Only a decade ago, Claude Gosselin and his fledgling Centre International d'Art Contemporain de Montreal organized the film, video and visual arts component of the splashy celebrations in QUebec City to mark the 450th anniversary of the arrival in North America of Jaques Caetier.
From there, Gosslin, a former museum curator, and CIAC in 1985 went on to stage the first Cent Jours d'Art Contemporain, a kind of festival celebrating the richness and inventivness of progressive art.
The event-unique in Canada has always taken a decidedly international approach, with Les Cent Jours combining the best and the brightest of what's happening in Canadian contemporary art with top-calibre work from abroad. The results, while uneven at times, have been controversial, provocative and deeply stimmulating in a way that many museum exhibitions often fail to be.
And Gosselin and CIAC have managed to cobble all this together through generous corporate donations, the solid backing of Quebec's contemporary artists and the creative use of government job-training grants.
But this week, as a sure sign CIAC's coming of age, Gosselin inaugurated a wondrous new exhibition space at 314 Sherbrooke St.E., showed off CIAC's new - and now permanent - headquaters above the exhibition hall and unveiled fife seperate exhibitions that are part of the ninth and latest Cent Jours. As part of this package, Gosselin also announced that CIAC planned to operate year-round, with exhibitions being held more or less on a continual basis. In the past , CIAC has held shows only sporadically outside of the Ceny Jours festival each fall. "Finally," Gosselin said in an interview in the new hall's seven-metre-high space,"CIAC is becoming a true centre."
To inaugurate the new exhibition space, which has to be one of the most dramatic in the city, Gosseline chose a powerful show of black-and-white fotographs by the Viennese born German artist Gottfried Helnwein. Helnwein's work is everything that Annie Leibovitz's, shown last spring at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, is not. While both shoot celebrities - Helnwein's subjects include Keith Richards, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, William S. Burroughs and an extremely wasted Andy Warhol - Helnwein's work is concentrated psychological rather than the gimmicky and the theatrical.
Helnwein shoots his subjects closely cropped and head on; there is usually nothing besides the subject's highly detailed face and Helnwein's stark, hard-edged high contrast and almost retro lighting.
Leibovitz, on the other hand, relies on showmanship and manipulating her famous subjects into bizarre and even ridiculous poses.