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THE 1990s

            In the early 1990s, Régine Basha took over from Peter Krausz as director of the gallery. In 1992, she invited curator Claire Gravel to create the last component in the series of exhibitions on the medium of drawing begun in the 1980s. Just as was done by Diana Nemiroff in 1984 with her exhibition Drawing=installation=dessin (1984), Gravel brought together works exploring the hybridization of this medium through a transition towards installation and photography. Le dessin rebelle did not use space in as coherent a way as the Nemiroff offering, where all of the display apparatuses (walls, rails, floor) were fully exploited by the artists. The possibility of reconfiguring the architectural parameters of the gallery was apparently limited to the construction of a few separating walls, with constellations of objects occupying the open central area from that point on. This spatial levelling produced exhibition designs that were much more aerated and diversified, despite suffering from time to time from a surplus of empty space. Other curators, however, worked within these constraints and selected artworks that benefited from such a framework. The exhibition L'éthique de l'exécution : la série « Forming » de John Heward The Ethics of Making: The forming rayons of John Heward (1993), organized by James D. Campbell, took on added value in this rectangular space. The walls acted as three-dimensional surfaces against which to display fragments of a rarefied pictorial language. The display of The White Paintings, Julião Sarmento (1994) wove a narrative thread, with the designs created against a white backdrop seeming to appear and disappear. On a more sombre note, the exhibition Marie-Jeanne Musiol : Du noir, une impulsion lumineuse (1993) used the wall’s surfaces to display sequences evoking the different stages of an image’s emergence from the materiality of photographic emulsion.


            While a number of guest curators had been invited to create exhibitions in the 1980s, the following decade saw a marked increase in this practice. The centre moved away from didactic approaches and instead took a distinct contemporary art direction. In 1993, Basha initiated L’entrespace = The Space Between, a cycle that replaced the often criticized biennials that had focused on emerging artists and had been held by the gallery since 1977. Rather than soliciting multiple works and selecting a few from among the submissions, certain curators (Régine Basha, Sylvain Campeau, Jennifer Couelle and Brian Foss) each chose three artists whose approaches reflected their respective areas of interest. The exhibition avoided defending the distorted claim of exhaustiveness. The title The Space Between also evoked the artist’s work as it enmeshed itself into the discourse of the curator during the creation of an exhibition. The 1993 event was followed by a second version in 1995 (curators were Sylvie Fortin, Valérie Lamontagne and David Liss) and a third in 1997 (curators were Lucinda Catchlove, David Liss and Emmanuel Galland). In 1995, David Liss replaced Régine Basha as curator. With aesthetic preferences influenced by his interest in neo-expressionist painting,[1] Liss returned to a niche familiar to the gallery, but it now embraced the idioms of popular culture. His tenure at the gallery was also marked by a series of exhibitions that aimed to attract new audiences. In 1996, together with curator Marie-Michèle Cron, he organized Artifice, the gallery’s first exhibition held outside its walls. Artifice used vacant buildings in downtown Montreal to present emerging artists. With one of the exhibition’s components presented in the gallery itself, the initiative received extensive media coverage and was repeated with the same success in 1998.








[1] Among others, he organized, Reclaiming Paradise: Survival of Montreal Painting in the 90s = survie de la peinture à Montréal dans les années 1990 (1996). For its part, the exhibition John Scott: Engines of Anxiety (1997) shed light on the red political thread that ran through Scott’s pictorial production. During the exhibition’s development phase, Liss charged the artist with a portion of the responsibility for positioning his works within the exhibition space in order to fashion an extensive narrative statement. In 1999, Liss also curated an exhibition of works by American painter Leon Golub.



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