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News / July 25, 2013

Sylvie Fortin to Direct Biennale de Montréal

Sylvie Fortin, the new executive and artistic director of the Biennale de Montréal. Sylvie Fortin, the new executive and artistic director of the Biennale de Montréal.

Today, the Biennale de Montréal announced Sylvie Fortin as its executive and artistic director. She is due to begin her duties September 3.

The announcement comes following a period of major change for the organization. Last August, Claude Gosselin resigned after several years at the helm. In February, director Nicole Gingras resigned after just a few months on the job. In April, the board chairs of the biennale and the Musée d’art contemporain announced that they were joining forces, and that the museum’s Quebec Triennial would be discontinued while the biennale would take place at the museum and be co-curated by biennale and museum staff.

Fortin—who was executive director and editor of Atlanta-based journal Art Papers from 2007 to 2012 and most recently curator of contemporary art at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston—expresses appreciation for what Gingras and others have accomplished, and says she thinks the changes have set the stage for more possibilities.

“I wouldn’t have considered [the position] if I didn’t think it was exciting,” she says. “I’m from Quebec and I left in 1996; I always felt like there was a lot of potential but there were also a lot of roadblocks. I felt like there was very little room for people of my generation in this cultural landscape, so this is kind of the first time that I see there is a possibility for a meaningful shift.”

She also thinks it is a good thing that the biennale, since its 2011 edition, separated from founding entity CIAC. “Now it is its own legal entity, it has its own independent process, so that means it is in a position to do a certain number of things it couldn’t do before,” Fortin says.

Fortin says the collaboration with the Musée d’art contemporain is “very promising… one of the problems [from before] is you had two institutions with insufficient budgets. By coming together, I think there is financially the capacity, and also intellectually the capacity, to do something really exciting.”

The next edition of the biennale, postponed from fall 2013, is due to take place from October 9, 2014, to January 4, 2015. Themed on “L’avenir – (looking forward)–,” it will be curated by a team: biennale guest curators Peggy Gale and Gregory Burke along with MACM curators Lesley Johstone and Mark Lanctôt.

“I think there is a potential for something great,” Fortin said, calling herself a “fellow traveller” with Gale and Burke. “It has to be amazing. The expectations are really high!”

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor based in Toronto. Her arts journalism has appeared in the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications, and her creative work has been published in Prism, Room and Freefall. She can be reached via