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This article was published 23/9/2011 (2100 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Paris -- It has been a fine Winnipeg summer here in Paris, thanks to the My Winnipeg art exhibit, which closes this weekend before re-opening Nov. 5 in Sete, in the south of France.
The show, featuring the works of 70 Manitoba artists, was viewed by more than 20,000 Parisians and received rave reviews from the city's leading art critics, according to Paula Aisemberg, curator at the Maison Rouge Gallery.
"We had a tremendous response, given that we mounted the show over the summer, with artists unknown in the art scene in Paris. The show garnered excellent reviews in all media including Le Monde, le Figaro, Le Express, Liberation, 1 page and others, all of them good. Our leading critics praised the show's originality, the freshness and the specificity of the Winnipeg art scene," Aisemberg said.
Aisemberg said that many private collectors and several Parisian galleries expressed interest in the artists.
That was confirmed by participant Noam Gonick, who said that works by Kent Monkman and Paul Butler were acquired by Antoine de Galbert, founder of the Maison Rouge Gallery and a leading collector of contemporary art.
"The positive effects of this show are being felt both in France and in Canada," Gonick said. "Fellow artist Jake Kosciuk now has his first art dealer based in Paris and has already sold some of his latest work. I'll be heading back to Sete for the installation Nov. 5 and a documentary shot by Josh Marr will air on MTS Television next season."
Gonick also heaped praise on Winnipeg's Plug-In Gallery for the leadership it is showing to the arts community in Canada.
Anthony Kiendl, director of Plug-in and co-curator of the exhibit, said he couldn't have asked for more. "We had an excellent review in Art Forum, arguably the most important art magazine in the world, and interest in Plug-in is at an all-time high," he said.
(Writing in Art Forum, Emily Wiener, referring to Andrew Valko's painting Skype Connect, wrote: "This latter work, much like the rest of the show, lays bare the ingenuity of Winnipeg's artists, who counter their frosty environs with rare piquancy.")
Marlene Stern, vice-chair of the Winnipeg Arts Council, who attended the Paris opening, said, "The stature of Plug-In has increased enormously because of the success in Paris, and clearly demonstrates what can be done with our focused energy."
That view was echoed by Normand Smith, spokesman for the Canadian Embassy in Paris. "We are extremely pleased with the exceptional response and positive press the show received. I know Ambassador Marc Lortie encouraged both visitors and locals to make the My Winnipeg show a must-see," he said.
Guy Maddin, whose film My Winnipeg inspired the show's name, said he was proud of his fellow Winnipeg artists and the show clearly demonstrates what they can do when their art travels.
"For me, I would say my biggest thrill was getting out there (Paris) as part of my lost-film installation, The Brian Sinclair Story, a local news item a few years old, but already lost. I felt compelled to include his story, a tragic narrative, which has now played in Winnipeg, Toronto and Paris. The film loops endlessly, sadly, very Winnipeg," he said.
Maddin said he was thankful to be a part of such an exceptional show that had a profound effect on both the artists and attendees. "This is really a career booster for many of the artists," he said.
According to Aisemberg, attendance remains strong as the show nears its end. "We created a buzz in the arts community, both with the concept of featuring a single city's artists and the exceptional art in this installation. Winnipeg should be very proud of its new role on the world stage," she said.
Taking in the show again before it closed, I asked several attendees what they thought of Winnipeg.
Overwhelmingly, they said that Winnipeg's creative community is its greatest export.
Ron Telpner is chairman and CEO of the BrainStorm Group and a former Winnipegger.