Papier is not only the largest art fair on paper in Montreal

The event has grown from an intimate showcase for a handful of local galleries to a toast to the city’s art scene. Next year’s edition will see a name change, in line with an expanded focus.

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Montreal’s largest contemporary art fair celebrates its 15th edition — and in a way its last — from Friday to Sunday at the Grand Quai du Vieux-Port. Next year, Paper will be called differently.

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The event has evolved. Over the past decade and a half it has grown from an intimate showcase for a handful of local galleries to a toast to the city’s contemporary art scene, the unmissable event to view the latest offerings from top artists. represented by the best galleries in Montreal and the rest of Canada.

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Paper has grown from a free affair in which 17 galleries once drew 2,500 people to Westmount Square in a matter of days, to a ticketed event with 40 galleries attracting 10,000 art lovers of all persuasions, from casual amateurs to seasoned collectors. And he went from showing only works on paper to paintings, photographs and more.

“The word ‘paper’ has become a bit of a crutch,” said Dominique Toutant, director of Galerie Blouin | Division and the co-chairman of the recently appointed Board of Directors of the Association of Contemporary Art Galleries, which organizes Paper.

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“It’s not just paper anymore,” he continued. “We let the galleries have other types of works. It has become an art fair like any other, with all mediums, where galleries have a choice.

In the beginning, the lighting of the works on paper served as an eye-catcher for the event. It also made it possible to control prices, in order to attract audiences less familiar with the art world. But as the fair grew in popularity and sales skyrocketed, there was less and less reason to stick with the original script. In recent years, gallery owners have been quietly allowed to show works on more than paper. So changing the name at this point is little more than a technicality, albeit an important one.

“It will be easier to understand” what the fair is, Toutant said. “It’s hard to say that there are works on anything other than paper when the event is called Paper.

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The success of Papier is a testament to the health of Montreal’s contemporary art scene, according to Toutant, as is the fact that the fair has reached a point where it no longer needs a gimmick to get people through.

“This shows the maturity of the Quebec and Canadian art market,” said Toutant.

In recent years, gallery owners participating in the Papier art fair have been quietly allowed to show works on more than just paper.
In recent years, gallery owners participating in the Papier art fair have been quietly allowed to show works on more than just paper. Photo by Jean-Michael Seminaro /Paper

Art fairs are all the rage these days, with world-famous gatherings like Art Basel (in Switzerland, Miami, Hong Kong and now Paris) and Frieze in London drawing crowds from around the world.

Canada has its own suitors. Although Papier is not as big as Art Toronto, it does stand out. Ultimately, it’s about providing a platform for Montreal galleries to attract Montrealers.

“Some avid collectors from Toronto will come to see us (this) weekend, of course,” Toutant said, “just like some Quebecers are going to Toronto. But with the exception of major art fairs in places like Miami, New York or London, it’s usually the local market that’s most active.

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For Montrealers this weekend, Papier is the place to be.

“Paper has cachet,” Toutant said. “There is something about Montreal. All kinds of people come. You see less variety elsewhere. There is something in Montreal’s DNA, our culture, that is unique. It’s great to see. People are curious. They want to see what’s going on.

Julie Lacroix calls Papier the “economic driver” of contemporary art galleries in Montreal.

“That’s how it was designed,” says Lacroix, director of the Association of Contemporary Art Galleries. “It’s a time every year for the community to come together – galleries, collectors, experts and curators.”

Paper now has sales of around $1.5 million, up from $700,000 in 2013.

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“It’s like a party when someone buys a piece of art,” said Lacroix, who fondly recalls the thrill she felt selling art while working in commercial galleries. from the city. “Everyone says, ‘Congratulations!’ It’s like buying a house — that’s good news. It’s wonderful to tell the artist that you sold their work to this person, who will install it in their home. There is a real joy in that, in helping someone, in contributing to the socio-economic conditions of artists.

Since that time, Lacroix has made it his mission to “decomplexify” art buying – “to make it easier and accessible to everyone”.

Of the 40 Canadian galleries presenting works this year at Papier, 16 are outside Quebec. In addition to the galleries, the fair will also present the works of the winners of this year’s Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Bursary in Contemporary Art: Diyar Mayil from Concordia and Rémi Belliveau from UQAM.

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Usually, Papier is held in April, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the fair in 2020, followed by a late edition in November 2021. This made the spring return of this year a little too tight ; rather than skipping a year, gallery owners voted for the late August slot all at once.

“It’s really the only time we’ll be holding the fair in the summer,” Lacroix said, noting there will be an outdoor patio for the first time. “It’s exciting, in a way.”

IN ONE LOOK

The Paper Fair takes place from Friday August 26 to Sunday August 28 at the Grand Quai du Vieux-Port. For tickets and more information, visit papiermontreal.com.

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