of anything should I have a familiarity with Durer's painting?

He continues his ridiculous habit of name dropping, somehow suggesting that because Rene Donais makes prints, and Mr. Mavrikakis wrote about Mr. Donais recently, there has to be a similarity. Yeah, right. In case you're interested in a taste comparison, try these:

Anatomie du boshi, animal mythologique chinois, by Rene Donais, 1995. I don't know any other details.

Les quatre cavaliers by Albrecht D�rer, 1498, gravure sur bois sur papier verg�, 39 x 28,1 cm

He then sums up the review with some sort of history or printmaking. Ummm, not to belabor the obvious, but if he assumes that his readers are familiar with Durer's production sufficiently that by merely writing the name of a piece they can visualize it, why is he writing something along the lines that printing started during the renaissance and that at the time there were no museums or photography? Shouldn't this be obvious to his clearly intelligent readership?

He then goes on to talk about the touching art on the aforementioned Sherbrooke street institution. Where he hides behind an unnamed source (an important gallery guy) about how important it is to be able to touch art. Umm, if you've been covering art for I dunno how many years, shouldn't that idea come to you naturally? Why the need for an outside source? And most strangely, why unnamed? And heck, what about smelling art? What about tasting art? Voir then continues their new habit of amassing content for free, and as of the time that I am writing this, there are about another 1,300 words written for free as comments - most of then going off on how good Durer's work is.

Mr. Mavrikakis's second article this week is about him slumming it. He headed over to Blizzarts, to check out the Orange/Brown show. As with Mr. Couillard covering UQAM students (see above) this is inherently a good thing. Unfortunately, Mr. Mavrikakis fumbles the ball and then boots it. Among the 386 words he typed about them, he writes this: The critic in me, always chasing after new talents and new visions (my translation). Yeah right. His name dropping this time veers off to Emmanuel Galland and Bernard Pivot (note to self, never ever make a reference in writing to a TV talk show host, English or otherwise - with a minimum of research it seems that M. Pivot is a French Talk Show host who is famous for his cheesy questionnaire of unrelated questions). He then goes on to diss Blizzarts (by writing that there are constraints in exhibiting at a bar, like there are no constraints in exhibiting at a museum or at Rene Blouin, yeah right!). And then finally, to add insult to injury, Blizzarts doesn't appear in the listings of Voir, Orange/Brown, nor any of the artists involved are under the artist listings on their website, and despite his telling his readers that he will keep them up to date with any future exhibits by and of these "new and upcoming" artists, he conveniently forgets to mention that you can see most of them at all times at Monistiraki (5478 St. Laurent).

For the record, Lance Blomgren has exhibited at Dare-Dare. Anthony Burnham has exhibited at Clark Gallery, and with Suzanne Dery at Quartier Epehemere. Most of the artists at the show are published authors, Natascha Niederstrass, Zoe Miller and Billy Mavreas, are kick-ass artists, who have done a gazillion things. Mr. Mavrikakis' patronizing tone just might get him punched one of these days. I apologize for not mentioning all of their names, but there are a bunch of them, and copy/paste can get tedious sometimes.

The Gazette: Doesn't seem to have any art review on line. They do have a fluffy feel-good piece about a mural that is now on the roof of the Children's Hospital, 563 words about making sick kids happy. Even I can't slam it. But I can quote it out of context to get a quick and easy laugh:

The lettering on the mural reads "Imagine!" which works, Papazian points out, in English and French. "We're not just good painters, we're smart!" she says.
I imagine that the Gazette could get some smarts (in both English and French) by publishing something about art.

It seems that Isa Tousignant was just a tad busy this past week, there ain't nothing in The Hour, either. Uh-Oh! it looks like English culture is slipping in the standings.

Over at the other English Language alternative weekly, aka The Mirror, the got a big ass article (1,388 words! Woo-hoo!) on Seripop. Rupert Bottenberg does a superlative and kick-ass job interviewing Chloe Lum and Yannick Desranleau. No faults, ok, one minor one, the sin, skin, custom cars and cartoon creeps might have been ubiquitous in the '90s, but to my mind they were really the rage in the early '70s. But as far as fulfilling whatever mandate of introducing the masses to underground culture, and giving "new" a day in the sun, he's rocking, along with Matthew Woodley there ain't nothing better right now than the Mirror. Too boot, they even put Viual Art on the cover, again! If you venture inside the magazine, Christine Redfern finally gets on the bandwagon and pens 157 words about the Raoul Barr� exhibit at the Cinematheque.

Montr�al Campus (the UQAM student paper) doesn't have nothing about Visual Art. Pity.

Quartier Libre (the UdM student Paper) on the other hand does. 717 words about the Nina Levitt show at Oboro, and 586 words about the web site 11h11.com. Nothing spectacular, but Linda Fatigba and Estelle Puig do a very solid job.

The Link makes like Campus, and avoids the visual stuff. Over at Le Devoir Michel Hellman writes something about "Shoot" at Dazibao, unfortunately I can't read it. I'm going to have to truck on over, because I wrote about "Point" and didn't like it. Maybe "Shoot" will salvage something, maybe not. The folks who run the web site at Le Devoir then continue to show how intimately they are aware of their anus, they figure that it is a great idea to limit access to an article that they republished from Liberation. The silliness comes in when I go to the Liberation web site, the article is there for anybody and everybody. One good thing about all of this is that since Liberation is not on my normal list of newspapers to read, I came across this article: "Le goulag de A � zeks" now I just might write a letter explaining to the fine folk in France how to spell "Zeke's." Apparently there were some folk in Russia who were called "zeks" before they were killed under Stalin. As I said way earlier, I learn something new every day!

The finally La Presse does put two articles by Jerome Delgado on line. I discovered sometime last week that Mr. Delgado is quite a prolific writer, unfortunately the powers that be on 7 Saint Jacques West don't like wasting electrons on him. Mr. Delgado is first on the block with a review about Sarah Stevenson's show at Rene Blouin. 446 words. He then blows his load with 239 words on the small exhibit in the salon at Skol, "Petite Enveloppe Urbaine No 11." I've gone over my time for writing, and am quickly losing my ability to focus, so if Mr. Delgado writes anything good or bad about the exhibits you're going to have to read for yourself. My only question, and last for the day, is did he already review the Matthieu Dumont and Christine Lebel exhibits, or is there something to be read between the lines?

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Quick hits, from almost everywhere


I just got back from the ballgame, and despite the Expos continuing suckiness, I quite enjoyed myself, thanks to the company. Maybe they'll win tomorrow? Naw, it's unlikely, they really do suck. But, it seems like as good time as any to clean up some of the accumulated backlog.

Yesterday Le Devoir ran an article that is available to non-subscribers (surprise, surprise) about the creation of the Guido Molinari Foundation. On the surface it sounds like a cool idea, as they haven't done anything yet, other than promise to follow what Guido Jr. says were his father's wishes; to sell paintings by Sr. and help young artists. I'll believe it when I see it. There are way too many tax advantages to having and/or running a charitable foundation, and I'd like to see this one work, but the wait and see game is what I will be playing for now. We can revisit the situation in a couple of years, ok?

