Thursday, October 27, 2005

Face Off - The transcription


Thanks to the amazing generosity of Cedric Cedric Caspesyan, we have a transcript of the discussion that happened here last week. Once I get my hands on the videos, I'll post them too (apologies in advance for the repetition).

If you'd like to listen while you read, Click here. (Stream it) [48:42 minutes, 46.8 MB]

Please go and read Cedric's blogs (he's got two) Artquebuse and Artquebus, they are wonderful.

Chris Hand: And my first question to you...

Marc Mayer: ...I just wanted to say: si vous avez des questions en français, indiquez-bien si vous voulez que je réponde en français, c'est important.

Chris Hand: Ah oui hey... Est-ce que tout le monde a bien compris mon anglais? Car je peux faire des traductions de mes annonces...

Marc Mayer: Ah non non non non non!! (rires dans la salle) You got to spare us that.

Chris Hand: First Question: 'cuz I want to know because I think I am older than you, how old are you?

Marc Mayer: I'm 49.

Chris Hand: Ahhh! Phoey!... You don't look it.

Marc Mayer: Ah, Thanks.

Chris Hand: And then because this was the sort of thing where you said you wanted to do this, which was to demystify the museum: how do you think the museum has become mystified?

Marc Mayer: I don't think the museum has become mystified, I think museums are mystified. I don't think it's any particular problem that we have. Necessarily, I think it's sort of the museums in general, and the staff of museums not being as accessible, to people who don't show up to openings, for example, as some people would like.

Chris Hand: Ok, and then, do you have any specific ideas, other than stuff like this which I find a little weird as far as demystifying the museum?

Marc Mayer: No, because I think that they are issues that can be discussed, about cultural infrastructure, the broader picture, questions that we never get asked. There's no real forum to ask those questions in. And the kind of questions that I'm sure you're going to ask me are things that are interesting to discuss: non-artistic questions about the art world, and about the art scene, and there goes different things.

Chris Hand: I agree with you on that yet, too

Marc Mayer: And, you know that museum people have opinions about those things, and have positions and have experiences that would inform those opinions and positions. That's probably interesting in that they're not questions that people ask us.

Chris Hand: Ok so then, first question: since you seem to want to demystify the museum, make it more open to the public, more welcoming, do you have any specific ideas that you can announce to the public?

Marc Mayer: There's this (points to the room), for example. We have a lot of ideas.

Chris Hand: There, with this: this is something that I find...yes, weird, as far as demystifying the museum, that, the hands raised, half the people here have been here before.

Marc Mayer: It seemed like more than half actually, Chris.

Chris Hand: Ahhh...ok: 2/3. None the less as far as I can tell it's the sort of thing where, from my perspective of answering the phone and so on, it struck me as being much more of a museum crowd coming here. For that I thank you tons.

Marc Mayer: Well there was a little of that in there too.

Chris Hand: But it is: to do something like this at the museum, yet to me would be much more effective. We are doing the second one there.

Marc Mayer: To be perfectly transparent however, the original idea may have been mine, but the way it was devised, and the two side thing, was something that you and Christine Bernier came up with, so I'm off the hook there. So if you guys think I look silly up here on this bar stool, and would've prefer a different format, I had nothing to do with it. (Laughs in the room)

Chris Hand: But that then highlights one thing that you'd mentioned about the museum being accessible. One of the things that I have as a mantra here is just clear communication. And it's relatively simple since I'm my dishwasher, I'm my technician, I'm my answering or my reservation, and so on. I talk to people directly. There as far as getting that clear thing you said you had the idea, passed it on to Christine, than came through my filter. My initial idea was that we'd have boxing gloves and uniforms and...

Marc Mayer: Right. What happened to that?

Chris Hand: Well. Given the crowd I think we would've need to kick out half of them to have the boxing ring.

Marc Mayer: Right. I'm a lover not a fighter anyways.

Chris Hand: But it is the sort of things: we're yet to somewhere break down those communication barriers, and that something I would be suggesting.

Marc Mayer: Well I guess there was a need, because the first thing that happened when the word got out that we were doing this, was that Le Devoir showed up, and asked me to do kind of a pre-interview about it, which surprised me, as I thought this was just "a little kind of thing" that we're doing...

Chris Hand: This is not little.

Marc Mayer:...and it turns out that it's not. So I guess what's interesting is that people have things to say or questions to ask and I think that it's an important discussion to have (I don't say debate because I don't think that we're actually debating) about this infrastructure that we have: what's wrong with this picture. What's wrong with the museum? That's important information for me to gather, and that's one of the reason I thought we should do this was because I want to know how the museum is perceived and also to get specific ideas about how we could demystify it because I'm busy doing other things too.

Chris Hand: Ok, then, to get out of another preamble, one question I had is trying to figure out exactly: you know what curators do, you know what educators do, well as far as I can tell I'm not entirely certain what a museum director does. Do you have any way to come up with your job description?

Marc Mayer: Oh my god, that is going to take us a long time... Well, a curator does, I mean, a director does a lot of the stuff that the curators do, or used to do, sometimes in my case, still do occasionally. A lot of the same things educators do: I'm always doing tours of the museum, for people who might be able to help us out, or who are helping us out, or who show up when we just say "director's doing a tour." Have to deal with various levels of governments who fund us, or who are interested in our fate, have to report to a board of trustees, have to work with them very closely, ...

Chris Hand: Ok, there. From what you saying it strikes me than that you're almost following other people. In terms of where you're saying you're doing curating, but the curators are the leaders. You're doing educating, but the educators are the leaders, you're following the board...

