Thursday, April 21, 2011



Over the weekend I went to see Papier11 (notice that there is no space in between the words 'papier' and the number '11.' A lot of people got it wrong) and was pleasantly surprised. There were a fair number of folk milling about. I saw a bunch of red dots on pieces and even saw some bigshots.

According to the press folderol (and here, and here too) pushed out by AGAC, they got almost 9,000 people. When I was there on Sunday I was told that 4,000 people had been there on Saturday, and somewhere, someone mentioned that they got 500 people for the swanky opening night do (although I strongly doubt that all 500 paid $125 to see it on Thursday night). Which means that, if my math is correct on Friday and Sunday they got about 2,250 each. Somehow, somewhere I have a strong suspicion that someone is fudging the numbers (especially since there was no turnstile, no one counting at the door, no piece of paper with chicken scratches on it - and now come to think of it, I went in and out three times on Sunday, does that mean I counted as three people?).

Also, at some point in my long storied career in the Montreal Arts world, I was told that about 4,000 people show up at the Belgo Building on a given Saturday (which is why I never go to the Belgo on a Saturday). So your guess is as good as mine if the Belgo was as full as it normally is on a Saturday, or if it would have been possible to look at the art because it was like a ghost town.

And if attendance increased by 45% from last year, why did sales only increase 39%? Was stuff cheaper? And speaking of sales, if my long division is good, each gallery grossed $18,289.47. Which if you presume a 50% commission means they net $9,144.74. Or slightly more than $3,000/day. I don't know how much AGAC charged for a booth, but that would cost some coin, and I'm certain that there were other incidental costs as well. My guess would be that the average gallery made about a $4,000 profit from the fair. If anyone has more concrete figures they would like to share, by all means don't let me stop you.

And then I am also stuck by the paucity of coverage of the fair. Most of it is hype, and that which isn't hype doesn't say a gosh darn thing. Listening to Jean-François Belisle talking about how 38 galleries come together to make a "common window" you'd think he had never been inside the Belgo Building in his life.

And while I'm at it, where were the booths for AKA, ARPRIM, Articule, David Astroff, de Bellefeuille, Bielik, CEIM, Atelier Circulaire, Clark, Han Art, Samuel Lallouz, Michel-Ange, MX, Alain Piroir, Plein Sud, Quartier Libre, Liliane Rodriguez, and Jean Pierre Valentin?

Overall Papier11 seems alright, but there's something inside me that is repelled by the crass commercialization and the hordes of consumers descending like locusts on "Art" because of the quote; special occasion unquote. I'd much prefer to see Art be a regular part of people's lives.

- Rant Off.