I have no clue how I came across this site, where they proudly state that they want to be "making history as well as reporting it. spiked stands for liberty, enlightenment, experimentation and excellence." Hmmm, maybe we should wait for the jury on this one, too. But while we're waiting, somebody named Josie Appleton writes about cultural diversity in the UK. It is a way long article (with the 26 footnotes, more than 5,500 words! Woo-Hoo!) Basically she summarizes her point thusly:

Instead, cultural diversity policy represents the end of cultural policy as we have understood it. The pursuit of aesthetic or historical understanding, of attempting to distinguish good paintings from bad or correct interpretations from false ones, is deemed impossible. Instead, all cultural institutions can do is to revel in 'diversity', by promoting different kinds of art and competing judgements.

Today's cultural policy rejects the ways of the traditional cultural elite, and presents itself as far more enlightened. However, if we examine the legacy that cultural diversity policy has rejected, we find that some valuable principles have been lost by the wayside.
I won't get into a point by point criticism of what she says, but suffice it to say 26 footnotes, is 26 footnotes too many. And I could also give the off the cuff snarky retort, that British Culture ceased to be meaningful to anybody but the British after the Beatles broke up, but I won't.

The we go all the way across the world, where the LA Times (I think you're gonna need to register to read it, sorry) published last Monday an Op-Ed piece by Thomas Crow. As they say Mr. Crow "is the director of the Getty Research Institute, where "The Business of Art: Evidence from the Art Market," is on exhibit through June 13." First off, I've been watching with more than a passing interest the stats for this site, and it seems that every time I write about the Getty's exhibit, The Business of Art" that every intern at the Getty and their mother are swarming all over this blog - ok, maybe not swarming, but I figure it can't hurt to write something deliberately that will garner me another half dozen hits.

Now I've already written tons about how much I like the idea of the show, and would dearly love to get out there to see it, and just to keep everything above board, Maria Gilbert just sent me a copy of the booklet that goes along with the exhibit, and an offer of a tour, cool, eh? But back to the article, it serves pretty much as high toned fluff that could have been an ad for the exhibit. Some of the better lines are: "The papers of this larger-than-life character provide a portrait of Gilded Age manners worthy of Edith Wharton." And "Looking at a painting and seeing only its price is like going to a film and seeing only its opening gross receipts." Yes, Mr. Crow can write, but the article doesn't add any illumination, pity.

While we're on the west coast, one of the bastions of east coast liberalism, The Nation, paid Abby Aguirre to review "LA's Early Moderns: Art/Architecture/Photography" a book by Victoria Dailey, Natalie Shrivers and Michael Dawson. I'm certain that the folk at the Getty were all over the book when it came out, as for me, the review is a simple enough thing. It duly lists what I assume are most of the names dropped in the book, but doesn't do much about the critical analysis. I'd much rather read Arthur C Danto's articles in the Nation, if anybody is listening.

Then from the Nation to the National Post. Now, I probably should say something nice, because that National Post is reviewing Art. But, unfortunately it is the National Post. And, I probably should save it for tomorrow's review round up. But, this looks like to much fun to save for a rainy day. On Thursday, somebody named Samantha Grice wrote 1,127 words about the Bill Burns exhibit at the Saidye Bronfman Centre called "Safety Gear for Small Animals." She plays it straight, which misses the entire point and purpose of the show. If you're not out there busting a gut with a 95 db belly laugh while viewing the show, you're better off watching one of those Sally Struthers infomercials about saving some malnourished kid from Africa. In a nutshell, Mr. Burns is flipping a mighty large bird at both the current art world, and the petaphiles. Ms. Grice, takes his whole concept hook line and sinker, and reports it straight, which has the effect of turning what strikes me as a mighty tasty show into grist. It just makes me grimace. Ok, enough with the really bad puns.

Then over to other side of town, Sarah Milroy was able to re-use a story she filed in February of 2003, in order to rationalize her expense account for the trip to she the Biennale at the Whitney (hey! Two stories for the price of one! Maybe next time she'll be able to stay at a better hotel). With the upshot being, she continues her crush on Matthew Barney, nothing new there.

Then, staying at the Globe & Mail, Lisa Rochon gives a tourist-eye view of the Terminal 1 in Toronto. She doesn't mention the Jonathan Borofsky sculpture. Makes it easy for me to say her review sucks. I hope that they published it in the travel section.

Since we are traveling, we might as well wander over to the International section, Reuters published an article two Thursday's ago about the "Dali and Mass Culture" exhibit that is happening in someplace in Spain because they needed something as an excuse for Dali's centenary. The biggest news in the article is that according to Carlos Sentis Dali weighed his press clippings. Who? Who cares?

More tomorrow, all local. I promise.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Changing of the guard


Although Le Devoir makes it extremely difficult to read the interesting bits on their web site, sometimes calling home is good thing. Or in other words because my mom is a subscriber to Le Devoir, she was able to send me an electronic version of the article where Stephane Baillargeon attempts to explain what might happen when Marcel Brisebois finally steps down as head honcho of the Musee d'Art Contemporain here in town. (thanks mom!)

M. Baillargeon lists a rather long list that purports to be a short list of who might replace M. Brisebois at the end of May. Or as they say at the hippodrome "Et Voici, Here they are!" (some of you out-of-towners are going to have to make it here at some point. In NYC they have Aqueduct, in LA there's the Hollywood Park, in Louisville there's Churchill Downs, here in Montreal we have the Hippodrome! Then, if that wasn't bad enough, at the end of the race they announce the results with the aforementioned "Et Voici, Here they are!" Some people just don't get it, and you wonder why they are contemplating blowing up the race track)

But back to the task at hand the short (long) list of people being considered for the position of Director of the MAC:

Pierre Arpin via the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
Jessica Bradley, also out of gig it seems.
Jean Gagnon, via the Daniel Langlois Foundation.
France Gascon, via the Musee de Joliette.
Claude Gosselin, via CIAC (or the Montreal Biennale).
Francine P�rinet, via the Oakville Galleries.
Chantal Pontbriand, now looking for a full-time gig.

Now I only know two of the people being considered, M. Gosselin and Ms. Pontbriand, and I don't know them well at all. M. Gosselin stepped foot in this here gallery once, did not acknowledge my presence (I think he assumed that I was something like a guard, or he was so completely taken aback that I wasn't a 21-year old gallery attendant in a skin tight black mini skirt, that he was struck dumb). And if you've been reading this here blog for a while you know much too much about my history with Ms. Pontbriand. For those of you who are recent arrivals, click here, or here. Or if you're too tired to do that suffice it to say that whatever she does, I summarily think is wrong, bad, boneheaded, silly, not particularly swift, nor helpful, interesting, or engaging. Heck, she ain't even funny, either!

But the thing that strikes me as most interesting, is how the folk on the search committee are continuing to hobble the museum and are doing their darndest to keep it a "C" level museum or on a par with The National Museum of American Jewish Military History, in Washington DC. Recently the OSM lost what I had heard was a dictator. now despite any conductor's lack of social skills, it is the "big boss" who sets the tone. The folk designated to replace M. Dutoit, did their homework and found, flirted with, and landed a serious "A" list conductor who will keep the OSM in the top 5 of orchestras for a long time.