Marc Mayer: No, a director is there to make sure that the place is run properly, and that nobody is going away mad. And that the program suits your vision of what this public institution should be like because you have a very idea about what it should be, and that everyone is following that line. And also you have to get the board buying into this plan that you have. You've also got to get your staff buying: you got to sell your ideas to the staff, and make sure they they're in line, and you have to be available for their comments as well. So it's about discussing, about being, really the MC, for a creation of a museum that is done jointly by a very large group of people, but you know, people who have opinions as well.

Chris Hand: To take that step back, then. You hit a key word to me: "vision." It's your responsibility of coming up with a vision for the museum. Then to get you down as precise as possible: what is your "vision" for the Musée d'Art Contemporain?

Marc Mayer: Well, I used to think I was hot stuff, until I read a document that was written by the first director of the museum, Guy Robert I think that was, and... I'm looking and reading this stuff and I'm going "My God! I'm not inventing anything." Everything, all the ideas that I have about what this museum should be like, were part of its initiation, were there at the very beginning. So that's great. First of all, what you do is, to stay close... That it should be a showcase for local artists. And also be a place where people can see what is going on in the world. In the same context. So...It's not us in a separate room with "Them" in the big room, it's "us and them" mixed up together in the same project, in the same program where you can say "you know we look pretty good in an international context, at home." It's also: being open to other art forms. Being a place of experimentation. Something we've always done: theatre and dance. And that was right there in the very beginning as well, that we're not isolated, that artists are actually interested in what dancers and playwrights are doing. They're also interested in what microbiologists are doing. They're also interested in what, you know, "Corporate Canada" is doing. And to make a place where at least all of the non-academic, experimental art forms, and by experimental I really mean in the creative sense, not in the "I-don't-know-what-this-is-going-to-be-like"...

Chris Hand: If I can interrupt you for a second... I haven't seen the three lastest shows you have there. Am I correct assuming that those were green lighted before you came on board?

Marc Mayer: Yeah, they were.

Chris Hand: So, at which point you are quote on quote "not responsible" for their (fill blank) vision...

Marc Mayer: I fully take responsibility for those great shows! (laughs in the room) What do you mean I'm not responsible for them?!

Chris Hand: ...From my perspective of the museum, as I'm telling everybody, there is a lot of great, there is tons of great Quebec art. And great Quebec artists. What I find is difficult is that "just getting out there", beyond Quebec. And it is the sort of thing we're looking at previous shows which, there trying to separate that responsibility, I was trying to get you off the hook by saying if you weren't responsible for these, that at which point, and I know the ones previous you aren't, but there...The Museum right now seems to be at top end of where Quebec artists go. I haven't seen any real Quebec artist go further than the museum since I started this gallery. And so I end up ultimately getting frustrated just because...yeah, the museum is the all end all. But is there something that you'd like to do with the museum, that you can do with the museum to get it out further?

Marc Mayer: I'll give you a little anecdote. An artist from Toronto whom I had a studio visit with because I liked his work, and I wanted to see more of it, said to me: "You know I was a student at OCA, and they didn't really explain life to us there, they just sort of set these intellectual tests for us", and said "I didn't know that you could just go to a commercial gallery, I could just go to museum openings, and rub elbows with all those fancy people, and it took me a couple years out of school before I realized that: hey this art world was sort of designed for people like me." He got a show at the AGO, and he said: "man, I cried… I thought there it is, my life: it's changing", and than he said "I had the show, I had the great reviews, and...No, it's not changing." It's not changing. What's wrong with this picture? Ah: Museums are doing their jobs. In Canada, we have another problem, we have a very very weak market. And that's an important aspect of the larger economic system that keeps the arts alive.

Chris Hand: Can I toss a question at them? (points the public)

Marc Mayer: I thought you wanted them to write them down?

Chris Hand: No, I'm tossing a question after them that can be answered: how many of you collect art?

Marc Mayer: Man…that's so great. Oh! (raises hand) No, I don't actually, that's a lie, that's a lie. (laughs in the room)

Chris Hand: Again, to me it's the same sort of thing, and... I know I'm doing my best to try and get, develop a collector base, start real low in terms of age, start real low in terms of, just sort of that barrier to entry in every way, shape or form. And, yeah if I was in your position I'd probably be able to come up with ideas. Is there anything you have specific towards developing a collector base?

Marc Mayer: It's not my job to promote Canadian art abroad, or to...

Chris Hand: Here in town?

Marc Mayer: Promoting it here in town is something that we do do. Yes. Yes.

Chris Hand: But, collector base?

Marc Mayer: Absolutely! We have. We're developing educational programs. One of the things that collectors have to understand is that if they're in it for the investment value, they should be hanging out with curators. Absolutely.

Chris Hand: Nah, if they're in it for investment purposes, they should be hanging out with stockbrokers.

Marc Mayer: Stockbrokers aren't going to tell you which is the better work of art to be buying.

Chris Hand: At which point: anybody who's investing in Quebec art for stock purposes, for investment purposes, there is a hole in their head about this size.

Marc Mayer: I don't understand what you mean.

Chris Hand: In terms of Mei Moses Fine Art Index. You take something like an Andy Warhol. You take something like a Picasso print or something like that. Those can be tracked, and at which point you can do return over time. If you are buying any of Will's (Murray) paintings, or - Pascal Grandmason! (says someone in the crowd)

Chris Hand: Pascal Grandmaison, any of that, for investment purposes? There is not enough of a track record. You buy stock in GM, you got 30 years...

