Annual graduate student exhibition Ignition moves online

What can we learn from the first wave of virtual exhibitions?

With online exhibitions and art events on the rise, a new standard for criticism is sure to follow. Simple photo galleries aren’t cutting it: viewers want more engagement, something new and cutting edge that really takes advantage of the internet’s wide range of artistic possibilities. Tim Schneider, art business Editor at ArtNet, listed four key components to creating effective online viewing rooms in a recent article:

1. Distinguishing the viewing room from regular online shops by including links to artist statements, portfolios and more

2. thinking outside of the white cube and allowing for a rotation of artworks that would create new dialogues and opportunities for solo shows

3. controlling the accessibility of the viewing room by offering options to sign up for newsletters, donate money, or purchase an artwork

4. promoting the viewing room on other online platforms, allowing  opportunities for public engagement ex-situ, and opening the floor for conversation on video chattings apps

Concordia’s Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, located in the LB building, has recently made the switch to online programming for their final exhibition of the year, Ignition 16. Ignition is an annual exhibition featuring the work of graduating masters students from Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

The gallery has opted for a weekly turnover, featuring select artworks from the exhibition in line with a specific theme. The week of April 13 focused on the idea of feedback, spotlighting three of the featured artists. Their programming asks viewers, “what experiences and responses arise when feedback falls silent, tightens its constraint, or contradicts the output we’re accustomed to?”

During the exhibition, members of the virtual public were invited to watch Ahreum Lee’s Memory Palace, an autobiographical account of the intersections between politics, technology, the immigrant experience and  family, to consider society’s control of bodies through Diyar Mayil’s sculptural series (dis)bodied, and to view documentation of Janice Ka-Wa Cheung’s YOU ≠ I, an interactive installation exploring digital narcissism and the uncanny within the everyday.

The gallery’s website isn’t very obvious to navigate, and it takes some sporadic clicking around before you can make it off the homepage. Once you find your way to the programming, you are met with three columns of bold text, and it is within the middle of one of these columns that you will finally reach the online exhibition. In and of itself, the online exhibition doesn’t seem any different from the gallery’s usual webpages for in-person exhibitions.

The feature image on the Ignition 16   page has no context either, although I presume it features the artist’s works—but whose, exactly? The page is divided into two wide columns, one containing a breakdown of the week’s themes (upon my visit on April 17, only the description for the week of April 13 was available), and the other containing the curatorial statement and a list of the artists.

It is only in this second column that the works are accessible to viewers. Each artist section contains a description of their practice, a statement for the selected work, questions to spark further exploration, and links to further information (usually the artist’s own website).

While some of the ideas brought up under the “explore” subheading are quite relevant in this time of social and physical distancing, unless you are going to write about the works or plan to ponder the gallery’s questions in the intellectual corner of your home with a lovely beverage, these questions do not really promote active engagement.  I am left wanting more, wanting full screen viewing, not a window with 15 tabs open for me to click through and eventually get overwhelmed and bored by. These artists had their graduating exhibition cancelled, so they deserve full screen gallery representation.

Among the nine artists, the best received works were the video pieces, hyperlinked on the Gallery’s webpage via Vimeo. It’s evident why that is: audio-visual work thrives online. It’s incredibly accessible, and anyone can view it in it’s intended quality when following the right link. Interactive pieces shared through documentation are a close second, especially when viewers are granted insider access to the artist’s process. Although I’m sure the work could have been designed in another way, with the specific purpose to be interacted with online and under the current circumstances, it’s understandable why it isn’t.

These are trying times we’re living through, and we are all learning as we go and doing the best with what we’ve got. This experience has left me wondering what we can learn from the first wave of virtual exhibitions. How can we better them for future renditions? How can we include this kind of digitally-accessible content in everyday museum and gallery programming as the pandemic blows over?

Share your thoughts with us @TheConcordian on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

PS, we are hiring for the 2020-2021 academic year! For more information visit

Feature image courtesy of the Leonard and Bina Art Gallery. Gif includes the works of Ahreum Lee, Memory Palace, 2019-2020, Christopher Johnstone, Five Acres, 2020, Diyar Mayil, Leaky Pants, 2018 and Janice Ka-Wa Cheung, YOU ≠ I, 2019.