Now the people charged with finding a new director for the MAC, have amassed what strikes me as a sort of complete list of minor players on the local stage. Ms. Pontbriand couldn't convince the government that a dance festival was worth $600K, so she's out of a job. M. Gosselin hasn't been able to do anything significant with his Biennale for 20 years. M. Arpin has curated (according to the website of the AGGV) shows by Paul Drury (who?) and "Decades � Part IV: Art of the 1970s." Sounds like cutting edge stuff to me. The others are similar in that they have run local (or for the more polite company among you regional institutions) and haven't done anything significant that they blip on anybody's radar outside of Canada. (caveat, there is one exception, can YOU spot it?)

For kicks, Googling them gives this up:
Pierre Arpin = 1,100
Jessica Bradley = 2,020
Jean Gagnon = 3,850
France Gascon = 546
Claude Gosselin = 815
Francine P�rinet = 56 (Yowsuh! I don't think I've ever seen such pathetic results when Googling somebody)
Chantal Pontbriand = 570

And then for comparison purposes some other folk:
Marcel Brisebois, the outgoing director of the MAC = 470
Kathy Halbreich, Director, Walker Art Center = 955 (hmm, maybe running a seriously good joint doesn't get you whacks of hits)
Neal Benezra, Director, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art = 2,180 (ok, I'm starting to feel better)
Michael Govan, the Dia Dude = 17,400 (now that's more like it!)
Charles Desmarais, semi retired Director of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center = 18,600
Robert Storr, senior curator of painting and sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art (although I'm not certain that he still has the gig) = 25,800

Now Montreal is way better than Minneapolis, on par with San Francisco (which means you'd have to throw some serious cash at Mr. Benezra, and less at Ms. Halbreich) and head, hands and shoulder above Cincinnati. So it would only be a matter of persuasion (read cash, country homes and free plane tickets) of getting somebody serious. I wouldn't hold my breath that Mr. Storr would even contemplate the job, but sometimes you gotta aim high

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Writing about talking about art


How come newspapers think that interviewing folk who don't have anything to say is newsworthy? Or why is it that reporters covering a baseball game will ask the same inane questions time and time again?

I dunno? But dontcha think that maybe if the quality of questions asked of baseball players was slightly higher, then the responses would be better? Instead of "Coach, rotten luck tonight, eh?" which will get your standard issue response of: "Our boys played hard, but sometimes you don't get all the breaks." They might try something along the lines of "What are you reading?" which at least one time got a response of this: "I just finished the Da Vinci Code, which I thought was great. It was a good quick read and a lot of fun. Oh, and I'm almost done with the Koufax biography, which I highly recommend. Terrific, by Jane Leavy." Imagine if you will the rest of those two conversations (one imaginary, but published everyday in most North American newspapers, and one real, available on the internet, here) which one do you think is going be more interesting?

That all being said, because I just got done interviewing Bill Burns for Motel Magazine. And while I was at the Saidye I was talking with Michael Merrill and Philip Kitt (two other kick-ass artists) about the interviews I do with artists who have exhibitions here, and then on the trip back it occurred to me, in a flash! Andy Warhol! Interview magazine! Hot diggity dog!

No, I'm not going to be publishing a magazine anytime in the near future, but I'd be lying to you if I said the thought had not occurred to me. But more to the point was that I realized that archiving recorded interviews with artists is without a doubt a good thing. There are going to be PhD students, not yet born, who are going to need material for their theses in the future. So, I got another mission. Fortunately, this one was not from god. Talk to as many artists as possible.

But then there is always the fear inducing thought, sorta like when your mom caught you under the covers with the porno mag or the comic book depending on which way you swang when you were 12 years old, of what the heck am I gonna ask? What happens if they don't wanna talk? Omigod! My mouth is getting dry just thinking about it. Uh-Oh! Well (he says while swaggering just a tad) when I was 12 I didn't read porno mags OR comic books, so that thought never came into my head.

But back to the initial thought, or at least a variation on it. Why don't newspapers, and other media outlets that cater to the lowest common denominator, in chase of the almighty dollar, start to reach up a little bit? Now, I'm certain that Francoise Sullivan gives a better interview than George Canyon, and while Bill Burns was sometime difficult to understand due to his tongue being firmly planted in his cheek, my conversation with him was thoroughly enjoyable.

I can think of at least another gazillion artists who I would love to talk to. Heck! Why are you reading this blog? (Apologies for the self-referencing) it sure as shooting isn't because you want to read about Wilfred and Marie-Helene. And then after I'm done talking to the artists, I can start with the poets, then maybe we get a short list of dancers (hmmm, on second thought kill that thought, last I heard dancers don't talk much, although they do smile an awful lot in the morning) then I could ... you get the idea.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Red Letter Day


You'd figure that people would talk to each other. Right? Apparently not. On April 22nd, or this Thursday for those of you who don't have handy access to a calendar, there are at least 3 vernissages (or openings for those of you who don't have handy access to a French/English dictionary).

At B-312, Emmanuel Licha is going to be doing something involving a video called "In & Out" while Patrick Bernatchez is doing something called "Mechanique et debordements" and both of them are going to be rather excited at about 4:59 pm. I got an invitation in the mail, and while I duly noted all the necessary information in my agenda, I gotta admit that B-312's invitations don't really do anything for me. They are always the same format, which is good, or could be bad. I haven't quite made my mind up about that yet. But what really bugs me, is that they are text heavy. The cards themselves always have the artists' name prominently featured. Now, I sure as shooting know who and what B-312 is as a gallery - for those of you unfamiliar with it, it is an artist run center, that features new artists. So why the heck do they think that I'm gonna know something about the artist? Then they always come with a press release. Now, if I had the time, I would read the sucker, but they tend to write them like an academic treatise, and academic treatises in French tend to take way longer for me to slog through, and academic treatises in any languages aren't all that fun. So I figure at some point I will make it down there, just not for the vernie.

The reason I won't be making it there is because of the Salon des vins et spiritueux, which is happening at the Palais de congres. Thankfully, it will finish in time (or perhaps I should say, I will have had my fill) just in time to get over to the CACQM. There they're having a show by Lorraine Oades, which is called "The fun of it."

According to the invite the fun is a series of portraits. Now the CACQM sorta does the same thing as B-312, in that they include a press release in with their invite, but for some reason or another I don't view the CACQM's invites as difficult as B-312's. They print their press releases up on fancy paper, and I haven't done any systematic analysis, but it strikes me that the CACQM doesn't write as academically as B-312. But the other thing that I really like, is that there ain't no stinkin' picture on the invite. Obviously this is done in order to save money, but when there ain't no stinkin' picture then I get a tad curious as to what exactly is going to be exhibited. I'm always a big fan of a surprise, which also might account for the fond spot that the CACQM has, because they have this wicked-cool basement/foundation/catacombs that always bring out the six-year old in me.

Then, after the CACQM, I'm going to try to head over to the Saidye Bronfman Centre. There they have a vernie by Bill Burns called "Safety Gear for Small Animals." Now while somebody I know thinks that the lead picture is extremely repulsive, I gotta give Sylvie and Isa and whoever the new guy is props with regards to their invites. Big and in color (but only printed in color on one side to save on the cash) there ain't no stinkin' press release in it, and you (or at least I) have to make up my mind based on some dead birds and a cute kid.