Marc Mayer: That is why I said you got to be hanging out with curators. What our job is, is we're doing heritage speculation. We're saying, the museum...

Chris Hand: No, you're not doing heritage speculation.

Marc Mayer: Yes we are! Let me tell you what we're doing, Chris! Don't tell me what I'm doing. (laughs in the room) We're doing heritage speculation. The curator says: "Ok, that one is really good, going places, need to be put in a museum, need to be buying these things for this public collection now, because the people in 20 years are gonna think as for having done this, when this becomes a fixture in our culture, when this work becomes and that artist becomes. So we're speculating: of all the works that we're seeing now, what is going to be, what is important for us to be encouraging as an institution. What is going to be valuable in our culture. How we're going to be remembered, in the future. It's precisely what works like this: this is the bet that we're taking, and that bet, is, usually about 70 per cent correct.

Chris Hand: There, that is why I say you are not doing heritage speculation as to my mind, cuz you're the museum, you're doing heritage insider trading. (claps from the crowd)

Marc Mayer: What? Why is that?

Chris Hand: For instance, If Will (Murray) is lucky enough to get a painting into your museum. Than Bam! All those paintings (points the room) go up 25, 50 per cent, 200 per cent.

Marc Mayer: That's why that guy said "I thought my life was changing and oh my god, it ain't!!." Oh, I forgot to tell you the end. He moved to Los Angeles.

- And? (from the crowd...laughs)

Marc Mayer: And... He's doing... quite well actually. He's doing quite well, he's making a living from his work.

Chris Hand: Giving what Will's prices are, jacking them up 200 per cent, still going to be affordable. But it is where...It's you're deciding...

Marc Mayer: Yeah but...It's the insider trading thing, that...

Chris Hand: It's you have the curator, you decide: this is what we're buying. The rest of the body of work of that artist...

Marc Mayer: Anybody can find out what we're buying. They can come to the museum and see what we're buying.

Chris Hand: Oh, that I realize...

Marc Mayer: And by the way, we're not buying a lot, because we got a tiny tiny little acquisition budget, that's the leftovers of our operating funds, so, we're not very helpful unfortunately because of that.

Chris Hand: But it seems to me that once you've been designated as like "the golden child", than at which point, like with your AGO anecdote, no it doesn't really change your life, but if you go back to the AGO anecdote, I doubt strongly that he brought his prices back down to what he had had before he had the show, and also if it's the AGO, how much did they buy: did the buy a piece, did they buy 2 pieces was it...?

Marc Mayer: Oh, they bought a piece. I'm sure they bought a piece. It just didn't sort of mean anything in the larger sense. It's not an American story where...You know the don't pay artists fees in American museums because, it is going to change your life if you get the big catalog, and you get the big show, it really does have an effect. Than the dealer goes to town with that, and raises all our...(changes tone) "See what happened?!! I told you!! You, Idiot!! You didn't listen to me last year when I told you there was still of him ..." Whatever they do, the dealers... Don't tell me more than that, cuz I don't know. However, that's not the case here, there's just... doesn't really have that kind of an effect, and, I don't know why. You know? And I've talked to old timers who said, "you know, we tried this in the 70's. A bunch of us promoted the hell out of this artist. We bought it. We told all of our friends. We told all of our American friends. We told all of our German friends..." And you know... It's...

Chris Hand: Who's the artist?

Marc Mayer: I don't know who the artist is, actually. I can't remember which artist he was talking about. It's sort of not fair to talk about...to name names.

Chris Hand: Oh but, If you're looking to analyze a situation.

Marc Mayer: So what I'm saying is, the point is: certain collector say "Hey! Don't blame us!. It's not just...It's not because we didn't show, because Canadians didn't show up." It's just a virtue of the size of our economy.

Chris Hand: Now, you just said, and I agree with you, that there is no collector base in Montreal.

Marc Mayer: It's small, it's small.

Chris Hand: But if you have the 4 Montreal collectors and they say: "We tried all we can." Than at which point, yeah, ultimately will fail. I tried to accept as many invitations for tonight as possible. I have, unfortunately, not enough space...

Marc Mayer: I got three no-shows. So I'm not that flattered, after all.

Chris Hand: 4 or 5...But it is still with a limited thing and to my mind I always try to, enlarge that base, which, for getting people into the gallery I'm thankful for you. I do think that they are things that the museum can do so as to enlarge the collector base here in Montreal. You want to know what I think?

Marc Mayer: Go for it, let me know. Yeah?

Chris Hand: Basically, make it absolutely transparent: your acquisition policy, tout every last one. I know that in the magazine that comes out quarterly, and I apologize that I might be confusing your magazine with the Musée Des Beaux-Arts, but they do tag their "this is what we just bought." Slap down a price. Don't do it quarterly, do it instantaneously: the instant you get something, let it be known far and white. The first two times...

Marc Mayer: No, that's not fair. First of all, you can tell them a price when they come to the gallery and find out how much Will's work go for. It's not my business to tell them how much they're worth, or how much we paid.

Chris Hand: Sotheby's auctions, Christies' auctions, whatever they...

- They're sellers (says a guy from the crowd)

Chris Hand: And at which point, the only thing that makes it into the headlines is two hundred million dollars, twenty million dollars, new records...

Marc Mayer: Chris, I'm not in the business of raising the value of the art, and I'm not in the business of getting everybody all jonesed about the prices of stuff. These things are valuable inherently, not in a commercial sense, but in an intellectual sense. I don't care what they cost. Well actually I do cuz I can't buy any.

