LA CROIX DU MONT ROYAL
Curatos—Marthe Carrier and Nicolas Mavrikakis
- Press Conference
In recent days, we have been witnessing a media whirlwind around the recreation of Pierre Ayot’s La croix du mont Royal (the Mount Royal Cross) originally created in 1976. Having heard several falsities, we would like to hereby summarize the situation.
In 1976, the piece, just completed, was immediately demolished along with all the other works of Corridart, the leading exhibition of the Olympic Games in Montréal. Pierre Ayot’s work was a replica of the cross overlooking Mount Royal, it rested on its side.
As part of a major retrospective of Pierre Ayot held in several locations in Montréal, Nicolas Mavrikakis, curator and art critic, wanted to revisit this work, which everyone had heard of, but no one had seen. Marthe Carrier and Galerie B-312 joined this project without hesitation.
As curators, we focused on the various issues that this recreation posed. The choice of the location was made with much consideration and coherent with the spirit of the work. To respect the vision of the artist, this historical and mythical work and unique project, had to be installed on the edge of the mountain, from which it takes its name. As Ayot wanted, the cross seems to have come to rest a few moments at the foot of the mountain... The approach of Ayot was close to Pop Art, a movement that quoted images known to all to reuse in a different context. This work placed in front of buildings with an uncertain future, certainly takes an additional meaning after several hundred years of use. What should we do with our cultural and our religious heritage? With this recreation of Ayot's work, we wanted to invite citizens to reflect on this important issue.
We then took all the necessary steps to complete the project. We got the support of the Public Art Office, contributing $ 10,000. We received support from the Conseil des arts de Montréal approving the project following a professional evaluation: "The members of the Visual Arts Evaluation Committee were enthusiastic about this wonderful initiative that pays tribute to Pierre Ayot and Denis Forcier. [...] Indeed, this project is a vivid reminder of a historical moment in visual arts in Montréal, as part of an aesthetic continuity handed down by a generation of creators and privileged witnesses of L’affaire Corridart. The members of the committee believe in updating this event alongside of the retrospective, which will be dedicated to the tutelary figure of Pierre Ayot."
The Plateau-Mont-Royal borough has become associated with this project with eagerness and diligence, ensuring that our project meets all the requirements of a temporary installation of an artwork in the public space. The Ministry of Culture and Communications has issued an authorization under section 64 of the Cultural Heritage Act for the "temporary installation of an artwork in Jeanne-Mance Park, on the outskirts of the wall des Hospitalières on the Avenue des Pins at the corner of the Avenue du Parc [...]". Therefore, the permit required for the temporary occupation of the premises could be sent to us by the Plateau borough.
Thus we are fully respectful of the regulations, meeting all the legal standards of the City of Montréal for such an occupation.
On Tuesday, September 13th, we contacted the Public Art Bureau to confirm the start date, Tuesday, September 20th. Only then did we learn that there might be a problem. We were invited to contact the new director, Mrs. Picard. She seemed surprised to learn about our project and promised to call us back in the hours that followed. On Friday, September 16, after several unreturned calls, only few days prior to the start of the project, we decided to write to her superior, Mrs. Tremblay, to find out what was happening. It was Mrs. Gagnon, Assistant General Director, Qualité de vie, as well as two representatives from Plateau-Mont-Royal, who summoned us to the town hall at the end of the day. She was accompanied by Ms. Laverdière, Director of Department of Culture. She told us that the $ 10,000 promised by the Bureau did not exist, while we had emails confirming it on our side. She asked us to participate in a "mediation" program, without any assurance that by undertaking such a process, our project could be realized. A new step was suddenly added for which no final dates were mentioned. Suddenly, we were asked to meet the Archdiocese and the Hospitaller nuns, among others. What would happen if they did not endorse the project? We received no response ... Over the last few days, we have been proposing new places, such as Place Émilie-Gamelin, an ideal venue for the City since it is located in the Quartier des spectacles... We elicit other places, improvising without really knowing if they would meet the standards. Suddenly, if we agreed to comply with these new requirements, there would be no more money problems.
We would have to revise everything in a few hours, without paying too much attention to the integrity of the work, La croix du mont Royal. Our confidence in the City Centre is undermined. We find ourselves in a controversy questioning our work while we have respected all the steps necessary for the realization of this project.
What process do artists and curators have to follow in the future, if in a last minute of panic, an administration sets up a new validation step, with a "surprise committee" whose powers and obligations are unknown?
We have the permit to install the work in the Jeanne-Mance Park. We intend to move forward with our project. We recall that we occupy the public space on a temporary basis and that we respect all the requirements of such an occupation, that are distinct from a permanent one.
We are saddened that the Religieuses Hospitalières are immersed in this vortex to such a degree while our intention was to sincerely and respectfully incite reflection on the need to protect their heritage, which pertains to us as well.
Original text in French by Marthe Carrier and Nicolas Mavrikakis
To answer your questions, we invite you to a press conference on Monday, September 26, at 2:00 pm, at Galerie B-312.