Needless to say (actually let me take that back, if it was needless to say, then I shouldn't be writing) but you would think that Marthe would talk with Sylvie would talk with Dominique, so that me (and I assume a whole whack of other interested people) wouldn't be having to run all over the damn city on Thursday evening to check out the wicked cool parties that are going to be happening. Or maybe they have and there is this shuttle bus that requires a super secret art handshake in order to get on that I don't know about.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Ink stained fingers, part two


Before I launch in to stuff, let me remind y'all about the raffle. $5 buys you one of 200 tickets and a chance to win a pair of round trip tickets on ViaRail anywhere in between Quebec City and Windsor. Zeke's Gallery needs money, yours will do as well as anybody else's, and this is a relatively painless way to support the gallery. Click on the PayPal button below and to the right, or swing by the gallery.

Now back to our regularly scheduled rant.

It was only last week that I came remembered that Radio-Canada has an absolutely kick-ass visual art section, I can only imagine that their dance, book, movie, and whatever else sections are as good. The only things that I can find fault with are minor (drat!). They don't date their articles, so there isn't any easy way to id what is new, but in their defense they do a very very good job of keeping current on what's showing where. And they definitely could make the articles longer. But anybody who publishes three or four reviews, can't be considered a meany. Actually let me take that sentence back, I know that once I get around to writing about what Nicholas Mavrikakis writes will make me eat it in its entirety. But for the time being back to Rad-Can.

This week the new additions seem to be a review of the Jacques Bilodeau exhibit at Galerie Joyce Yahouda (340 words), Raoul Barr� at the Cinematheque Quebecoise (350 words), Tr�sors anciens et manuscrits de la mer Morte at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau (300 words), Tanagra: le petit peuple d'argile at the Musee des Beaux Arts (317 words), and Sable at the Musee de la civilisation in Quebec city (295 words). In all of the reviews, they have a selection of pictures of what you're supposed to go see. And I'll wait until next week before taking the gloves off and commenting on what Claude Couillard actually writes.

Over at Voir, Nicolas Mavrikakis writes 567 words about the Gwena�l B�langer at Galerie Graff. Unlike Ms. Tousignant's piece in Hour, this review actually gets 6 comments from the peanut gallery. And despite the fact that the powers that be at Voir limiting the commentary to 2000 characters, the 6 writers have already combined for 888 words, hmmm, do you think that Voir will eventually start paying people for their comments? Or do you think that perhaps they might realize that Mr. Mavrikakis is too expensive and ditch the idea of paying for content?

As per normal, Mr. Mavrikakis drops names left, right and center. In this case, Nicolas Baier, Alain Paiement, David Hockney and Yan Dibetts all in one paragraph, last week's review of Bertrand R. Pitt in another, and St�phane Gilot. The thing that jumped out at me most was this sentence: "La m�me �uvre dans un mus�e ou dans un caf� ne sera pas per�ue avec le m�me regard." (Or for the blokes in the house - Same work in a museum or a coffee will not be perceived with the same glance.) Duh!

Sunday, April 18, 2004

What the local's are writing about this week.


Today in no particular order!

Henry Lehman writes 672 words on the �Learning from Ruscha and Venturi, Scott Brown 1962-1977" at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Given the amount of space allotted to Mr. Lehman, he focuses mostly on two things in the show, both of them by Ed Ruscha, who he calls "the star of the show." He gives a cursory historical background to the three artists, that he cribbed from the walls text. The thing that I found most interesting is towards the bottom he waxes eloquently (or in non-art speak writes really well about) one book by Ruscha that is a collage of photographs that he writes "Documented in continuous sequence is every building lining the Hollywood part of Sunset Blvd." That in fact is called "Every Building on the Sunset Strip" and was done in 1966 - sorta like this drawing of Manhattan, but different.

In this week's Hour, Isa Tousignant spends 309 words talking about the current exhibit at Articule, a) which if you're interested in what I think, I wrote about here, and b) has since changed since both she and I saw it, as I have learned that they have removed Duncan MacKenzie's photographs. I don't think I felt "disjointed" when I saw the Christian Kuras stuff, but then again, everybody is entitled to their own opinion. I particularly like that she blows off and disses MacKenzie, there is not enough of that happening in the Montr�al art press. However, I still disagree with her, but it might have to do with the fact that I got to see the photographs, before they started turning into the art equivalent of champagne. Most telling about the review, though, is that as of Sunday, it had not garnered any comments on the Hour site. Now I do not know if this is due to the lousy nature of what they are raffling off this week (although I imagine it might have something to do with it) or if it is solely because nobody but myself reads what Ms. Tousignant writes, on- or off-line.

Over to at the Mirror, Pierre Karl paid Chritine Redfern something ridiculous like 28 cents a word for her blurb about what's up at Oboro. Short, sweet and to the point (after all what can you really say in 185 words?). My difficulty with the Mirror is that it becomes apparent that either one of their editors is going out with a film student at UQAM, or in fact is a film student at UQAM. Last week, they promoted the Derapage 5 video screening, this week they give it another 43 words. And I'm not certain how a book fair qualifies as art in their artistat, do you?

Swinging over to the folk who don't care much about Visual Art, try as I might Montr�al Campus did not appear to have anything, Quartier Libre, similarly doesn't give a hoot. And I might drop Le Plateau from my weekly scanning, as they haven't done diddly, since I don't know when. But this can and does lead us into the heavy hitters. But, before that, let me mention my one snide comment: The Link must be blind

Lio Kiefer writes 732 words about the current exhibit at the Galerie des M�tiers d'art du Qu�bec. And surprise of surprises it is all available on line! I don't know what the editors have been drinking over on Bleury street, but I would strongly recommend that they keep imbibing. The Gazette has recently changed their on-line format, and like the majority of local dailies including Le Devoir, have decided that the stuff they publish needs to be paid for, so if you're a subscriber, they will give you an opportunity to read the paper in a variety of formats. Or in a slightly less long sentence, they're gonna be charging to read their stuff on-line. Yuck. But back to the article, Mr or Mrs Kiefer does the obligatory mention of what I hope is everybody who has something in the show, I would have preferred if they (how's that for getting around the sex of the writer>) hadn't spent almost 300 words trying to give some sort of introduction to the show, but they write effectively enough that I'm going to truck down myself, which should be the point of the article, right?

While at the same paper Michel Hellman writes something about the �liane Excoffier show at Sylviane Poirier, unfortunately I can't read about it on-line. Nor can I read his blurb about Les Femmeuses, pity.

La Presse hasn't put up Jerome Delgado's article about what's happening at Graff, nor his reviews of the Alexandra Ranner exhibit at Dare-Dare, or the Brian Jungen exhibit at Quartier Ephemere. Silly them. However, they did decide that Aleksi K. Lepage's review of the comic show at the Bibliotheque Nationale was worth the electrons. Given that the Bibliotheque Nationale is featuring stuff from 100 year old copies of La Presse this is to be expected. If I had 100 years worth of history here at the gallery and somebody else decided to exhibit it, I'd be shouting about from the rooftops! It gives a nice historical overview (in this case entirely appropriate) and a small (but again appropriate) interview with Mira Falardeau, who curated the show.

Over at the McGill Daily, we finally run into a university newspaper that thinks that visual arts is worth covering. And serious props to Velina Manolova for finding something obscure. Although as it is a university publication, the subhead is a little over the top: "Montreal photographer displays nude exhibit at MAA Sports Club." But what are you gonna get? Naked sells.