The Concordian editors unleash their inner art critics

Bringing you our favourite online art experiences

What makes a museum experience memorable when… well, when you can’t actually go to the museum? After most institutions closed last month, hundreds of art museums around the globe have made their collections accessible online for free. With the opportunity to browse museums all around the world, how does one choose where to go first?

From the UK to Japan, our staff has compiled a list of our favourite pieces, exhibitions and virtual tours for you to experience. While some choices are based on interest and desire to learn, others are based on memories and personal sentiment. Regardless, read on for some insightful, personable and critical responses to art around the world. Enjoy your time at the Concordian Art Gallery.

The Concordian Art Gallery’s first-ever exhibition investigates the appeal of an artwork through a critical approach. The works, which date from the 19th to the 21st century, depict histories both personal and collective. From the ecclesiastical etchings at the Rijksmuseum to Migishi Kōtarō’s abstract compositions, the featured works draw upon personal experiences to explore our relationship with art. Although eclectic, the ensemble of works invites viewers to reflect on their history and memories and how they interrelate with art.

Matthew Coyte, Managing Editor 

Anonymous English School. Commander Robert R. Bastin. Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery. Exeter, England.

I picked this museum because it’s one that I’ve had my eye on for a while. My family is originally from Devon, England, so I’ve always wanted to visit, and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery have been on my mind as well. This painting of a relatively unknown man just connected with me because he looks like my grandfather who passed away this summer. I guess everything just came full circle from my interest in connecting with my family’s roots to this piece.

Lola Cardona, Assistant Video Editor

Women Hold Up More Than Half The Sky. Glasgow Women’s Library. Glasgow, Scotland.

From the online exhibit “Sisterhood is Powerful: UK Posters” at the Glasgow Women’s Library.

I like this piece because of its simplicity, both in its colour and its message. The orange and the blue creates a visually pleasing image and the photograph itself is interesting to look at because of the subject. In it, women are working from extreme heights on what looks like a bridge. The caption “women hold up more than half the sky” seems to be promoting the fact that women work as hard, if not harder than their male counterparts. I see this image as a statement about women in the workforce, in particular, making sure women have equal job opportunities and are recognized for their accomplishments.

Chloë Lalonde, Arts Editor 

Masayoshi Nakamura, Man and Woman. 1963. Colour on paper. Nagoya City Art Museum. Nagoya, Japan.

Kōtarō Migishi, Composition: Still Life with Fireplace. 1933. Oil on canvas. Nagoya City Art Museum. Nagoya, Japan.

I initially wanted to do the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, but I was so thrown off by the palace and had no attention span for the work it contained. The museum is massive, with three floors of rooms upon rooms and all sorts of halls. It was truly incredible, but no specific artwork caught my eye. But it did spark a desire to be a Russian princess. I realized that I wanted to stumble upon something fresh, something I had no idea existed. I was aware of the Hermitage before this.

I came across the Nagoya City Art Museum (NCAM) on Google Arts & Culture, and its feature image caught my eye. I didn’t recognize the artist, and barely had any idea what it was I was even looking at. Perfect. Turns out it was a Frida Kahlo, Girl with Death Mask. The painting depicts Kahlo’s would-be daughter. I was struck by her white face, full of horror, contrasted with light blues, pastel pinks and Easter yellows.

Among the 50 or so pieces in the NCAM’s collection, two more pieces stood out to me. Masayoshi Nakamura’s Man and Woman (1963) and Kōtarō Migishi’s Composition: Still Life with Fireplace (1933), for two very different reasons.

I immediately felt repelled, but not repulsed, by Nakamura’s painting. The way the paint pools in matte, layered splotches to create the base for the man and woman’s faces immediately reminded me of dried, flaking tempera paint, which gives me this nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling. But the painting itself feels relatable, childlike, as though Nakamura sketched on eyes as a last-minute thought. The swift black ink, like smudged eyeliner, blurs the lines between the man and the woman, and you can only theorize who is whom. My favourite parts are the big blotchy noses. I love the way the paint cakes up to create a shape. While most paint is quite fluid, sometimes it is lumpy, thick or even creamy. This kind of paint allows you to sculpt with it, like scraping plaster onto a wall, smoothing it out in circles to create ridges, keeping each scrape visible. This painting feels distraught, violent. It feels last-minute, not that big of a deal. I like that.