Chris Hand: We're competing with Britney Spears, we're competing with...what should I call them...24...

Marc Mayer: Do you really think that Pascal Grandmaison is competing with Britney Spears? What kind of insult is that? That's not true.

Chris Hand: In 1950's, Sears Catalog, Vincent Price was selling fine art prints of contemporary artists through Sears Catalog. Over the course of time, pop contemporary culture has decided that ...woww...art is scary stuff. I can't think of it, it's intellectual. And at which point, fine, you want the quick and easy hit. Yeah: mention it costs 2 hundred thousand dollars for a Pascal Grandmaison, and (to the crowd) I hope that's how much you're getting...

Marc Mayer: Very funny.

Chris Hand: ...and at which point, that would then get in those Britney Spears headline readers. Make it into People's magazine. Than because you have 75 million people reading 7 Jours and stuff like that, than at which point, over time, you get 750,000 who will be suddenly interested, unless it's not...

Marc Mayer: No, no, no. They print those prices every time. Doesn't mean anything.

Chris Hand: They do?

Marc Mayer: Of course. They write about those prices in newspapers. Something went to auction for this, the artist is 27, he died in 1988.

Chris Hand: Igor is the only auction house we have in town, and the only way I'm gonna find that price is if I go to the auction, and last night, or was it tonight, but I unfortunately couldn't make it to either one whatever night it was, the time I was there he was getting 3000 or 4000 for some really kick ass paintings that really to my mind should be going for 20 or 25 thousand dollars, cuz they are that old, that historically significant, and so on... I'll go...ahh...fudge a little bit...But it is the sort of thing where just to get out there and promote the hell out of it take whatever book it get so as to get the headlines. And then...

Marc Mayer: Why? What does that do?

Chris Hand: It makes people accustomed to it. Does not make it intimidating, doesn't make it intellectual...

Marc Mayer: No, no, no. Look. When I first started at the Brooklyn Museum, I used to watch the, what was it, the Antique Road show. cuz I was interested in those objects. And he said... And this was an objects curator, he was decorative art curator. He said "I can't watch it, it just turns my stomach." I said, "Why?"."Cuz it's all about the value! The punchline is how much it was worth! It wasn't that it was something that was made for Lincoln's election." And, my god, they would make this kinda of ephemeral bath, in those days, in the 1840's, who knew? No, it's not about that, it's how much the stuff is worth that was in the attic. It's all about the dollar value. It's not about the heritage value, or the intellectual value, or even the aesthetic value. Who cares? They don't care about it at all. They're just telling you why it's so expensive. And really the punchline is that tipper tip of the bottom: "man, she had a thing that was worth 3,000, and she almost threw it out." (laughs in the room)

Chris Hand: At which point, for the 5 million people who've seen the Antique Road show, that is what they're doing: that's the "Antique Road show." They are, 500 000 people that will...

Marc Mayer: How does that help to create an art market that's serious and that is going to seriously support our best artists? It isn't. I mean, they tried that in New York. They said... Well in New York actually, is because...again it's insider trading thing that always cracks me up...They, ah, some local politician, or perhaps a civil servant, started to oblige by law all of the galleries to post their price lists on the wall. And so what Mary Boone did, she was the hottest gallery in town, she putted red dots next to all the prices. She said "sorry, not for sale," and she would negotiate, whatever she negotiated with whomever was interested in that thing, that day: "for you, it's still for sale." So that backfired, because they wanted there to be some kind of transparency in the prices.

Chris Hand: yes.

Marc Mayer: Well, you know, it's not a tube of toothpaste that you want to know. It's not a magazine that says "5.99." It's not the same.

Chris Hand: Then, at which point, to my mind, I agree with you that it is not the same. But it has gone so far to the other side, that they are way too many people who are just turning off, and say "I don't want to be bothered. They told me it's gonna hurt my brain to go see it. Therefore I'm gonna listen to them." And at which point, you don't publish...

Marc Mayer: Wait a minute, turning who off?

Chris Hand: How many...You don't publish your attendance figures.

Marc Mayer: We do publish our attendance figures!!

Chris Hand: I haven't seen them.

Marc Mayer: You never seen our annual report? It's on our website. It's all over the place.

Chris Hand: I've looked for your attendance figures.

Marc Mayer: I'll give them to you.

Chris Hand: Ok, so, how many people do you get a year?

Marc Mayer: It depends on the year.

Chris Hand: Most recent year you can think of?

Marc Mayer: I think we posted...

Chris Hand: Roughly

Marc Mayer: We're up to 175 last year, or something like that. Manon le sais-tu?

(Manon, from the room - yes it's true)

Marc Mayer: Yeah, it's about 175 (000), last year.

Chris Hand: Ok, there...

Marc Mayer: Which actually I think we could do better.

Chris Hand: I agree, they are 3,000,000 people in town.

Marc Mayer: Yeah, but we know who's coming to the museum, and we know who goes to museums, ad who goes to contemporary art museums. And it's not 3,000,000 people. And it's not even 1,000,000 people.

Chris Hand: And settling for just what you can get, that's what I disagree with.

Marc Mayer: No, no, no. That is where I disagree with you. I do not believe in dumbing down. I do not believe in saying "Let's show the real cutesy, fun, you know, "makes-people-crack-up" artists, over the really good artists, because this is going to bring more people. I don't do that for that. This is not the business that we're in.

Chris Hand: Am I dumbing down?

Marc Mayer: No, I didn't say you were. But you're telling me I should.

Chris Hand: No, I'm not saying!

Marc Mayer: You say "make it about the prices! Make sure they all 3,000,000 show to the museum!." There's no way.