They then go completely above and beyond the call of duty with a second article about "Mystery Me*t" by Concordia Interdisciplinary Art Studies students, I like it very much.

And now 'cuz I'm running out of steam, I'll deal with Rad-Can's stuff and what's in Voir tomorrow, ok?

Friday, April 16, 2004

Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel


It's bright and sunny here, and I was planning on taking a nap, but there was this little voice in my head that said "hey, you gotta write an entry." And then Art Business News showed up in my mail this morning. Now this is a free magazine, sent out to frame shops and the like, chock full of ads (which is how they pay their rent) for and by print publishers. It's sorta fun, in a train wreck sorta way. It seems that the artists, and galleries that are written about all have one major focus; Let's make some money here! Advanstar, the company the runs the joint, also organizes Artexpo New York. Which, while it does not have the cachet of say ArtBasel Miami, just to pick one art show out of a hat, probably does as much business. After all, if they are in the Javits Convention Center, they ain't exactly chump change.

Now, for the past three months, they've been writing stuff that borders on out and out racism, and I've contemplated writing a letter to point this out to them. But in a weird sorta way, I gotta largish kick outa the fact that they could be so completely clueless in the PC oriented world that we live in, and also the paper where I read the magazine is very soft, and not really suited for being written upon. Just so that you don't think that I'm making this up, in March the secondary headline read: "Latin Art Strikes a Salsa Beat with Hispanics." In February the lead article was entitled "Asian Americans Emerge as Savvy Consumers." And back in January they wrote that "Black Buying Power Shows Strength in Art." I was wondering what minority was gonna get featured this month, and was sorta stumped 'cuz their generalizations were so gross, but kept my fingers crossed that they'd hit on the latest and greatest - imagine "Gays and Lesbians have a Queer Eye when it comes to Art" or "Aboriginals Pow-Wow before Purchasing Prints" or "Muslims Bomb the Art World with Big Buys."

But, naw, they weren't that inventive. This month they went for "Galleries and Artists Cater to the Young at Art." And I said to myself; "Oh Boy! This is going to be fun!" (With a small "tee-hee under my breath.) They got quotes all over the place, like "'It?s not about drinking,' said Smith about the Gen X appeal. 'It?s about hanging with friends. It?s about the social aspect of drinking - not sweating life too much.'? Or

Burton Morris is another artist who has caught on with younger buyers. "It's for a newer generation of collectors?people who like color, who like more contemporary art, who like art that makes them happy," he said about his art. "It?s something a little more positive. It appeals to the 'Friends' demographics."
But then they go and say some reasonable things such as, "Keeping art affordable is essential in marketing to younger art buyers." And, "Younger art buyers avoid 'art speak' and pretentiousness." Now while I might disagree with what they call "affordable" (you're going to have to read the article for yourself in order to know what that is) and "people liking color" would classify in my dictionary as artspeak (how many color blind people do you know?) they do make some very good points.

This all ties in nicely with yesterday's entry, because these are the folk that are "demystifying" the art world. Unfortunately, the reasons that they are doing so seem to be in search of the almighty dollar. And while I like coffee as much as the next person, I prefer to get my coffee from anyplace but Second Cup (or Starbucks those of you below the 49th) and I adore hamburgers but Mickey D's ain't exactly my style. So selling unlimited editions of giclees that have hand embellishments - or in non-artspeak terminology - Ink jet prints run off in sufficient quantities so that we saturate the market and get as much cash as possible, while using fancy-ass words and doodling on one corner so that we don't get busted for fraud, so that you think that you're getting something that we call original that is about as unique as that K-car you used to drive when you were 18, doesn't quite sit well with me either.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Other art


My friend Paul likes to say how there are something like seventeen different art worlds within Montreal, I tend to disagree with him, not only because I am by nature contrarian, but because I tend to think that there are something like a gazillion and a half different art worlds in Montreal (and by extension elsewhere, but some are specific to Montreal)

One of the ones that I get a big kick out of is the single artist gallery. You know, the wife of the business magnate likes to paint, so the husband rents a space for her, and voila! Just add champagne and you have a gallery! Off the top of my head I can think of Nicolin & Gublin, David Farsi, Musee Marc-Aurele Fortin, and Espace PEpin in town. Now, those in the academic art world, you know the types that hang around UQAM and Concordia most definitely look down their nose at these spaces. Those in the hoity-toity art world like thos folk on the fifth floor of the Belgo Building also look down their noses. Maybe all of those folk will end up with crossed eyes.

Now, I personally am not a big fan of any of the art presented in any of the four galleries that I mentioned - you can decide for yourself,

Oreilles longues by Nicolin or maybe Gublin, on the website, they don't make it clear who the artist is, available in a variety of sizes, media, and frames.

OA0078a by David Farsi, I have no idea about the size, medium, price framing or anything else.

Autumn Landscape in Sun Valley by Marc-Aurele Fortin, oil on canvas, 73.4 x 53.8 cm.

Discret, by Lysanne Pepin, 45" x 32", originally acrylic on canvas, now available in a variety of sizes and formats.

But the thing that I do get a kick out of from them, is that they are working a similar concept to what I am trying to do here. And that is make Art integral in everybody's life. One of my push button rants, is that most people would prefer to pay $15 to see a movie that they know is going to be bad, while they never think to walk into an art gallery, which is free, and can frequently change your life.

The difficulty arises in that they (the single artist places) is that they tend to commodify art. Not in the way that Sotheby's or Christie's does which involves a lot of hocus pocus, smoke and mirrors, and houses built out of cards, but in a slightly more pedestrian way, more like toilet paper. Or in slightly more words, you know you're going to need a bunch of thank you cards, so why don't you get those pretty ones over there? And if you can't afford that size, then why not the slightly smaller ones in this corner?

The same sort of thing happens at framing stores, and places that offer giclees. They cater to the lowest common denominator. Which is why, I guess, Star Academie is such a damn popular show. Offering a variety of sizes, at various price points, attempting to please (or at least offer something) to everyone, ends up not accomplishing a whole hell of a lot, except gathering dust in the homes of the people that do end up buying things.

One of the reasons, according to me, is that people like the academics and fifth floor folk, have bought into the Sotheby's and Christie's idea of getting fabulously wealthy by buying and selling art. Which then trickles down to the public at large, who in their simplistic and locust-like way end up translating it into five syllables: "Art is expensive." Or maybe seven, "art is really expensive." This isn't helped by the hush-hush behavior at museums, nor by the headlines in any number of magazines.

So, just to stay aware and keep myself honest, I truck down to Old Montreal just to take a gander at the stuff that David Farsi has.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Interesting Figures


I got my copy of "Des nouvelles de l'Observatoire de la culture et des communications du Qu�bec" [pdf link] in my email inbox this afternoon, and as I did not have much to do other than twiddle my thumbs or gaze fondly at my navel, I figured "what the hey?" let's click on the link, what's the worst that could happen?

Well my computer didn't explode, but I was almost blown out of my chair when I read this:

Le site Web de l'Observatoire est tr�s fr�quent� L'Observatoire aime tellement les statistiques qu'il a eu l'id�e d'en faire sur la fr�quentation de son propre site Web. Les r�sultats : en 2003, le site a enregistr� 64,402 visites dont 18,923 des pages en anglais. C'est au cours des mois de septembre et de novembre que les visites ont �t� les plus nombreuses. Rappelons que l'Observatoire diffuse gratuitement sur le Web les resultants de tous ses travaux; il a choisi l'Internet comme principal outil de diffusion. Compte tenu d'une moyenne de 176 visites par jour, on peut affirmer que les pages de l'Observatoire sont tr�s fr�quent�es.
Or if you prefer, in blokespeak:
The Web site of the Observatory is very attended the Observatory likes the statistics so much that it had the idea to make some on the frequentation of its own Web site. Results: in 2003, the site recorded 64,402 visits including 18,923 of the pages in English. It is during November and September that the visits were most numerous. Let us recall that the Observatory diffuses free on the Web the resultants of all its work; it chose the Internet like principal tool for diffusion. Taking into account an average of 176 visits per day, one can affirm that the pages of the Observatory are very attended.
Right now, this blog is averaging almost 50 readers a day, (48.71 per day for the past seven days, if any of you are interested in the various stats, let me know, I'll email them to you). And I've only been writing since December. For the past two months I've been increasing readership at about 15% per month, if this keeps up, I'll be averaging 144 readers per day by the end of the year, and will have had more than 27,000 visits (not page views, I don't track no stinkin' page views). What would the Ministry of Culture and Communications say about that?

Then again, my projections could be wrong.

Then on a slightly different note, who's your favorite Macarthur Fellow? I'm thinking of inviting some/all/a bunch of them to come talk at the gallery. Who do you want to show up first? I initially thought that it would be a quick and easy way to score a Canada Council grant (don't get me started about the Canada Council). But then discovered that the deadline for "Off the Radar: Initiatives in Critical Thinking." Had come and gone a long time ago. But then in a desperate attempt to gain more insight into how the CC worked I called up Claude Schryer and asked him if it was going to be continued. His answer in its entirety: "no." So I figured it probably would be a better thing if I did it without their participation. Hence my asking you who you would like to hear speak. Email me, or knock something in the comment section, ok?

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Will it stick?


I've been meaning to review some, if not all of the stuff that I saw at the Belgo Building last Wednesday. But believe it or not, things got busy, and now that it is almost a full week later, I can barely remember a damn thing. I am certain that I at least poked my nose into ever last gallery, and while not all of them were open, there was an awful lot of art. As usual, my eyes ended up glazing over like a donut about 30 minutes before I left, which might account for the lack of memory.

Now, if I can't remember much after spending three hours looking at stuff on the walls, what does that say about me? And more importantly, what does it say about the art I saw? I'll leave those questions unanswered, thank you very much. Maybe next month there'll be a better selection of stuff up on the walls.

In the meantime, some quick reminders. Type your email address in the yellow box on the right, and get an email most Thursdays that'll tell you everything happening here at the gallery.

And don't forget to click on the swanky starburst just below the yellow box, that way you can vote in the Montreal Mirror's Best of Montreal popularity contest - if you vote for Zeke's Gallery in the appropriate categories, I'd be much obliged.

And lastly, there are still some tickets available for the Expos home opener. If you'd like to come with a bunch of folk vaguely affiliated with the gallery (in spirit, if not in mind) you're more than welcome to join us. Email me for more details.

Then, singing a different tune, try these articles on for size:
Following up on Saturday's entry, more on reviewing. This time from the other side of the other country.
The Guardian asks "Is 2,093 the magic number?" Combine that, with this. And don't forget to toss a little bit of this in as well, and you just might have a new way of experiencing art.
And then the Globe & Mail's Sarah Milroy fawns all over Ydessa Hendeles. I guess I might just have to make it down the 401 to check it out.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Review Round-up


In between last week and today, I discovered one more place for art reviews, which now brings the total of media outlets to 12. For those of you interested, these are they: Le Devoir, The Gazette, Hour, Journal Le Plateau, The Link, The McGill Daily, The Montreal Mirror, Montreal Campus, La Presse, Quartier Libre, Radio-Canada, and Voir. If you know of any other ones, please feel free to let me know, ok?

In this week's Hour, Isa Tousignant writes 681 words about Matthieu Dumont's exhibition at Skol. Craftily employing the open-ended question Ms. Tousignant successfully straddles the fence, saying nothing terribly negative, not anything completely positive. Referring to Skol as a "source of pleasure" she then counteracts that positive with "it is candy coloured, but non-consumable until it is fictionalized or processed" later in the piece. If I had been her editor I would have killed the word "dude" and given her another 319 words.

Switching over to the sister publication, Voir decides to waste 287 words republishing what appears to be a press release over Nicholas Mavrikakis' byline on an historical exhibit about the Lachine Canal. They then try to salvage some editorial credibility by letting him use another 582 words to drop names left, right and center while not saying much about Bertrand R. Pitt's exhibition at Plein Sud. While Mr. Mavrikakis uses the open-ended question like it is going out of style, it seems to me that the main point of the article is for Mr. Mavrikakis to show off to his readers how many exhibits he has seen in Montreal. He mentions Marc Seguin and Mark Tansey at the Musee des Beaux Arts, Martin Boisseau at Galerie Graff, and also what he is currently reading. His descriptions of the three videos and the techniques used to create them are either a function of word count, or lack of imagination. Your call.

The Gazette (or more properly Henry Lehman) finally decide to get around to reviewing Kamila Wozniakowska's show at the Musse des Art Contemporain. Using code words like "quirky" and sentences like "art, like life, is more about preconceptions and style than it is about real flesh and blood" Mr. Lehman writes 689 words that effectively to illustrate his ambivalent feelings about Ms. Wozniakowska's work. I particularly like the fact that he only describes one piece (Saint Sebastian Receiving Unsolicited Advice On Professional Martyrdom) saving the bulk of the article for an attempt at eloquence that I can't help but imagine was prodded into publication by a threat of a hissy fit by some mandarin at the museum.

Over at Le Devoir, they continue their policy of saying if you want to read our stuff about art here in Quebec you're gonna have to pay through the nose for it. As I mentioned last week, $3.93 to read a single article. In this case what David Cantin writes about the Mimi Parent and Jean Benoit exhibition at the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec. Do you think this might have some cause and effect relationship with why more people don't know anything about contemporary art in Quebec? Personally, I'm more annoyed at the hoops that I have to jump through in order to read Michel Hellman's work. This week he wrote about the Nina Levitt show at Oboro. I have no idea what he thinks about it, but I am mighty curious.

Moving over to the new addition to the round up, Radio Canada has three articles up currently - I don't know if any of them are "new" and how often they update the site, we'll have to wait until next week to figure that out. They have some short hits (341 words, 302 words, and 318 words) about some exhibitions that definitely need and could use the publicity. First there is a retrospective of four years of Quebecois cartoons at the Bibliotheque nationale du Quebec on Saint Denis. The thing that is particularly fascinating is that the four years in question are 1904 to 1908. Who would've thunk? Claude Couillard then gives CO2 at Art en majuscule some much needed credibility. And lastly, he jumps on the band wagon about the Stephen Schofield/Patrick Coutu exhibits at Optica. Given what are the obvious space limitations I don't see why he thought it necessary to write about the show. Other than having the best selection of images on line about the shows (which sorta undermines the point) he doesn't do anything more than write something that could've been a press release about the shows. I don't mind this, and actually would highly recommend it for exhibitions at places like Art en majescule and the Bibliotheque who otherwise would not be known by the majority of people, for major galleries (of which I would consider Optica to be one) I would prefer that reviewers, or critics, write something useful.

