L’Art Chez Soi – Art at Home
Fairview Pointe Claire
April 8 to 28, 2017
Life as an artist has never been easy. It is particularly difficult at a time when the culture moves towards a purely profit-based retail mentality. This perforce promotes all that is competitive, mass-produced, obsessively innovative, ‘cheap’ and disposable. Not art, in other words.
I thought about these things as I walked trough my local shopping centre and saw the number of stores boarded up. They wore signs saying things like “soon to be the site off a great store! ’. Obviously, the ideas and strategies ‘the mall’ has represented since the 50’s are no longer sustainable. Wy? Is it just because of the Internet or could people be ready for something else?
I saw one store that was empty but not boarded up. I peered into the space through the see-through accordion doors. Ah, not empty. A vast, open space with clean, white walls lined almost floor to ceiling with a white metal lattice. and lighting tracks and fixtures that would illuminate the space beautifully once lit. For me, it was perfection! What an ideal place in which to create something completely unexpected and surprising. Not a sale, no. An exhibition of art that would re-direct shoppers’ thinking, their very mental state, by NOT being about sales.
I got the space for one month with one week of it to create the exhibition. Titled L”Art Chez Soi, (This is Quebec. In English: Art at Home). my ‘store’ exhibition opened on April 8, 2017 and ran until the 28th and featured sixteen artists, each exhibiting eight works. In that time, over 7 thousand mall shoppers stumbled upon it and were blown away. They were amazed that a mall would showcase art by professional and relatively well-known local artists, that there were no sales people but only the artists themselves with whom people could choose (or not) to chat about the work; that they could take their time to examine the work at their leisure, that they didn’t need to read didactic panels, listen to audio guides, or refer to catalogues to do so; that they could have no intention other than to enjoy the experience.
Sure, the artists were interested in sales. However, there were no prices on the wall. There was nothing on the walls other than panels with each artist’s name under her/his work. If visitor were interested in knowing the prices of works, or obtaining factual information about the artists, they were directed to a cabinet. There, they would find binders where they might see each individual’s’ CV, artist statement and the descriptions of the works and where they might pick up the artists’ business cards.
There was only one sale. However, every artist felt the experience was rewarding and successful. They paid a minimal registration fee but for it, they got attention, contact and exposure such as they would never have had even in a museum. By sharing the gallery sitting during blocks of three regular store hours, every one got to spend quality time with each other and with viewers, talking about their art, imagery, techniques, intents and themes, something that would never happen in a commercial gallery. No one was under pressure to do anything but enjoy the experience, and seven thousand plus visitors and sixteen artists did.