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It’s hard to compete with the neighboring New York art scene and market, and even harder when the greatest chunk of Canadian's wealth is in Toronto; and yet it is exactly because rents are still cheap and the underground culture still, well, underground, that Montreal’s art community possesses an originality of its own. Add a few brand new, well-financed art centers, two top-rated visual art universities and Arcade Fire, and you’ve got a city we love. Qualified by Monocle as the 16th most liveable city in 2008, here’s the list of the top places art lovers go to see talents and buy undiscovered gems:
Contemporary Art Centers
- The Darling Foundry: Situated in a renovated foundry in the middle of the multimedia city, it has covered its walls with Jean-Paul Ganem’s flora, been converted into a soundscape for Mutek and it welcomes Concordia’s graduate showcase ArtMatters every year. This avant-garde lieu for contemporary art is a booming center for installation and performance art that should not be missed.
- DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art: This welcomed new space in the old port has presented some great caliber artists in the two years of existence: After Sophie Calle this summer and Marc Quinn last winter, their curator John Zeppetelli is currently displaying works by Christian Marclay
- Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal (MACM): Awarded best 2008 Show in Canada for their Québéc Triennial by Canadian Art magazine, the museum has acquired a reputation for balancing unknown Quebecois artists and internationally acclaimed ones. The director, Marc Mayer, has just left for the National Gallery, but hopefully his legacy will live on.
- Habitat ’67: Relic from the expo ’67, Moshe Sadie’s revolutionary cement cubes are just as impressive four decades later. Plus, rumor has, some are on sale.
- Palais des Congrès: While the new structure incorporates some two century old buildings, the real gem is inside: On a sunny day, the light piercing through the facades might make you think you finally found the beginning of the rainbow.
- Westmount Square: Mies Van der Rohe’s remarkable plan, unfortunately today sandwiched in-between a mall and a condo, it’s simplicity and elegance is still exquisite, especially when framed by the whiteness of snow.
Top Art Galleries / Art Dealers:
- Pierre-François Ouellette: Ever since opening this space in the Belgo, the local "gallery building," Ouellette has made a point of putting Canadian artists on the international art map, and after a well received Balelatina and Toronto Art Fair, things are well underway.
- René Blouin: Selling artists like Kiki Smith doesn’t mean Blouin forgets local talents. Far from it. Go discover Sarah Stevenson’s delicate installations or Chris Kline’s intricate paintings and you should be convinced.
- Parisian Laundry: This young gallery, open since 2005, has 15 000 square feet on three floors dedicated to the arts. Jeannie Riddle, director and artist herself, has curated a solid group of shows by young talents, from Canada’s Emily MacIntosh’s geometrical forms to UK’s Tim Lewis’ mixed media sculptures. Like any young, ambitious galleries there are hits and misses, the hits should definitely not be missed.
Top Art Events
- International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA): Under the aegis of UNESCO’s Council for film, this 10-day event in early March is the biggest of its kind, regrouping nearly 700 art documentaries for its 27th editiion - everything from architecture to video art, tattooing, photography and mime.
- Montreal Biennale: Ever since the city brought its local street artist Roadsworth to court, there’s been a growing interest in street art, and that's precisely what the Biennale is riding on. Curated by the talented Scott Burnham, in May 2009 Montreal’s streets will become the canvas for some of today’s trendiest and most interesting artists.
- Mois de la Photo: September 2008 was a good month for Montreal photography, with Benoît Aquin winning the 2008 Pictet prize, and 2009 should be even more exciting, as the city welcomes the 11th edition of "Le Mois de la Photo," curated by Gaêlle Morel. Entitled "The Spaces of the Image," she has invited a number of well-respected artists to reflect on "performance" and "staging," two dominating trends in recent photography practices.