The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is dedicating its Design Lab to three Quebec gallery owners who used their expertise to ensure glass, ceramics and jewellery become recognized as fully fledged artistic disciplines.
Bringing together 60 of these works – which the Museum now proudly boasts in its collection – Avant-garde Montrealers attests to the vast creative potential of jewellery, glass and ceramics and pays tribute to these audacious women and their resolutely contemporary vision of these practices.
Jocelyne Gobeil, Elena Lee and Barbara Silverberg opened their galleries in a period when these changing fields were shifting focus from utilitarian and decorative objects to sculptural and conceptual works of art, the fruit of comprehensive artistic practices. These gallery owners fostered the dissemination and promotion of such creations by way of their sound solo and group exhibition programming, presence at fairs, publications and pursuit of other avenues. Teachers par excellence, these women convinced the artistic milieu and a wider public of the relevance of their endeavours.
Galerie Elena Lee (1976-2017) specialized in Canadian contemporary glass art. Representing new and established artists alike, the gallery showcased traditional blown-glass works as well as more complex and sculptural art that exploits the many facets of glass and its potential for combining with other materials – works that put Canadian glass art on the international stage.
Galerie Jocelyne Gobeil (1987-1999) sought to give jewellery its due credit as wearable works of art. Jocelyne Gobeil primarily represented Quebec artists but also featured American and European creations to raise the profile of international jewellery. Renowned creators expressed their reflections on jewellery with novel and experimental pieces made in a wide array of materials that effected undeniably powerful statements.
Galerie Barbara Silverberg Contemporary Ceramics (1985-1998) started out showcasing the conceptual approaches of Quebec artists and then expanded into works from the United States as well as other parts of Canada, including representatives of the Regina Clay movement. The versatility of this art form was exploited to the fullest by emerging artists and ceramicists celebrated across Canada and around the world. Materiality, plasticity, emotional evocativeness and creative inspirations together contributed to the incredible diversity of the artworks.
Credits and curatorial team
An exhibition organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
The exhibition is curated by Diane Charbonneau, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts, MMFA.
Alfred Engerer (born in 1952), Garden of Idylls, 1988, cast glass, plate glass, slate, terracotta. MMFA, gift, Anna and Joe Mendel Collection. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest
Mecky van den Brink (born in 1950), brooch, 1983-1984, plastic coated photograph. MMFA, gift of the Jocelyne Gobeil collection. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest
David Gilhooly (1943–2013), Late Afternoon Snack, 1983, painted and glazed earthenware, wood. MMFA, gift of Barbara and Philip Silverberg. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest