Visual Arts: Dissemination in Québec

The transfer of art from the artist's workshop to the various concerned publics takes place through the usual communication routes (the press, radio, television), as well as through channels specific to the artistic domain: museums, galleries, specialised journals. A distinctive feature in the diffusion of cultural property in Canada and Quebec is government involvement. Assistance for artists and cultural organizations that enables creators to display their works has been in place since the '60s. In this way, thanks to their many support programmes for both individuals and organizations, the Canada Council for the Arts (since 1957), the (Québec) Ministry of Culture and Communications, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ) and le Conseil des arts de la Communauté urbaine de Montréal (CACUM) (Montreal Community Arts Council) make important contributions. National support supplements the efforts of individual artists, and those in the private sector.

Québec museums collect and display ancient, modern and contemporary art. Their role in the promotion and acceptance of present day art is especially evident from the individual exhibitions and collections they display. The MUSÉE DU QUÉBEC, the MUSÉE D'ART CONTEMPORAIN DE MONTRÉAL, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée de Joliette and the CANADIAN CENTRE FOR ARCHITECTURE organize exhibits all year long that present the work of artists from Québec, across Canada and abroad. Centres, different from museums in that they are without permanent collections, also offer exhibits of current art. Such centres may be independent (Centre international d'art contemporain), or connected with an institution such as a university (UNIVERSITÉ DU QUÉBEC À MONTRÉAL, UNIVERSITÉ LAVAL, UNIVERSITÉ CONCORDIA, UNIVERSITÉ DE MONTRÉAL, UNIVERSITÉ DE SHERBROOKE), or a municipality.

Private art galleries and self-managed artist centres are important places for the distribution of visual arts in Montréal, Québec City and in the main regional centres. Art galleries are private businesses that ensure the visibility of artists, and represent them to public and private collectors by periodically showing their work. Since the inauguration of the first galleries in Montréal (Morency, Watson, L'Art français), we have lost track of all the openings and closures. Their history - one that needs to be told - honours pioneers Max Stern (Dominion Gallery), Agnès Lefort, Denyse Delrue, Yves Lasnier and successive generations of dealers who, since the late 1970s, have enabled works to be circulated and have helped develop expertise for exhibit organisers. Some Montreal galleries merit mention for the quality of their work and their longevity: Simon Blais, René Blouin, Christiane Chassay, de Bellefeuille, Graff, Trois Points, Joliette, Waddington & Gorce and others have all acquired good reputations over the years.

Artist Centres, created in the early seventies, are important locales for the promotion and production of current art, and their influence is felt not only in Montréal and Québec City, but throughout the province. United in an association since 1986 (le Regroupement des centres d'artistes autogérés du Québec), these not-for-profit centres are indispensable reception areas for works by younger generations, and for the development of various competencies as much for artists as for young art historians. Some of these centres, long known as parallel galleries (Véhicule being the first) or alternative spaces, have clear mandates in regard to exploring new technologies (PRIM, Vidéographe and Oboro in Montréal, la Bande Vidéo in Québec, Daimôn in Hull), traditional media and their post-modern incarnations, installations, e.g (Optica, Skol, le Centre de sculpture Est-Nord-Est) and PHOTOGRAPHY (Dazibao, Optica, Vu in Québec City). Most artist centres in Québec City are grouped under one roof at the Complexe Méduse. Elsewhere, locations are more fragmented: commercial buildings, former schools, industrials quarters, etc.

These many places frequented by artists, are specific distribution sites, with an important publishing component added. This varies from year to year, and is of great interest for the long-term visibility and understanding of artistic issues. The large number of exhibition catalogues produced by museums, private galleries and artist centres enable us to piece together the history of the visual arts in Québec, while deliberately conserving traces of individual and collective efforts. These catalogues are sometimes replaced by art books produced by several innovative publishers (Lanctôt, Intervention, Centre de Diffusion 3D, Dazibao, Vu). The Artexte documentation centre in Montréal ensures the conservation and distribution of these essential tools for memories that will become history. Many high quality art journals allow for information to be published at regular intervals and for the transmission of theoretical issues about artists' work. To the earlier publications Vie des Arts (1956) and Parachute (1975), others with variable periodicities have been added, directed to specific segments of the visual arts public, or to other mediums. The magazines Espace, ETC Montréal, Esse and Spirale in Montréal, Inter in Québec City, and Protée in Chicoutimi also do outstanding work in scouting locations and presenting the work of local and foreign artists, while still permitting creators of all perspectives to express themselves. As time passes, art critics in the newspapers LE DEVOIR, LA PRESSE, The Gazette, Voir, The Mirror, and to a lesser degree, on radio and television confirm that this dissemination work is carried out. New technologies should provide broader openings using CD-ROM or DVD, although the distribution of such products, most often experimental, is not easily accomplished.