Migishi’s still life is an aesthetic choice. Now, this is the kind of art I’d like to make in isolation. I’m a big fan of line work, big wobbly shapes and juxtaposing neutrals with bright primary colours. I like the hint of recognition—I spy a wine glass, a bunch of grapes and a fireplace— and the rest is up to your imagination.

Cecilia Piga, Assistant Photo Editor

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, De predikende Christus (De Honderdguldenprent). Rijksmuseum. Amsterdam, Netherlands.

I chose Rijksmuseum because it’s from one of the museums I’m most excited to visit during my exchange in Amsterdam next semester, fingers crossed! I’ve always been intrigued by the tools and process behind etching, so I was drawn to this piece as soon as I recognized the marks on the print. I love the contrast and texture of this printing technique. What I like the most is the intricate level of detail the artists put into a small print.

Lillian Roy, Assistant Life Editor

Elsa Schiaparelli: Jackets. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, United States.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a few virtual exhibits available on Google Arts and Culture. Interestingly, a lot of them have to do with the MET’s fashion collections, ranging from late-nineteenth-century footwear to contemporary labels like Comme des Garçons. My favourite collection features vintage dinner jackets designed by Elsa Schiaparelli, an Italian designer who got her start in the early 20th century. I love how the crisp, tailored silhouettes contrast with the elaborate designs and flashy colours, combining elements that are both masculine and feminine. With its jewel tones and stunning embroidery, I found this green jacket to be particularly eye-catching.

Aviva Majerczyk, Copy Editor

Adam Mickiewicz as a Pilgrim, Jan Styka. National Museum. Krakow, Poland.

I chose the National Museum in Krakow because I was supposed to study in the city this summer, before the world as we know it descended into chaos. Additionally, I thought it could be interesting to learn more about my personal Polish heritage. So, I was glad to see that the museum had a large digital collection with many online exhibitions. I chose Independence, a collection of Polish works based on the political notions of 20th-century socialist statesman Józef Piłsudski, which was presented to celebrate the centennial of the independence of the Republic of Poland in 2018. This exhibition is very patriotic in tone, highlighting Poland’s constant struggle against outside occupation. As would be expected from a state-sponsored collection, there were plenty of busts of leaders and paintings of glorious battles. Yet, the piece that struck me most was Adam Mickiewicz as a Pilgrim by Jan Styka. Mickiewicz was a romantic poet and activist in the 19th century, who is often called Poland’s greatest poet. The painting shows Mickiewicz holding a staff and looking up at an ominous cloudy sky. His figure is sharp and detailed against the wash of colour behind him. This piece makes Mickiewicz appear to be almost holy— like a Moses figure. From this, it is obvious that he is greatly revered in Polish history. Overall, Independence was a great gateway to Polish history. It definitely sent me down a few Wikipedia rabbit holes to learn more about the mentioned leaders and uprisings.

Virginie Ann, News Editor 

Widad Kawar, TIRAZ. Amman, Jordan.

As I scrolled down the list of virtual exhibits available on Google Arts and Culture, my eyes were caught by the title “home for Arab dress.” It reminded me of my time in Morocco, during Ramadan, when my girlfriends and I went to pick some beautiful traditional caftans. There is something truly simple, yet very graceful, about this type of clothing— which ends up making you feel very elegant. So, I chose to visit the virtual Widad Kawar collection from Tiraz museum in Jordan. The collection contains over 2000 costumes and jewelry, which both hold an important place in Middle Eastern art and history. My favourite exhibition ended up being Ya Hafeth Ya Ameen: Protective silver jewellery from the Middle East, which brings the viewer into Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Oman. The mix of text, 360-degree photos and the zoom option allows for an immersive experience, which I personally find more interesting than just staring at a computer screen.

Learning history through jewelry is quite unique. The exhibition approaches how conflict, migration and even politics have an influence on dress and jewellery creation. I loved reading about the superstitious meanings of jewelry and their connection with divine and mystical forces through various forms of protection, such as talismans. Our own disconnection, even complete rejection, of religion here in Quebec makes it hard for some people to understand that sense of belief. But, call me naive, I love believing that carrying something such as a piece of jewelry can be meaningful. I think it reinforces a sense of community, an aspect that is greatly present in the Arab world. The most common protection jewelry against the Evil Eye is the Hand of Fatima, dating back thousands of years. Yet, capitalism has transformed it into something you can now purchase in any form, without understanding its background.