Chris Hand: Then I'm not saying "change the shows." I'm saying as far as attracting the crowds. Throw off the hook with a big fat worm.

Marc Mayer: I don't want the crowd, I want the people who are likely to be interested in contemporary art, to show up, and that's a much larger group than we're actually getting. So those are the people that I'm interested in seeing at the museum.

Chris Hand: I always think...

Marc Mayer: The great unwashed, as we call them, can come when they come on the Nuit Blanche, and they're welcomed, and we're happy, and every once in a while they'll come with somebody who goes "I love this stuff, I think I want to know more about contemporary art." But I'm not so naive to think that everybody should shut off their TV and go to their local contemporary art museum, or even come to your place. It ain't gonna happen. Never did, never will.

Chris Hand: Yes it will! Yes it will!

Marc Mayer: You're so naive, Chris.

Chris Hand: Maybe, but...

Marc Mayer: You're so naive. And... There's that slippery slope, that a lot of my, well, not a lot of them, but some my colleagues are getting to: "Let's make it really fun. Let's make it really crazy and wild! And let's even compromise on the quality and make sure people come! Let's do...Let's do a motorcycle show!!!." (laughs in the room)

Chris Hand: I'm the first one to slam off from the motorcycle show. I'm the first one to slam off from a Hitchcock show.

Marc Mayer: That's not where you're heading with this conversation!

Chris Hand: All I'm saying as far as attracting attention, there blew me away in terms of just because (of having) a blog, I'm opinioned. (words are lost because someone is coughing in the room). I suddenly turned around and looked at how many times the gallery had been mentioned in the newspaper. And I almost was flabbergasted. Luci gets all sort of embarrassed when like ..."You're Zeke?", like I'm a small vedette.

Marc Mayer: It's great.

Chris Hand: That can only help to my mind, to get people in the gallery. Once they're in the gallery, I then do my best to make it friendly.

Marc Mayer: We do all that stuff. We do all that stuff. We have those big, you know, free-house days. We're open all night for example, and 10,000 people come to the museum...

Chris Hand: If you're not in the paper everyday...

Marc Mayer: We're in the paper every time we open a show!! What are you talking about?

Chris Hand: Canadian Art have written about you twice in the past two years.

Marc Mayer: That's not true. They write about us They write about us all the time! What are you talking about?

Chris Hand: Hello Hello!! Jackie!

Marc Mayer: What are you talking about?!!!

Chris Hand: Jackie, who is in the back there...

Marc Mayer: Oh Jackie, I hate to tell you, you're not a good researcher. We have been in that magazine a lot more than twice since 2 years, come on, what are you talking about!

Chris Hand: Articles, features and reviews

Marc Mayer: Oh that's a different thing. Articles?

Chris Hand: (laughs) Articles, features and reviews, is all I ever look at, and at which point there, twice: once before Marcel Brisebois left, which as far as I can remember, was that wonderful picture of him behind the sun thing "I Am Le Roi." (laughs).

Marc Mayer: Hey, that's not...This is...I mean...If they're not doing big full feature articles on us, you're gonna ask Rick Rhodes why, don't ask me why. This is a two solitudes issue. It really is.

Chris Hand: They wrote about my gallery in 2001.

Marc Mayer: What did you do?

Chris Hand: I sent them a wack of catalogues. I said "Hello, pay attention".

Marc Mayer: We do that too. We do that too. And...I'm about to give a piece of my mind, because of course they promoted the Kiefer show in one of their fast-forward or whatever it's called, in Fort Worth, and didn't even mentioned that it was coming to Canada, you idiots!! Anyway...I'll get to him.

Chris Hand: That's ok. Have enough of that, let's get on to something a little bit less contentious. Speaking of Kiefer and Fort Worth... You did the Basquiat show, which, this might be contentious I apologize, Basquiat show, Brooklyn museum, going to Houston Contemporary Museum?

Marc Mayer: It's opening at the MFA, Museum Of Fine Arts In Houston.

Chris Hand: And LA Moca...

Marc Mayer: LA Moca.

Chris Hand: Andrea Zittel is starting at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.

Marc Mayer: Not my show, by the way.

Chris Hand: I know, not your show. But one of the Houston museum of fine art's. Moca LA, over to New York, the contemporary museum, which for contemporary stuff I would, probably should drop down from the Brooklyn's, and a fairly significant drop down.

Marc Mayer: Brooklyn (BMA) actually doesn't do that much contemporary. They don't have enough money to do it.

Chris Hand: Exactly. And then going down to Vancouver. I can accept...I know that the logistics of getting the Basquiat show here in town are very very difficult.

Marc Mayer: They're impossible, Chris. They're not difficult, they're impossible.

Chris Hand: Than at which point there... When looking at Andrea Zittel hitting almost the same museums, than going to Vancouver Art Gallery, and Basquiat doing the same thing, but missing Montreal, that's where I just get really disappointed.

Marc Mayer: Well, you have to be really excited about Andrea Zittel to bring her to Montreal, I'm not particularly. I mean there's that. And also, by the way, they are curators in the museum, and I don't go around saying "ok, here's my list of artists, you do this show, you do that show": it doesn't work like that. And it shouldn't work like that. I want the curators to do a good job, and the curators do a really good job when they actually care about the artist. So, I'm not bossing anybody around saying "Ok ... You know I think Chris is right... I don't like Andrea Zittel but she's going to bring some people. She'll bring his friends for sure. So why don't we take that show from Vancouver." You know we have to make choices in life, and, those are the choices that we make. We organize our own shows, and we take shows that we think are relevant not only to our audience, but also, create a kind of diversity in our program. Because there is not just one contemporary art audience, there is a whole bunch of smaller audiences that have specific interests in contemporary art. They won't come if... If you do a painting show, they love painting, they come to painting. If you do a video show...It...The world is a little bit unfortunately segregated that way. There is a large audience that is interested in all of that stuff, but it's not big enough, unfortunately. But...Were you blaming me cuz we didn't do the Zittel show?

