Nicolas Baier Hunting Gallery
March 22 to May 28, 2006
Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion
The various collections that make up an encyclopedic museum are relatively self-contained. Islamic art here, Greco-Roman antiquities there, pre-Columbian art over there, Old Masters elsewhere, contemporary art off that way and so on, depending on the scope of the institution. At least, such is the case at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. There is little cross-fertilization.
So it was with an enthusiasm not devoid of a certain curiosity that we agreed to Nicolas Baiers proposal to insert his photographic works into the midst of the Museums various collections. Could a photo retouched with Photoshop co-habit with a painting from the seventeenth century? And if so, what would be the meaning or the implication of this intermingling?
Baier provided us with prints of a dozen of his recent works. The subjects and styles vary: woodland scenes, cityscapes, abstract compositions, traditional photographs and digital compositions. Except in a few cases, the artist had no preconceived notions about placement in the galleries. After a discussion with colleagues, we were able to single out some possible combinations: the keyboards in Chiboukis would be perfect with the modern decorative arts, or perhaps even better with the Early Christian mosaics. Harpy, with its chiaroscuro effects in the gallery of paintings influenced by Caravaggio, and so on. Our professional role as directors of art history turned into a sort of card game with only one rule the free interplay of associations in terms of plastic values, iconography and chromatics.
Although some of these suggestions proved ideal, most turned out to be too studied and obvious. In the galleries, however, Baier played the game by instinct, his swift decisions apparently taken with a fine disregard for the outcome of this playing about with the treasures of the past. And yet as he did so, his choices could be seen as a free inventory of the various attitudes to art history open to a contemporary artist: mimicry, critical distance, political commentary, aesthetic mockery, poetic reconstitution
We felt as if we were watching the acrobatics of an actor playing all the characters in a play one after the other.
The FREEFORM SERIES is devoted to projects in contemporary art. Contemporary art programming at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts receives funding from the Canada Council for the Arts.
bio: Nicolas Baier, born in 1967, lives and works in Montreal. Since 1991, his work, initially pictorial and later photographic, has been exhibited in numerous shows in Canada and abroad. In 2003, the Musée dart contemporain de Montréal presented a solo exhibition of his oeuvre that is currently touring Canada. Baier has also executed public artworks, notably for the new pavilion of the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Complex of Concordia University (2003). He is represented by the Galerie René Blouin.
review of the Montreal Mirror
review of the Voir
review of the Montreal Devoir
website of Nicolas Baier