Interview by Matt Jones
Art for charity’s sake
Montreal: city of art, right? Although the city broadcasts its artistic prowess through high profile perpetual festivals and hazy late-night lite-brite display at the Quartier des spectacles, Montreal can be a tough place for an artist to make ends meet.
Alana Riley, who won the Pierre-Ayot Prize for her photography last week, has an idea of what the problem is: « There is no market for art in Montreal, » she says. « I feel like we’re beggars. There’s only a handful of collectors in contemporary art. We need more collectors! »
That’s the idea behind Contemporary Art for Amnesty International. Organizers Éric Bolduc, of art webzine ratsdeville, and Pascal Beauchesne, who runs event planning agency Punché, want to help you tear down your ragged A Clockwork Orange posters and replace them with some locally produced pieces of unique art – supporting local artists and human rights at the same time.
« People still have a long way to go to get into visual arts, » says Bolduc, the curator of the exhibition. « It’s not something like music or theatre or cinema that people are used to paying for. Collecting seems to be something you would do if you were rich when in fact we spend a lot of cash on a lot of stuff that disappears, while art stays with you. If nobody buys art and collects, it makes it difficult for the artists and for the galleries. »
That’s a situation they hope to remedy with a talk during the event by art collector Alain Tremblay.
« He has over 100 pieces by Montreal artists, » says Bolduc. « He’s going to talk about the passion of art collecting and what it brings to him on a daily basis. It’s not just decoration, like a poster you get at IKEA. If you have a piece of art, it’s something that live with you. »
« There’s a lot of things people don’t know about art collecting. For example, that buying a an piece is tax deductible, » adds Beauchesne.
In addition to Riley, 12 other artists have contributed work for the exhibition and sales will be split 50-50 between the artists and Amnesty Internationale.
« They’re all at the mid-career level. They’re represented by galleries and they’re seen around the world, » says Beauchesne.
In addition to the photos and paintings on display, the event will also feature a VJ set by DJ Lugs and VJ Chocobeets and a remix of Denis Villeneuve’s short film Next Floor by audiovisual artist Ouananiche. While there won’t be a $10 discount bin, Beauchesne says the prices will be reasonable.
« We’ve chosen pieces that are accessible for any pocket size, » he says. Those range from small 5×5 prints that go for $100 to huge canvases at $2,500.
This is the second year that Amnesty has organized an art auction. « It was a natural shift to talk about artists’s right, » says Beauchesne. « It’s about freedom of expression for artists and creating awareness about their economic position, which is quite precarious. These days, with the economy being what it is, it’s harder for artists to create revenue, especially after the Conservative government’s cuts in the arts. We’re saying that arts and culture are right here in Canada. These are hard times, but at the same time, we’re seeing really interesting artists emerge. »