In this week's Mirror, there ain't much but a bunch of short press release reprints, 164 words on the Maisonneuve Party next Thursday. 116 words about the Derapage 5 video screening (also on Thursday). 182 words (in two paragraphs!) about Alexandra Ranner's Corridor at Dare-Dare. I like it much better when they run full articles. Gives me something to chew on.

Then lastly ('cuz I'm probably gonna break 1,000 words today) La Presse and Jerome Delgado spends 365 words writing about the Eliane Excoffier exhibit at Sylviane Poirier. I find it particularly nice that he uses 364 words in a separate article to interview Ms. Excoffier. I don't know if I've ever seen or read something like that in La Presse (or for that matter any other mainstream press). I applaud the effort by La Presse to explain in Ms. Excoffier's own words what she's trying to accomplish. The review itself serves no purpose, in my opinion, other than to get pictures of some nekkid women on to newsprint. The interview explains to the reader how Ms. Excoffier makes her art, and then lets her (as opposed to Mr. Delgado) name drop some seriously obscure women artists. I also like the article and interview 'cuz I've already seen the show! And while I wasn't initially that impressed with Ms. Excoffier's work, the stuff by Christina Horeau, which is also on display I quite enjoyed.

I briefly contemplated mentioning the reviews in the Globe & Mail, ArtDaily.com, and a couple of other places but decided against it, because they weren't Montreal. However if you know of any other places I definitely wanna know abot 'em, ok?

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Bloop Hits, and Texas Leaguers


It is a significant birthday for someone today, and I've decided that the gallery should be closed, so nothing terribly thought provoking, just a bunch of other articles that have been clogging up my desktop.

First off, PS 1 is launching what they say is " the world's first art radio station." What then is Resonance 104.4fm? Chopped Liver? I think Alanna Heiss should've done some more research.

The it appears that Lesley Thompson thinks she got ripped off by Christies. I'm looking forward to reading the court documents when they get online.

And, I might just have to invite Ronald Harwood to direct something at the gallery.

Over in a different world, I think it was Modern Art Notes that lead me to the Manhattan Users Guide, which has an interesting piece on the hows and whats of criticism. I will need some more time to read it fully. But it looks tasty.

That's it for now, sorry, but I gotta go bake a cake.

Thursday, April 08, 2004



I was going to write a review of some of the exhibits that I saw at the Belgo building yesterday, but early this morning, I discovered Chantal Pontbriand whining in today's Le Devoir about how other cultural institutions got more and better than she did, and that the various levels of government just didn't care about contemporary dance. And, as a consequence the Festival International de Nouvelle Danse was put out of its misery.

If you want to read the article yourself, click here. If you would like to read it in a machine translation, try this link. (don't miss the line "I was in the young score and animated desire to make known the artists from here and besides who came to revolutionize our imaginary dull.")

To start responding vaguely in the order that Ms. Pontbriand writes. She first states that FIND was a great success. If it was such an overwhelming success that why does it no longer exist? Sorta like calling the dodo a great success in evolutionary terms. Montr�al is on the map as a "dance capital" it is because of the dancers. Is Montr�al the jazz capital of the world because we have the biggest jazz festival in the world? How many jazz musicians can you name from Montreux?

She then continues to state that FIND's goals were to "stimulate...the development of the public" (although I much prefer the machine translation: "stimulate the artistic emulation, the development the public ones and the international radiation of the contemporary dance.") Umm, I hate to make this public, but the public is stupid. They buy Celine Dion albums, watch Star Academie, wander around the Jazz Festival, and sometimes watch Cirque du Soleil when they deign to come to town. Guy Laliberte had it right, make it big in town, and then get out of town as fast as possible. Andre Simard did the same thing, but backwards, make it big in town, and then start bringing people in town and milk their wallets dry. Ms. Pontbriand's organization never made it big in town, they went nowhere, and unless they were paying the freight nobody from out of town showed up.

She talks with a sense of pride of how she got 1,000 "personnalit�s du milieu international" to grace our fine city with their presence. Hell, in 20 years, 10 editions, either way you cut it, she accomplished something like 5% of what George Gillett Jr. has done in three years.

If after 20 years someone hasn't figured out how to turn a profit, maybe they should stop trying, and instead come clean and call it charity work. This has succeeded for La La La Human Steps, Margie Gillis, O Vertigo, the Agora du Danse, and others. If after 20 years, you haven't realized that the public at large doesn't give a rat's ass about contemporary dance, then maybe you should stop presenting rat's asses. In Victoriaville, they've got a similar type of festival, dedicated to weird and wonky music. Initially (according to the rumor-mill) Michel Levasseur, wanted to see if he could change the musical tastes of the good people who were responsible for inflicting poutine on the rest of us. Somewhere about 10 or 11 years into this experiment, he realized it wasn't going to happen, no matter how hard he tried. So, he switched gears, moved the festival from a local event happening in the fall, to an international event happening in the spring. And now, he's got a trophy case (I didn't know they made trophies for festivals) bigger then Vladimir Guerrero's.

I'm foaming at the mouth here, so I'm gonna skip some stuff that Ms. Pontbriand writes about the history of the financial difficulties that the festival faced. About two-thirds of the way through her bleating, she states that the Agora du Danse received got more than $700,000 from CALQ and she only got less than $600,000. While at the same time she moans that the Festival de Theatre des Ameriques had a cool budget of $2,700,000 and FIND only had a budget of $1,800,000. Jeez! If Casa del popolo scores a landslide because Mauro and Keva are doing something that I'm not, am I going to complain? Not on your life, good on 'em, and maybe I'll try and copy what they're doing. If the government is going to be your sugar daddy, you can't be complaining to mom that your sister Marie-Helene is loved more, or that sister Francine always gets the biggest piece of cake.

She ends up stating that dance in Montreal needs new blood, and that she's got old blood. From where I sit, I feel sorta confident that the transfusion has already happened and been extremely successful. Now, the question remains, is there a hole in her parachute?

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Tough times on the Rock


Continuing on the business side of things, or at least the money side of things. It appears that whoever is in charge of things artistic within the government of Newfoundland isn't doing such a hot job.

Article 1: No new art for Nfld. government via the CBC website. Apparently Loyola Sullivan is the name of the Finance Minister on the Rock, and she can't find $200,000 within the most recent budget to buy art. Yet another reason why depending on government funding is more dangerous than getting hooked on junk. Perhaps instead the right honorable Ms. Sullivan should hook up with the people who bought these Frank Stella prints and this Gertrude K�sebier photograph, and see if they can't work out some sort of deal.

Article 2: Maybe perhaps because they can't afford to buy any art, the government of Newfoundland also decided to leave The Rooms, a building for which they've already spent $47.5 million empty for the time being. Maybe they should take all those Frank Stella prints,

Frank Stella, Newfoundland Series, River of Ponds I, 1971 Frank Stella, Newfoundland Series, River of Ponds III, 1971

and stick them in there.

