Curator Cheryl Sim speaks about the rewarding process of putting a large exhibition together
Giving a gift to a loved one can bring extreme joy to oneself, but there are also mixed emotions of anxiety for the receiver who might not know what to give back.
As part of its 10th anniversary celebration, DHC/ART (The Foundation for Contemporary Art) is exploring the complex concept of gift exchange in its exhibition, L’OFFRE. The exhibition is a culmination of a variety of works by artists from around the world.
As a curator, Cheryl Sim wanted to create a show which would honour DHC/ART’s contribution to Montreal’s cultural landscape. She has been working at DHC/ART for 10 years and has had the privilege of seeing the foundation grow. When she was tasked with curating the exhibition, Sim knew exactly how to approach the job.
“Artists have forever been interested in gift exchange and the offer of their labour to the service of art-making, which is not necessarily going to give you a lot of financial return,” Sim said. “Many artists work in their spare time, they give their work away for free or they show it for free. DHC/ART as a foundation itself represents a gift to the city of Montreal.”
Sim spoke about Phil Collins, who created a collaborative project called Free FotoLab for L’OFFRE. He put out a public call in Eastern Europe, asking people to give him their undeveloped rolls of 35 mm film in exchange for the right to develop the photos of his choosing.
“He is interested in how you create compassion and how do you show empathy. In so much of his work, he is looking at a relationship between himself and the people he needs to rely on to show his work,” Sim said.
The photos Collins developed include both special and everyday moments, like people attending birthday parties, going to the beach and napping. There are a total of 80 slides in the piece.
Lee Mingwei, a Taiwanese artist, has two pieces in the exhibition: Money for Art (1994-2010) and Sonic Blossom (2013). Sonic Blossom was inspired by the time spent with his mother when she was recovering from surgery. This piece is focused on the transformative and healing power of song. On Saturdays and Sundays, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the foundation, two singers will perform for visitors who will sit in a chair and have one of five Franz Schubert’s artistic songs (known as lieders) sung to them. Sonic Blossom is presented in collaboration with faculty and performers from Concordia’s music department.
DHC/ART is a non-profit organization founded in 2007. According to Sim, the founder, Phoebe Greenberg, had a dream to make art accessible to the public by hosting large-scale art exhibitions with free general admission. DHC/ART’s exhibitions are unique because they present mostly international artists while the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has a mandate to present only Canadian and Quebec artists. People do not have to travel to Paris or Berlin, for example, to see their favourite renowned international artists.
Sim said one of the main challenges in curating such a large exhibition is choosing a nice mix of media and trying to consolidate large works of art which fit with the theme within the space. The curator explained that the most rewarding aspect is seeing the project materialize after a long process of working alongside the technical department and the coordinators.
The ultimate reward for her, however, will be seeing the public’s reaction to these beautiful works. Montreal-based artists Dean Baldwin and Karen Kraven have created a commission-based installation project specifically for the public reception on the evening of Oct. 4.
The opening reception for L’OFFRE will be held on Oct. 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m at DHC/ART, at 451 St-Jean St. The exhibition will officially be on display from Oct. 5 to March 11, 2018.