Chris Hand: Not, just questioning. In terms of looking and realizing that they're hit pretty much the same museums, except in New York, at which point then it was, Vancouver getting Zittel, and it's that same level, so, you may not like Zittel, I haven't seen her stuff. Theoretically...

Marc Mayer: Montreal is getting Bruce Nauman, I think that should be pretty exciting. Montreal is getting Anselm Kiefer, that should be pretty exciting: he's got a lot of fans. We're getting a Vik Muniz show, you should probably like that. So, you know, Montreal isn't podunt. We're not flying river here. We're still doing good stuff.

Chris Hand: Ok, It would strike me, comparing the thing of touring shows coming in, I was feeling sort of podunk.

Marc Mayer: No, we're doing touring shows, but we're not going to be living on touring shows either. We should be doing important shows, with catalogs, of our own artists when they're ready. And when they deserve it. And that's important. It's important to me. Unfortunately, we're gonna have a bit of a harder time promoting those shows. We did very well with Shirin Neshat selling that show to the United States, but she was already household in there. It's good for us, it says "Oh! Le Musée D'Art Contemporain organized this show! How great!." And that was done before I came here, and I remember being very impressed by that. I thought "oh, there's a museum that's thinking, about how to do it, about how to develop a prestige for your existence in the world outside of Canada." Although that's never really been our problem. It hasn't been our problem since 1964. But those are the sorts of things that you do. So that, you say "we did this exhibition, they're showing it in the United States, we're able to sell it so that means we can afford to do this show because we're able to find museums who are willing to pay for fee, and it gets the museum name out as a slick operation", and that's the sort of thing we'd like to continue.

Chris Hand: Are they any?...Because I only know one specifically, and that's the Dominique Blain show which again was before your time, so I really can't hold you responsible for the lack of touring of that , or the wonderful amount of touring that it's doing.

Marc Mayer: It's doing well. We're actually touring about 6 shows right now.

Chris Hand: Ok. Multiple stops, or just...

Marc Mayer: Multiple stops, most of them in Canada...

Chris Hand: Names?

Marc Mayer: Ah, let me see...We are...Dominique Blain who just closed, Melvin Charney, Nicolas Baier, who've been all over Canada, that show has just been all over the place.

Chris Hand: Are you able to get any of them out of Canada?

Marc Mayer: Ahh...One. And it was...Lyne Lapointe.

Chris Hand: Ok. Why, if it's Lyne Lapointe. Why do you think it was hers? I would imagine that you were trying other ones?

Marc Mayer: Oh yeah we try them all! We have a list, everybody gets a package. We strategize on the most likely, the least likely. "Let's not waste that 14 dollars on them."

Chris Hand: Waste the 14 dollars, please! I have a list of...

Marc Mayer: No, no, no. When you know the guy personally, and you know he's never going to show this, why are you wasting the Canadian tax payers' money on a stupid envelop to somebody who's not even going to open it.

Chris Hand: Ok...you didn't tell me you know him personally...

Marc Mayer: But we know these calling museums!

Chris Hand: I have a list of 1,500 museums nationally, or internationally. That, yeah, as soon as I find the time to get stuff touring out, I just spend a 14 bucks on each one of them, and yeah, I would get...

Marc Mayer: Well, here's a little tip. When you come out of university or art school: do not spend 3,000 dollars making copies of all of your slides, and sending packages to every museum director on earth. That is a waste of 3,000 dollars.

Chris Hand: Depends of what your goal is. And I'm a gallery: best thing I ever did was when I started out, (sending) out 15,000 invitations.

Marc Mayer: Well that's smart! You should be doing that.

Chris Hand: And that's knowledge, and is the sort of thing that...

Marc Mayer: It's different, It's not like going cold calling the whole world. Nobody shows out of that.

Chris Hand: Hello, who's gonna come to an underground art gallery, that has no records, by a guy who self-profess no background in art history?

Marc Mayer: A whole lot of Montrealers who like contemporary art and just want to see the new guy in town! Nobody's doing it! Of course it's a natural thing to send the 15,000 invitations.

Chris Hand: Thank you very much, but I think you're a little bit misinformed.

Marc Mayer: What do you mean? Nobody comes? It didn't work?

Chris Hand: No, no. It worked as far as establishing credibility. They are other places which are and were similar and continue to be. But it was that I separated myself out where it was "Oh...you got one of those invitations? Yeah, I got one too." They wouldn't come but it came to my mind again that awareness which is where I say "Yeah grab the headlines wherever you can get them, that awareness will serve you in time".

Marc Mayer: Is this a tip you're giving me about how to grab headlines?

Chris Hand: Yes.

Marc Mayer: We don't want to grab that many headlines. We want to get intelligent reviews of our exhibitions. That's enough. I'm not going to take my pants off on St-Laurent to make sure we get in the papers one more time, because people might just come to the museum if the crazy director does something like that.

Chris Hand: What about the international Herald Tribute? I would take off my pants in the middle of Ste-Catherine to get into the International Herald Tribute.

