It was a good year for artful presentation, and the commercial sector was no exception. We saw galleries across Toronto, Montreal, and smaller centers like Regina and London approach their stables with an inventiveness more typically associated with a Kunsthalle, the programming sometimes dispensing with commercial viability altogether. Special attention was paid at Michael Gibson, where the veteran gallerist recreated "Curnoe Ewen Falk Moppett" after 31 years (its initial installation curated by Mayo Graham at Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery). Clint Roenisch transformed his narrow space into a dark garden for Dutch artist Marcel van Eeden to play out his noir narratives, while Pierre-François Ouellette veritably gave his keys to Kent Monkman. A final nod goes to Montreal's Galerie Samuel Lallouz, where an all-important Carolee Schneeman survey reminded us that recent history still bears new fruit.
Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal’s International Agenda
Let it be known: we will miss you, Marie Fraser. Inside one calendar year, the MAC’s recently departed chief curator (along with former director Paulette Gagnon and curator Lesley Johnstone) brought Tino Seghal, Laurent Grasso, Elizabeth Price, and Omer Fast across the threshold, never for a moment underestimating her audience’s intelligence, nor the institution’s capacities for transformation through an ambitious form of constancy. Canadian luminaries like Michel de Broin, Pierre Dorion, and Lynne Cohen shared the billing, and programs like Montreal / Brooklyn showcased fresh talent and continued exchange.
NGC @ MOCCA + TIFF
When the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art ushered the National Gallery of Canada into its side gallery for a rotating demonstration of its wares, a few of us tittered nervously. Was the city’s least institutionalized museum ballasting itself to the country’s most governed art establishment? Further still, MOCCA continued its alliance with the Toronto International Film Festival, putting the museum’s focus on contemporary art at risk of dilution, or something akin to a branding eclipse. But these collaborations have only brought consistently good art to the fore, and with improved production values the clear result of banded powers. Just this year we’ve been treated to Camillle Henrot’s Venice-laureled “Grosse Fatigue,” Phil Collins, Louise Bourgeois (who, anomalously, went outshone by Canada’s own David Armstrong Six), and, well, rather a lot of David Cronenberg. But we give this last two-parter a pass, because it’s been a good year for unique institutions demonstrating the possibilities of dynamic collaboration.
The Net Artist
Their chosen medium lacks most understood parameters (objecthood, temporality, salability, and viability through traditional exhibiting platforms) but net artists are winning the day — and a cast of Canadians is particularly triumphant this year. The artworld’s first major exhibition of GIF, digital, and net art, the Wrong Biennial (hosted by the São Paulo contemporary art organization ROJO) enlisted Canada’s Lorna Mills to curate one of its thirty pavilions; she did well to shift the biennial’s focus from abstract experimentation to conceptually-bent interventions by Jennifer Chan, Rea McNamara, Émilie Gervais, and Jeremy Bailey and Kristen D. Schaffer. Elsewhere, we’ve seen the AGO’s David Bowie exhibition decorated with local artists’ GIF projections; artist-run Eastern Bloc highlighting Jennifer Chan and Jennifer Cherniack’s Web 1.0, pre-DSL aesthetics; Jeremy Bailey confirming his self-ascribed title of “Famous New Media Artist” by presenting at the New Museum; artist Jon Rafman make a logical progression from Google Street View to the darker realms of video-gaming; and Montreal’s DHC/Art and Toronto’s TIFF Lightbox, respectively, engaging in presentations of leading net artists Cory Arcangel and Chicago’s GIF-happy Eric Fleischauer and Jason Lazarus. We fear that soon enough, we won’t have to leave the house to get our fix.
From Montreal’s Vidéographe exhibition in a window to prairie curator John G. Hampton making public art on private billboards, Canadian curators have happily resisted the white cube, this year. Gallery exchanges like that between Battat and Erin Stump Projects have also taken shape, while Toronto artists Nadia Belerique and Lili Huston-Herterich and LUFF Art + Dialogue have respectively squatted in vacant apartments and soon-to-be demolished mansions for 24-hour guerilla curating. Consider our pulses piqued, and our laces tied.
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