by Franck Michel
To mark Mois de la Photo à Montréal and the end of the millennium, issue 48 of CVphoto takes stock of Quebec photography in the nineties.Texts by Martha Langford and Mona Hakim and an interview with Élène Tremblay by Jennifer Couëlle sketch a portrait of a decade that was particularly fertile for photography and full of promise for its future.
During the nineties, the place of photography in the field of contemporary art grew constantly, both in Quebec and elsewhere. An increasing number of artists integrated the photographic medium into their work, and photographers continued the ascension within contemporary art that began in the eighties. For Quebec artists, this interest in photography has been accompanied by a more and more manifest international recognition that is not reserved only for a privileged few artists. Many are now appreciated for the originality and quality of their production, including Jocelyne Alloucherie, Raymonde April, Nathalie Caron, Serge Clément, Donigan Cumming, Alain Paiement, and Roberto Pellegrinuzi, and they are regularly invited to participate in major photography biennales in France, Portugal, Spain, England, and Japan. Their works are shown in galleries and museums throughout the world and are in numerous collections.
Paradoxically, many of these internationally known artists are not represented in galleries in Quebec. The promotional and logistical work is thus done by the artists themselves, by certain artist-run centres that play the role of international distributor in their absence, by a few art dealers, or by foreign galleries. As for the museums, I refer you to the criticisms I made of them in my editorials in issues 41 (winter, 1997) and 45 (winter, 1999). This strange situation obviously does not play in artists’ favour and puts constraints on the dissemination of their work. In passing, I should mention that the Canada Council for the Arts is making distribution its new warhorse for the coming years, and its support can only improve a precarious situation. Management of distribution, however, will not be dealt with; it can only be imagined how Quebec photography would be received abroad if an exhibition centre, a dynamic museum, or gallery owners – or all three – were helping with distribution!
The value of Quebec artists is no longer in question, but greater attention to dissemination would enable us to consolidate and expand our presence abroad. I therefore think that it would be very desirable for an international photography centre to be founded in the near future; this entity would be neither an artist-run centre nor a museum, but would combine the freedom of action of one with the resources of the other. Both artists’ needs and the interest from abroad are obvious, but it remains to convince the political powers and find the funding. Obviously, this is an ambitious idea, but it represents a marvellous challenge with which to start the new millennium.
1 For example, four solo exhibitions by Quebec artists – Serge Clément, Clara Gutsche, Gabor Szilasi, and John Max – as part of the most recent edition of Encontros de Imagen à Braga, Portugal, and the presence of Alain Paiement and the duo of Nathalie Caron and Charles Guilbert at the Third Tokyo International Photo-Biennale (spring, 1999).