Marc Mayer: I don't care about the International Herald Tribute. There is maybe what, maybe a hundred people in Montreal who read that everyday?

Chris Hand: I'm not worried about the people in Montreal, I want the ones in Cairo and Paris.

Marc Mayer: Yeah this is neat stuff. They're not actually paying to get into the museum, they live in Cairo and Paris.

Chris Hand: Well no, than there that separates a difference between museum and gallery. Those people reading the International Herald Tribute, eventually to my mind, they're going to make it to Montreal. If I get somebody coming from Cairo telling me that...

Marc Mayer: Believe me. They're not gonna miss the museum, unless there is the Jazz Festival on, and then they are towers in front of our banners and they can't even see where the museum is, less along what it's showing. However, that aside, they're not going to miss not coming to the museum of contemporary art. We're not that many contemporary art museums in the world! It's actually a very private club. It's a small little group of cities that were smart enough to create museums of contemporary arts, and Montreal should be incredibly proud of itself.

Chris Hand: That I agree for having it, I just have very very high hopes for the museum.

Marc Mayer: They show up those people! In the summer! We get tons of tourists in the summer. Most of our visitors are actually people from out of town. Because the montrealers avoid that part of town that time of year, with good reason.

Chris Hand: We're getting off a couple topics. Anybody mind if I switch stuff?

Marc Mayer: Not me. (laughs in the room)

Chris Hand: Ok. Since I've been designated in asking questions that nobody in their right mind would ask... Hum...Yeah... How many galleries in town have you been to more than once?

Marc Mayer: Ha...galleries in town...Can I count them?

Chris Hand: Yes.

Marc Mayer: ...2, 3...5, 6...7...I would say about 9.

Chris Hand: About 9? Would you think that is good, bad, or indifferent as far as much...

Marc Mayer: I'd like to do more. I mean, you know...There's a lot I walked in and walked out of. Because...I'm not a sociologist, you know. I want to see what is going in Montreal. And get the lay of the land. But, you know...People in my position, or actually, my curators, well, that's not true about the curators, because they've been very good about that, we don't discover artists. I'm not at that end of the spectrum, so, I don't need to see absolutely everything that is going on. Particularly not in places that are doing shows that are going, "oh yoyoye"...

Chris Hand: Although there, my mantra is that there... I have a list of 800 places in town...

Marc Mayer: 800 places...

Chris Hand: That show contemporary art.

Marc Mayer: And these are people who are opened...hey wait a minute, wait a minute... You guys ("rest right here, right?" (laughs in the room hide what he says...) Tell me about that statistics! cuz I... I'm sorry, I have to find out really how it works.

Chris Hand: Well, there is the map for the Old Montreal galleries. And most people put their nose down on there straight for tourists. They're only 30 galleries in the map, the only way you can get into the map is if you're advertised. They're actually in my mind quite about 50 to 60 galleries, because some of them don't want to advertise. You have the Belgo building, and at which point, people making the difference between René Blouin on the top floor, plus you got, what, Gallery Luz, on the third floor.

Marc Mayer: Oh my god, I forgot...10!! Sorry I just remembered. (laughs in the room)

Chris Hand: So, third floor, which is all for rental spaces, and so on, and...there, I'm being comprehensive, one of the thing that I am most proud about Montreal, is that there is that Subway down the street, the largest franchise in the world, and they show art, contemporary Quebecois art.

Marc Mayer: Where...The Subway...?

Chris Hand: You know like McDonalds?

Marc Mayer: Oh Oh I thought you meant the metro, sorry.

Chris Hand: No, no, I'm talking...the metro is the metro...Subway is Subway.

Marc Mayer: (keep?) of New York, cuz the metro is the subway, sorry about that...

Chris Hand: But there...Would you ever in your wildest dreams imagine McDonalds showing contemporary Quebec art?

Marc Mayer: If Pascal Grandmaison came up to me and said "What do you think, they called me up." I would say "Do yourself a favor...".

Chris Hand: I'm thinking in terms of, again, getting out to the general population. Lots of people are going to Subway. If I'm an artist, and I want to sell my stuff, Subway on St-Laurent would be a very very good place, and yes, they now have been doing shows for about a year and a half. And giving that they're doing multiple shows, word's out that it's probably a good place to sell some art. If that is your goal, great. If your goal is to get into a museum, they are similar but different ways to do it, but, I'm thinking just the head spin of being in the Subway.

Marc Mayer: I'm only interested in artists whose goal is to get into museums. So those are the only artists that interest me. Otherwise I listen to music.

Chris Hand: Ok, so at which point, yeah, I don't have a visual memory of Pascal Grandmaison's CV,

Marc Mayer: Neither do I for that matter.

Chris Hand: By the way, is he here?

(reaction from the crowd of picking on Pascal)

Marc Mayer: Yeah I don't know...I don't know...He's got a Pascal Grandmaison jag!

Chris Hand: The name came up because...

Marc Mayer: Is it because he's here?

Chris Hand: Ok...then...Ok, I'll

Marc Mayer: Dominique Blain, let's got back to her...

Chris Hand: Ok, Dominique Blain. Where was the...First of all... the first show she did. And at which point, back when you're 22 years old, just out of school, Subway is as good as any place, especially if you got to pay the rent and you've got 3 dozen people telling you that it's going to make your rent.

Marc Mayer: No...Why would you waste your time like that?

Chris Hand: If it's making your rent?

(someone from the crowd seems to say: "she'd love to do Subway")

Marc Mayer: I don't think that's good. I don't know... It doesn't seem like a really smart strategy. If you want to make a living, pay your rent, do something else, but don't gang around Subway if you're trying, if your point was trying to get into a museum because you are a serious artist and you want the largest audience possible...