Article 3: Then finally, after discovering that there is no money to purchase art, and that they aren't going to be showing any either, the magazine that publishes articles about art, is also going have to close down because of a lack of funding. Hmmm, can't buy it, can't see it, can't write about it because there ain't no money. Maybe they should start beating up on more baby seals, fast.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Further Follow Up


First of all, apologies for no entry yesterday, I was writing this one, but wasn't able to finish it, so I did so now, ok?

Over the weekend the New York Times published a review/article about "The Business of Art: Evidence From the Art Market" a current exhibit at the Getty in California by Andras Szanto. Which lead me to two things, a) it made me want even more to get my butt out to the left coast to see the friggin' show, and b) lead me to this article - which is even more wicked cool!

It seems that the New York Times' assignment editors know what they're doing. Andras Szanto, while having a name that is very mellifluous and almost a homonym of Arthur C. Danto, is not the Art Critic for The Nation, is in fact The Deputy Director of the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, which has got to be one of the cooler places on earth. I must've book marked things in their website a gazillion times, and if I had a spare thousand hours, or so, would read all of it.

But back to the business of art. Mr. Szanto use 1,259 words (nothing like having a little bit of space, eh?) to describe and explain what he calls "a small but engrossing exhibit." From the Getty's website, I would've never thought that it was small. But then again, I can be somewhat dense.

He spotlights some of the things that he considers most significant in the exhibition, things like

a colorful 1982 German board game in which players compete for art-world recognition, with the winner receiving this guidance: "From now on you can afford (practically) anything, your glory seems to be secured, your posthumous glory is merely a question of your inevitable demise (probably soon).
Not to be confused with this American board game from the 1970s. And

a set of documents laying bare [Joseph] Duveen's business dealings with Bernard Berenson, the Renaissance scholar and connoisseur who authenticated Italian old master paintings for Duveen and, in return, received a 10 percent commission (later upgraded to 25 percent), and a retainer. Displayed here is a 1928 contract reaffirming their secret agreement, along with an "attestation album" ? a collection of photographic reproductions of Italian paintings, accompanied by Berenson's signed attributions ? which Duveen occasionally presented to clients after a sale.
While Betty Parsons claims to have invented the white cube, Mr. Szanto figures that Mr. Duveen is the person most responsible for current North American ideas about personal art collections. According to Mr. Szanto, Duveen was "ambitious, methodical and well connected, Duveen hired an international network of spies and runners to track down clients and artworks for sale. Some of his cloak-and-dagger antics may seem outmoded, but his fingerprints remain all over America's greatest art collections." And you thought the business of art was slightly askew! Wrong-O Boy-O! it is completely askew.

If you go back and read the article that Mr. Szanto published way back in February, 2000, he goes into even more detail about the business of art. This is why I have a unflinching confidence in the assignment editors of the New York Times. You figure that there are, what? Six, seven folk in the world who have dedicated their life to studying the history of the business of art in the detail required for post-graduate academia? And the gray lady goes and gets one of them to write about the exhibition on that topic. The only people who I can think of that are better, would be the editors of The New York Review of Books. And then only because they give their writers something ridiculous like 20,000 words to make their points.

In the earlier article, Mr. Szanto writes that "opinion about the world of contemporary art is often based on one of two inaccurate fantasies." And then goes on to describe those fantasies:

The first is a sinister and status-obsessed view, with museums at the center of a conspiracy to exclude the unmoneyed and uneducated from a zone of privilege. The perpetrators of this connivance are dealers, collectors, and others, who fashion a mystique around art so as to justify exorbitant prices. Quality doesn't count, or even exist, according to this view. The scenario runs thus: Sons and daughters of well-heeled families graduate from lavishly endowed art schools and are recommended by their complicitous professors to galleries with links to enterprising collectors who buy new art as though they were investing in penny stock. Acting on tips that in some lines of business would be called insider trading, the coterie of collectors bid up the value of one or another up-and-coming artist. Validation is bought on the cheap from struggling critics, who receive kickbacks in the form of work by the young genius. Public approval is nurtured through exhibitions of increasing stature. The ultimate goal of the conspiracy is appearance in a museum, whose trustees already own work by the young star or are actively courting future donations from collectors who own it. The collectors oblige, further escalating the reputation and value of their collections.

A different scenario, often taught in college courses, sees art works as suffused with a unique value, the search for which is undertaken in the ongoing conversation among painters and sculptors that is art history. In this view, if the art world is somewhat mysterious, it is so because its investigations, like those of science, are lodged in a tangle of theory and history.

In this fantasy, art schools inculcate students into the art conversation. The critics' job is to show how artists fit into the historical record and to illuminate the connective tissue of ideas. Collectors and dealers are there, but mainly to participate in the dialogue. (High prices are simply metaphors for exceptional quality and historical importance.) Museum directors pick for their shows only art validated by the cognoscenti. Indeed, art's autonomy--a signal accomplishment of modern society--requires that it answer only to its own logic and that it be protected from the "real world" by a firewall. Otherwise it could devolve into a mere commodity and lose its authority to edify, unify, challenge, and heal our democratic community.
When in fact, Mr. Szanto writes (way more eloquently than I can) the business of art is no more fantastical than the business of government, or the business of business, and being part of it, albeit a microscopic part, I gotta agree.

Then, to continue on this "demystification" there is a blog that I wish would be updated more than the three times a week that it is. Art Addict is written by Paige West who runs a gallery in New York, and concentrates on the hows and the whats of buying art. Her entry on Monday was particularly enlightening. But the thing that struck me upon reading it was how much more expensive art (or for that matter anything but alcohol) is in New York than here (or elsewhere).

This painting by Auguste Bartholdi (the guy who designed the Statue of Liberty) sold for $2,216.91 (US) including buyer's premium and all taxes last night at an auction in town.

Clarens I by Auguste Bartholdi

While six hours due south, this painting by John LaFarge (not the guy who designed the Statue of Liberty) sold for $5,400 (taxes not included, 'cuz I don't know what sales taxes are like in New York City).

Village Huts at Matakula Devil Country, Figi by John La Farge

Now you're thinking that I must've manipulated something, right? Well, if I did, it was only unconsciously.

Check these comparisons:
Google search results for "Auguste Bartholdi" = 12,500
Google search results for "John La Farge" = 3,310
Size of the Bartholdi painting = 12.5 cm by 22 cm
Size of the La Farge painting = 10.5 cm by 16.5 cm
Year the Bartholdi painting was made = 1897
Year the La Farge painting was made = 1891
Materials Bartholdi used = oil on wood panel
Materials La Farge used = graphite and pastel on paper

So Bartholdi is more famous, made a larger painting, with better materials, at roughly the same time, yet the La Farge sold for 280% more (yes, I removed the taxes to make the calculation fair).

So what does this all mean? If you're a painter, paint in New York, if you're a buyer, buy anywhere but New York.


PS I edited this later and ended up revising the sale price for the Bartholdi, after the Expos game. I was able to go and double check my figures and I had apparently confused the selling price of Clarens I ($2,200 cdn) with the selling price of the invitation to the inauguration of the Statue of Liberty ($3,500 cdn).

Really Big Picture of a Really Old Invitation