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This article was published 24/6/2011 (2220 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
PARIS -- When prominent Paris art collector and patron Antoine de Galbert founded La maison rouge gallery in 2004 to showcase the hottest contemporary French artists, surely Winnipeg was not on his radar.
But it certainly was Wednesday when the Paris art world was introduced to the artists of this city at the official opening of My Winnipeg, a landmark exhibition of approximately 200 works.
Running until Sept. 25, the show, which takes its name from Guy Maddin's acclaimed docu-fantasia, drew an estimated 800 people to the première and all the leading Paris art critics to a press preview earlier in the day.
The headline in the prestigious French daily Le Monde summed up the show "From the boredom and cold, the Canadian city of Winnipeg produces very good artists."
The exhibit of 71 River City artists -- co-presented by Winnipeg's Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art -- takes place in a 2,500 square metre renovated factory in the Bastille district of Paris. The show itself occupies 1,300 square metres and offers an unprecedented view of Winnipeg's artistic output.
Curated by Paula Aisemberg, Herve di Rosa, and Anthony Keindl, executive director of Plug In, the soirée brought out 20 artists who represented a who's who of the Winnipeg art scene.
De Galbert said the show was actually the brainchild of di Rosa, who discovered Winnipeg through Maddin's films.
"It was Herve who first drew my attention to the art and creative culture of the city and this show clearly demonstrates that Winnipeg has something very special to offer," de Galbert said. "I spent a week in Winnipeg with Herve, meeting artists and viewing outstanding work. You can see the results tonight."
Other cities from around the world will be featured in the future, but Winnipeg will always have the distinction of being the first, he said.
Keindl, clearly ecstatic over the media and public response to the opening, said the coming together of so many Winnipeg artists sets a new standard for Canadian art.
"Our culture and creativity are now being showcased on the world stage, and certainly proves that Winnipeg truly is at the heart of the Canadian arts scene," he said.
One Parisian art lover said she hoped she could now make the trip to see Winnipeg, adding she thought the city's name to be very poetic.
Canada's ambassador to France Marc Lortie and his wife Patricia were also exuberant about the show.
"This is a very proud moment, not just for Winnipeg but for all of Canada," he said. "This exhibit reflects our culture, our creativity, and the ability to mount an exhibit of co-operation and importance."
His wife Patricia was even more effusive: "For Winnipeg and it's artists to be embraced by the Paris art community is incredibly important," she said. "Please tell the people back home that when they come to Paris this summer, the My Winnipeg exhibit is a must-see."
Meeka Walsh, editor of Winnipeg-based arts magazine Border Crossings, said she was not surprised by the response.
"We have been working diligently for years to promote the amazing talent from Winnipeg and to see this show come to fruition is truly a milestone," she said.
Maddin, who flew Thursday to Los Angeles to narrate a radio production in Los Angeles, is clearly a celebrity in his own right in Paris. When asked about his latest work he modestly said he hoped to make an impact in the fall film festival season.
Wanda Koop, one of the city's best known painters, said the response to the show was simply amazing.
"All the important critics came through and one of them told me he thought the show was gutsy and formidable," she said.
Noam Gonick, sporting a crystal studded T-shirt declaring "Paris ain't Winnipeg" curated what can only be described as the erotica part of the exhibit called Winter Kept us Warm. The title is borrowed from David Sector's 1965 film, Canada's first entry into the Cannes Film Festival.
"This section of the show features a broad range of media, from video art to sculpture and photography, all connected to the city's physical and erotic aura," Gonick said.
One of the most popular pieces, based on the crowds, was the Kent Monkman installation, Collapsing of Time and Space in an Ever Expanding Universe.
"I've never seen anything like this," said one local viewer. "Are beavers a problem in Winnipeg?"
Another patron after viewing the playful work of Diana Thorneycroft asked, "Who are Bob and Doug?"
Artist Louis Bako summed up the experience Wednesday by saying, "It doesn't get any better than this! Hanging out with friends in Paris, seeing the reaction to our work and hearing such great things about Winnipeg is tres bon!"
Former Winnipegger Ron Telpner is Chairman and CEO of The BrainStorm Group in Toronto.