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Soundbites: Quotable Moments from 2015

The Canadian artworld is full of interesting personalities; sometimes we catch them saying interesting things. Here, our favourite quotes from 2015, culled from interviews we’ve conducted, and presented in no particular order.


There are new galleries coming in. Everybody does something different. If you look at that as a pie, and you imagine the very different kinds of possible collectors and clientele, different approaches and different artists in each one, and you start cutting that pie in slices—not to be too pessimistic, but each slice might be thin enough to constitute crumbs.

Gallerist and curator Jessica Bradley, on closing her Toronto gallery


Every artwork is a trap, because it is supposed to be a window to something else, or a closure to an idea: it’s a conceptual trap. But because I work so much with natural materials, like plants and animals, I think it is also about how any kind of relationship to nature is a kind of trapping of nature for the benefit of humanity, whether that’s resource extraction, or human-centric therapy, or for the “wellbeing” of the human.

– Toronto artist Abbas Akhavan, in interview with Gabrielle Moser in the Winter 2016 issue of Canadian Art


I’ve been working for a few years on this idea of labour and the value of my own work…. When I got to the Künstlerhaus Bethanien it struck me that I was working in a space that had unpaid interns who were available to help me with my project. I felt uncomfortable with this and that lead to working in such a direct way to emphasize this discomfort.

Canada has a really outspoken and militant tradition that artists should be paid and that cultural workers should be paid. Being in Berlin and in cities where there is such a saturation of artists, where we’re undercutting each other just to get opportunities—I felt scared by that….

It’s not my job to protect the institution; it’s not my job to do something that curries favour with someone in a position of power. I want to do something that I think is necessary.

– Montreal artist Joshua Schwebel, on using his part of his residency stipend to pay interns at Berlin’s Künstlerhaus Bethanien


What’s going to be the challenge for all of us is diversifying revenue, and finding more platforms on the revenue side. There’s extraordinary pressure on museums and museum directors to do different kinds of things, to try different kinds of things, and it will be a challenge for all of us to stay focused on the mission: to keep the commitment to great art, and the idea that we are an institution of learning at our core. The question is, what kind of learning? Pushing that in relation to the challenges to balance the books and find new revenue sources is enormous.

– Museum director Matthew Teitelbaum, on leaving the Art Gallery of Ontario for the MFA Boston


In today’s neoliberal environment, we frequently hear, “Are unions still relevant?” The question is based on a false premise. The real question, of course, is not whether unions are relevant, but why their power to bargain effectively is diminishing, why the proportion of the population that belongs to a union is decreasing and what the consequences are for the workers they represent, and the workers they might have represented in the past. Why are we asking whether ARCs are still relevant? Is it because all the problems they were established to address have been solved? Is it because they have become redundant or ineffective? Or is it because there is pressure to redirect the resources currently used to support ARCs to other purposes or institutions?

– Filmmaker and writer Chris Gehman, responding to the question, “Are artist-run centres still relevant?”


It’s as if every seven years I feel I need to synthesize what I’ve been doing to move on to the next thing.

– Montréal and New York artist David Altmejd, in interview with Isa Tousignant a month in advance of his exhibition at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal


Unfortunately, Toronto is not a top-tier art city in the global market. A lot of my clients are not based in Toronto, so they only see online and through photos. I also work with a lot of emerging artists who I’ll show, and then three years later they’re blowing up. Collectors research them and come across me. I want to make sure whatever I’m doing in the space is being presented as well as possible. The website acts as the gallery’s business card.

– Gallerist Simon Cole, reflecting on his Toronto gallery’s move to Dupont Street


[In] the actual war zone [in Eastern Ukraine], unfortunately the conditions there are far from art life. People are surviving. The building of the only Centre for Contemporary Art that existed in Donetsk was overrun by the armed thugs and forced to move to Kyiv. The humanitarian situation there is grim. The last time I heard about art being made there was in the summer, when an anonymous graffiti artist made tough street art poking fun at the “republics,” and the criminal or Russian-security service background of much of their “leadership.” No one has heard of him since.

– Artist Taras Polataiko, reflecting on the role of art in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine


Tribe not having a space has shifted the way artist-run centres have been defined. Tribe and AKA were among the first artist-run centres to collaborate/partner in Canada…. I remember we were also being looked at as a model—for instance, the South Asian Visual Arts Collective in Toronto was based on our model as an artist-run centre working without a centre.

– Artist, curator and executive director Lori Blondeau, on the 20th anniversary of Saskatoon’s Tribe Inc.


I wanted to make sure that whatever I did was good enough to honour your drawing, because you did a beautiful drawing and I didn’t want to wreck it, and it’s hard because you can’t always control your art. Some things come out good and some others come out not so good. So you try your best.

– Artist Shary Boyle speaking to artist Shuvinai Ashoona on their collaboration

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