As someone who has a strong interest in the history of the Middle East, I was happy to find this short exhibition, which made me calmly travel over the Arabian Peninsula, while sipping on my second Stout during the global pandemic.

“What if in an unsure world – a world in which your family depend on a good harvest for survival, and sickness can easily lead to death – amulets provided a sense of comfort and control, and talismans offered a connection to the mystical powers that seemed to govern your life, but which you can’t always see?” – Tiraz Widad Kawar home for Arab dress

Lorenza Mezzapelle, Assistant Arts Editor

Paul Getty Museum. California, United States.

I spent a good two weeks trying to find a specific artwork that I would want to talk about and share. Ultimately, trying to navigate museums virtually just didn’t cut it for me, as I found it to be much too distracting and too difficult to actually read the accompanying texts. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was to navigate J. Paul Getty Museum’s online platform. They offer a variety of ways to interact with numerous artworks, and rather than offering a virtual tour, viewers can scroll through an exhibition in chronological order, on a webpage. In addition to offering their exhibitions online, the museum has made hundreds of books in their Virtual Library available… for free! From architecture to critical theory, their selection is unparalleled. Some of my favourites included Cezanne in the Studio: Still Life in Watercolors and Otto Wagner: Reflections on the Raiment of Modernity, which I intend on reading in their entirety after handing in my finals.

While most of the exhibitions I scrolled through were interesting, I personally enjoyed Bauhaus: Building the New Artist: it was easy to scroll through, informative and read in the same way as walking through an exhibition space from start to finish. Each part of the exhibition features an interactive exercise, including one based on Kandinsky’s theory that shapes correspond to colour. My favourite part of the exhibition was definitely the “Learning with Albers” segment, which provides a brief, but insightful overview of Josef Albers’ influence on the Bauhaus movement and on studies of materiality. The text is accompanied by annotated notebook pages of various Bauhaus students which illustrate their studies via journal entries and photographs.



Feature graphic by @sundaeghost.


World wide art : What do we lose and what do we gain?

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan.

We belong to a generation that thrives on speed, on acceleration, on the rush.

Where ‘eating lunch’ means grabbing a sandwich to eat on the metro, or, better yet, fueling yourself on another cup of coffee.

Where we check our email 10 times a day, never leave the house without a device that can access the Internet and constantly find ourselves updating everything.

So in retrospect, the fact that we would want to render some art forms more accessible through the world wide web is not all that surprising; we love the idea of information at our fingertips.

Internet art (also called has been controversial for the artistic world since the early ‘90s. Ultimately, it asks the question “Is it still art if you experience it this way?” Let’s consider the question: what exactly makes a piece of artwork “art”? The first thing that comes to mind is undoubtedly the fact that art is meant to be unique. That being said, the Internet allows for the reproduction of works of art, or even to rework them entirely. Similarly, to the book that’s published online rather than on paper, there’s a certain legitimacy that’s lost in the process.

Then again, one of the other fundamental characteristics of art is that it be a portrait of the artist’s creative desires. In this case, Internet art can only be considered all the more appropriate to the definition. Yes, there’s a curatorial experience that is lost in exhibiting this way, but, at the same time, the loss of a middleman means there is no judgment offered to the audience beforehand. Deprived of early observations, the observer is left to interpret things on his own and can only gain more from the experience. It’s artistic liberty taken to a whole new level.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Internet gallery is actually a great example of this digital age in the artistic gallery. The museum has digitized its entire collection on its website for easy archive viewing, rendering browsing a pleasant and informative experience for web aficionados. It has also taken the next step by commissioning artists who plan to solely display their pieces on the Internet, such as artists Julia Scher and Lynn Hershman.

When being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal in July 2009, Rudolf Frieling, the media curator for the SFMOMA, said that the museum felt this was “the next logical step” and that it allowed them to continue to show “leadership among the museums by studying the needs of a museum to take charge of technologically demanding work.”

Some will tell you that something essential is being lost in the process of distributing art on the net. They discuss artistic authenticity. Others disagree, saying that we should embrace the fact that people are naturally curious about art and that the Internet is, in the 21st century, the easiest way of reaching out to these otherwise inaccessible audiences. After all, one of art’s goals is to bring people together, to challenge their assumptions and have them share an experience. The Internet, in itself, is simply the medium that’s helping to achieve that.

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