Chris Hand: There is as a starting point, to me it is extremely valid, and it's also where if you're disparaging an artist for where they exhibit without having seen the art, I definitely am on the other side where to me: art is art is art. Doesn't matter if it's here. Doesn't matter if it's a Subway. Doesn't matter if it's on the street. And at which point it's there, it's up to me to decide if I like it, if I can promote it, so much the better. And this is the sort of thing where...

Marc Mayer: Sure. Go for it. It's all art, it's just not all good.

Chris Hand: There's a lot of bad art that's been in René Blouin.

Marc Mayer: No comment.

Chris Hand: Ok. Then if I can ask...Were you at all involved in the transfer of La Joute (by Riopelle)?

Marc Mayer: No.

Chris Hand: Fwee! You're lucky.

Marc Mayer: Why?

Chris Hand: I am...I adore the sculpture. I think it's absolutely phenomenal, I actually have the times when choreography changes, I have a script that I'm going to put up as a podcast. I think it's the second best sculpture, statue in town.

Marc Mayer: And your point?

Chris Hand: It would have been 300 times better where it was.

Marc Mayer: Ok, well...I heard there was a debate, but I wasn't in town, so I don't know what the issues are, and it's too late now. Next question. (laughs in the room)

Chris Hand: Have we been talking for about an hour? cuz I'm definitely...getting...about 45 minutes? Ok...My mouth is getting dry. I'm certain Marc where he seems to be going tit for tat, going nanananana...So if we can take a break if everybody doesn't mind. If there is any question please write them down, and... at which point...

- I would really like to speak and to ask him a question.

Chris Hand: Could you write it down please.

- No

Marc Mayer: I will let you speak.

- It's very important to speak. We never get a chance to speak and it's you who is really talking all the time, and, it's good to speak with (whatever?) the artists. I came here for that. Just to speak altogether.

Chris Hand: There as far as my logistics, I'm afraid, or the reason why I gave the papers, gave the pens, is because they're people in the back trying to manage the situation. This is the most people that ever fit in my gallery, ever. I had never had this sort of attendance. It is the sort of thing where getting you all seated, trying to figure out what happens with my lighting system which if you noticed is top notch, there are other things, I apologize

- It's ok but in my gallery we have such people during conferences, and we get to speak...La Centrale Powerhouse...

Chris Hand: And at this point I'm not saying don't speak. If you can talk to Mr. Mayer after...

- No, there are some essential questions that we have to speak, just together.

Marc Mayer: I have no problems...I'm sorry...I have no problems with that.

Chris Hand: Ok...Can anybody in the back hear La Centrale Powerhouse?

Marc Mayer: Make an exception, Chris!!! Come on... She seems so nice.

Chris Hand: If I make an exception, than everybody's gonna want.

- You're more rigid than the museum!

- What is the problem not to speak? We're disciplined.

Chris Hand: I've just been anticipating a lot of stuff. And at which point, If everybody wants to speak... than yeah, we'll take a break, and as opposed to writting it down.

- Because you manipulate...vous manipulez le discours!

- Do half and half... Questions and cards...

(...Marc wants to take a beer...questions...bla bla...)

- Quelle est la place, dans la politique de développement du musée, la place de la diversité culturelle? Je pense que les communautés culturelles à Montreal, au niveau des arts, ont commencé à avoir beaucoup d'espaces. Pour moi je pense que c'est très important de voir dans la collection permanente, que ce soit... moi je suis de l'amerique latine...des artistes qui sont originaires de l'Amerique Latine. Quelle est la place de la diversité culturelle au niveau professionel au musée? Parce qu'il y a plein de musées à Quebec et à Montreal, mais je crois que le Mac à une mission, une médiation très importante avec les communautés culturelles, et j'aimerais savoir...bla bla bla...

Marc Mayer: Oui, euh...Ca vous dérange si j'répond en anglais? That's an absolutely relevant issue, and we try to consider certainly on the level of programming but you raised another issue which is the issue of staff, and that is certainly something that we consider, in staffing. But it's a difficult situation when you're already working with professionals who are in mid-careers, and who are doing a fine job, and it's very difficult to sort of say to someone "You're doing a great job, but we need now to introduce cultural diversity in the staff, so, we have to let you go." That is something that you can't do, you understand that. But I'm always on the lookout. It was something that I did in Brooklyn. My director said to me "We have an African-American audience, that is our largest audience, we have someone who have just resigned from a position of director of education, I want an African-American director of education, because that is who we're serving." And so, we found a wonderful person. We interviewed as many people as we could. We discussed this issue. Should we be careful about saying that we are looking for an African-American? And then we decided "no", because we have an African-American audience, therefore logical that someone who has work with these particular audiences before, because that is not just one audience actually, it's several audiences, should be someone who is sensitive and familiar with the needs of those particular groups, to integrate them in the museum. to entice practices, and to develop programs that will attract them and keep them coming, etc... So those are issues that we consider all the time, and we consider them at the museum: there is one black person on the staff of the museum, currently, which I don't think is the ratio of people of color in Montreal. But it certainly something that I'd consider. And also I spend more time in Montreal and I try to realize the actual population shifts, here, and who are the people that we're serving, and who's coming, and who are the smart people from those communities, who could be helping us develop larger, bigger audiences and serve the real Montreal, and this is not the Montreal of our memory, for example... These are issues that are important and that we discuss.

Chris Hand: Shall we take a break? Ok.

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