Collection Lazare : États d’âmes, esprit des lieux — Colette Tougas, Portraits of Families with Nature (Still Life or Other)

[Summer 2019]

Nicolas Baier, Un après-midi sur de Gaspé, 2004

Nicolas Baier, Un après-midi sur de Gaspé, 2004

By Colette Tougas

One purpose of the exhibition devoted to the Lazare collection at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was to highlight thirtythree photographs that have been donated to the institution by Montreal collector Jack Lazare. To these donated photographs were added many others on loan from Lazare, adding up to an impressive show of more than eighty images produced by Canadian and international photographers.

As the title indicates, Individuals refers to portraits, and Places brings together landscapes and urban spaces, both real and imagined. To spatially accommodate these two aspects of the collection, the Contemporary Art Square, where the exhibition was presented, was arranged to create three spaces. The first was the large gallery, in the centre of which was found a small gallery (the second space). The third space was the small gallery’s exterior walls, on three of which were hung four large photographs; the fourth wall featured a collection of prints by Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–79).

It was Cameron’s work, which Lazare saw at an exhibition in New York in 1999, that awoke his passion; up to then, he had collected figurative paintings. Following this discovery, he began to acquire not just images by Cameron but also those by renowned contemporary photographers and important American modernist figures.

Cameron’s fourteen albumen prints are, in fact, inspiring. These delicate, almost mystical portraits are bathed in a mysterious light that sculpts the faces and the draping of the garments. It is understandable that the collector of paintings was first attracted to such pictorial photographs.

The exhibition highlights the collector’s eye. Lazare seems to have favoured photographs that draw attention to staging and composition, gesture and poetry, private life and social climate – and the exhibition path traced by curator Diane Charbonneau successfully underlines these features. The first wall in the large gallery, devoted to “places,” starts with a “fabricated industrial landscape” shot in China by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky and concludes with two images by Italian photographer Paolo Ventura set in a papier mâché décor – thus, also fabricated. Between these two poles are a series of variations on the theme of urban space – interiors, façades, streets – superimposed, recomposed, transposed…
Translated by Käthe Roth

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