Oh, Canada

Greetings from the Great White North! Now back in Canada, it is time to sink my teeth into the Canadian art market. Recently, Ottawa held their fourth annual Nuit Blanche public art event. Toronto has their instalment coming 3 October in which artists display and produce art for the public—many cases with the participation of the public to complete the pieces—in an all night event. Galleries, museums, art schools and pop ups take part with a doors open policy welcoming the public—a lot of whom, admittedly, are drunk freshers with an excuse to run around the city until 4 am—in an effort to build a cultural community and showcase local talent.

Fresh of the plane from London, UK living a year abroad immersed in the global London art market, Nuit Blanche in Ottawa was a far cry from the refined galleries of Mayfair or the edgy artist spaces in the East London. There was a lack-lustre tone by comparison which was a shame considering some of the great artworks on display. In particular, the Ottawa Art Gallery had two gallery spaces devoted to photographer Lynne Cohen with large-scale photographs that could easily be well-received at Frieze London with their scale, bold formalist qualities of the vacant interiors, and vivid colours.

Having just completed extensive academic research into the Canadian art market, the tone I received from Nuit Blanche Ottawa was a reminder of how far the Canadian art market needs to come to play with the big boys in London, New York, and Beijing. Granted, Nuit Blanche is not to be the sole proprietor of advancement in the Canadian market, but as one of the largest art festivals in cities across the country, the event reflected the larger issue with the Canadian marketplace. As a regional market with centres in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, there seems to be more of a community of culture rather than a strong arts community like you feel in London or other global art centres. There are pockets of collectors and a network of art market professionals, but it has a distinctly different feel—more relaxed and arguably immature—than the global art market competitors. Though Nuit Blanche is a creative initiative to open doors to the public and truly does showcase some great artists, there was just something lacking, something not quite polished and a far cry from operations in London.

Rather than to simply unfairly critique a regional marketplace in comparison to a global art market centres, Nuit Blanche achieved something larger for this writer: it was a reminder to be a champion of change in the marketplace to help propel the Canadian art market to the world stage rather than to be complacent to unreached potential. It is time to roll up our sleeves, clean house and present a marketplace worthy of the talent we have to offer.   

For more information on Nuit Blanche Ottawa, please click here.

For more information on the upcoming Nuit Blanche Toronto, please click here.

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