We present public commentaries in the written and electronic media on the subject of La Biennale de Montréal 1998.
«The first Biennale de Montreal, involving several site-specific works as well as exhibitions in four institutions (...) is the most ambitious presentation of contemporary art ever attempted in Montreal. While just bringing off such a vast and complex project clearly represents a great triumph for curator and organizer Claude Gosselin, there was also evidence of room for further growth. Although it was presented as a show of international scope, work by Canadian artists was overly aundant. (...) As Biennales go, although it was big and had an international dimension, the Montreal version may be viewed as a limited success. There are links to be worked out, but clearly Gosselin has proved his point - that Montreal, and the Northeast region, deserve to see international art on this level. Given the heroic acccomplishments of this first attempt, Gosselin has earned the right to present the Montreal Biennale 2000.»
Charles GIULIANO, Art New England, Boston, December 1998/January 1999
«"Like Lyon, Shanghai, Venice and other great cities, Montreal now has an international contemporary art biennial," writes Claude Gosselin, general and artistic dierector of La Biennale de Montreal. True, Montreal does join the ranks of these prestigious biennial-hosting cities (...)
While the international roster of artists like Wallinger, Tracey Emin, and Germany's Asta Gröting lent the Biennale some prestige, it was the local artists who gave it vitality and passion. Like athletes who play better before their home-town crowd, artists like Sylvie Laliberté, Emmanuel Galland, Jérôme Fortin and Stephen Schofield appeared to give the extra effort and take the most risks with their work. In particular, Galland's Self-Service (1998), a merry-go-round like structure with visible speakers, holds thousand of mock business cards all dedicated to Galland, illustrating the lengths an artist must go in order to find employment in this town. (...)
In the end, Montreal's first biennial was compelling.»
Lorrie Blair, Atlanta Art Papers, March/April 1999
«At a time when the most visible international exhibitions and biennials tend to grapple with Big Questions, there is something appealing about the modesty of an exhibition devoted to poetry, humor and the everyday. The first Montreal Biennale, which ran from Aug. 27 to Oct. 18 last fall, took up these themes with understated grace.
The exhibition was organized by Claude Gosselin, director of the Centre international d'art contemporain de Montréal, a small, publicly funded contemporary art center. Acting as both biennale manager and art director, Gosselin scrambled to raise the nearly $1-million (U.S.) budget from public and private sources. As is often the case with new biennials, the bulk of the money was not in place until one month before the show's opening, with the result that a number of foreign artists were unable to participate.
Despite these difficuties, however, Gosselin managed to gather 36 artists from 15 countries for the main exhibition, including such biennial regulars as Mariko Mori, Daniel Buren, Tracey Emin and Rebecca Horn. For a visitor to Montreal, however, the most interesting aspect was the concentration of Canadian artists who are little known internationally. [...]
As a whole, the Montreal Biennale represented an admirable attempt to bring Canadian artists into an international context. Lesser-known artists from Quebec and Ontario mixed well with artists of greater international reputation. Works played off each other across national lines, suggesting an international interest in quotidian themes (and, in fact, a very similar theme was taken up by this years's Sydney Biennial). [...] Having pulled off the difficult task of launching a new biennial onto the world scene, Gosselin and his associates have laid the groundwork for more ambitious exhibitions in the future.»
Eleanor HEARTNEY, Art in America, New York, February 1999
«On the whole, however, the new Biennale is a well thought-out survival strategy for contemporary art in Montreal. With so much intelligence, energy, experience and resource gathering focused in the production of such an event - plus job creation and economic revival - it can only be a good thing for the city. And isn't this what the everyday is about?»
Laurie PALMER, Frieze, Londres, no 44, January/February 1999
«...The elaborate spatial appropriation that marked installation aesthetics of the eighties have been replaced by smaller, more subtle and specific tactical moves, by which materials, form and, first and foremeost, ideas that are recycled and transformed - especially, quite self-consciously, ideas concerning quotidian experience.
The qualities of poetry and humour were reflected in Gosselin's own curatorial contribution, "Les Capteurs de rêves" (Dreamcatchers) - much as they are engaged strategically in the world at large as survival tactics in a newly intensified global economy. [...] Other works in Gosselin's exhibition offered stinging social critique. [...] Bi-annual exhibitions provide a remarkably open and increasingly ubiquitous curatorial format : some are international, some not; some have permanent sites, some not; some are organized according to a curatorial premise, while for others, themes and issues emerge serendipitously from the primary exercise of compiling a contemporary survey. The one sure fact of a biennial - its repeatability - becomes its most crucial consideration. And while its success may depend on its clarity of purpose and, in each of its incarnations, some sense of urgency or a necessity for the display of art, one also hopes it will speak to the historical situation within which it arises. On each of these points, the 1998 Biennale de Montréal must certainly be judged a success.
Cheryl SIMON & Fred MCSHERRY, C magazine, Toronto, November 1998 / January 1999
«...Gosselin might be the only person in Montreal possessed of the will, organizational ability, stamina and dedication to put together such a massive do. And the Biennale did bring us a few works we otherwise rarely see [...] In all fairness, there are a number of stand-out works...»
Henry LEHMANN, The Gazette, Montréal, Saturday, September 12, 1998
«...You'd have to be a real sourpuss not to have fun at this exhibition (Transarchitecture 02 + 03). It is colourful, loaded with adventurous ideas and dazzling graphics [...] One of the benefits of including this exhibition in the larger Biennale is that it makes such questions about the relationship of art and architecture immediately relevant [...] We should relish this rare chance to imagine that what architects think and do matters in the broad world of contemporary art.»
David THEODORE, The Gazette, Montréal, Saturday, September 5, 1998
«...Certainly, the Biennale, so delightfully non-commercial, is a worthy addition to the Montreal festival season...»
Henry LEHMANN, The Gazette, Montréal, Saturday, September 5, 1998
«...For today, let's focus on the show at Bonsecours market, curated by Biennale director Claude Gosselin, where a dozen artists are exhibiting an imaginative, eclectic selection of works under the heading Dreamcatchers...»
Dorota KOZINSKA, The Gazette, Montréal, Saturday, September 5, 1998
«...Montréal's first ever Biennale [...] does have some real showstoppers from both domestic and foreign studios [...] Some of the most memorable are the wickely humorous. They are so delightful and accessible that, contrary to so many of the metaphor-laden contraptions called art these days, it is unnecessary to probe beneath the surface for hidden meanings in order to appreciate the works...»
Paul GESSELL, The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Monday, August 31, 1998
«The festivals keep coming!
Poetry, Humour and everyday is the stuff that makes up Montreal's first biennial, that features a range of Canadian and international artists.»
Bernard MENDELMANN, The Suburban, 29 August 1998
«The perennial power of the everyday. With its first biennial of contemporary art, Montreal is seeking a place in the roster of international megashows.»
Blake GOPNIK, The Globe and Mail, Toronto, 29 August 1998
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