BGL to represent Canada at the 56th International Art Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia

30 January 2014

Ottawa, ON – January 31, 2014

The artists’ collective BGL, composed of Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère and Nicolas Laverdière, will represent Canada at the prestigious 56th International Art exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, in Italy in 2015. The selection was announced by the National Gallery of Canada on behalf of a jury of leading experts in contemporary Canadian art. The Venice Biennale is among the most prestigious contemporary art events in the world, and the only international visual arts exhibition to which Canada sends official representation. The Québécois artists’ exhibition will be presented from May 9 to November 22, 2015 in the Canada Pavilion.

Over the past decade, the artists’ ambitious sculptures and mixed media installations have increasingly garnered critical attention. Using diverse materials, from wood, drywall and cardboard to readymade consumer objects, the group takes a hands-on, artisanal approach. Their artworks range in scale from stand-alone sculptures to large theatrical settings that immerse viewers in unexpected environments. Intelligent and witty, BGL’s compelling installations transform the accessories of everyday life into art.

“This is an exciting moment for BGL, who have recently come into their own as an aesthetic force to be reckoned with,” said Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada, Marc Mayer. “I’m convinced that international audiences will be as enthusiastic about their work as Canadians have become.”

A national selection committee

The national selection committee that chose BGL included Marie Fraser, Professor in the Department of Art History and the Museology program at the Université du Québec à Montréal, and Chief Curator at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal from 2010 to 2013; Gerald McMaster, independent curator, artist, writer, researcher, former Curator of Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and current Deputy Assistant Director at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC; Bruce Grenville, Senior Curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery; Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada; and Marc Mayer, Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada.

Marie Fraser has been named the curator for next year’s Venice project. She will be working closely with the artists and the National Gallery.

BGL: immersing us in art

Working together since 1996 and based in Quebec City, BGL strives to surprise spectators by immersing them in highly unlikely, yet not altogether impossible situations. “We take genuine pleasure in breaking out of the traditional framework in which art is experienced,” says BGL, “in order to bring the human being and art closer together and to give the alert, unsettled spectator a physical and active experience.”

One of the group’s early installations, An Adult’s Toy (2003), presented an upturned ATV riddled with arrows as if it were a hunted animal. In the 2005 performance and video, Rapides et dangereux [Fast and Dangerous], the group, dressed as an Olympic luge team on roller blades, pushed a decommissioned motorcycle through the hilly streets of Quebec City. In 2008, Artistique Feeling II, a work presented at the National Gallery of Canada, dropped $20,000 in bills from a raised skyjack onto the gallery floor.

Originality and cooperation

The selection committee made its decision following a rigorous selection process. Upon awarding Venice honours to BGL, the jury highlighted the artist group’s proven abilities to work in-situ on imaginative projects that have earned admiration throughout their home province and across Canada. “BGL’s installations and performances are obliquely political, but are carried out with a humour that is characteristically Canadian,” reported the committee.

The growing international interest in BGL’s work was also noted by the committee, as was the timeliness of selecting artists who work collaboratively, given the rise in popularity of this type of activity within the art world today. Collective production of artworks has had a particularly strong history in Canadian art since the late 1960s.

More about BGL

For nearly twenty years, BGL has been exhibiting work in Canada and around the world: at Musée d’art contemporain du Val-de-Marne, France, in 2011-2012; UQAM’s design centre in 2010; the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver in 2009; and the Centre culturel canadien in Paris in 2008. They have also participated in several group exhibitions and international biennials: Oh, Canada in MASS MoCA (U.S.) in 2012; Manoeuver/Maniobres at the Galerie Toni Tàpies, Barcelona, in 2009; Caught in the Act: The Viewer as Performer at the National Gallery of  Canada in 2008-2009; C’est arrivé près de chez vous at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec in 2008; On Being an Exhibition at the Artists Space in New York in 2007; Sous les ponts… at Casino Luxembourg–Forum d’art contemporain,  Luxembourg in 2005; the first edition of the Bienal del fin del mundo in Ushuaia, Argentina; Havana Biennial Art Exhibition in Cuba; Biennale de Montréal; and Nuits Blanches in Calgary, Paris, and Toronto.

BGL was nominated for the Sobey Art Award in 2006 and has received several grants from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts, as well as the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award and the York Wilson Endowment Award. They won the Ontario Association of Art Galleries’ Best Exhibition Design and Installation Award for their 2006 exhibition at Toronto’s Mercer Union. More recently, in the largest public artwork contest ever held in Québec, BGL won for the Montréal-Nord neighbourhood. They were also chosen to create an outdoor installation for the Pan Am/Parapan Am Aquatics Centre in Toronto in 2014.

BGL’s works are included in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and in many private collections.

BGL is represented by Parisian Laundry in Montréal and Diaz Contemporary in Toronto.

Canada’s participation in La Biennale di Venezia

Every two years, over 80 countries send official entries to La Biennale di Venezia. The 2013 edition of the Biennale featured the participation of 88 countries and attracted more than 475,000 visitors.

La Biennale di Venezia has for over 60 years presented the work of some of Canada’s most accomplished artists. The official Canadian participation at the Biennale’s 56th International Art Exhibition will be made possible by the generous financial assistance of individual and corporate philanthropists from across Canada and beyond.

About the curator

Marie Fraser is a professor in the Department of Art History and in the Museology program at the Université du Québec à Montréal. A renowned exhibition curator, she has organized nearly thirty exhibitions and presented works by BGL in Canada and Europe. Under her artistic direction from 2010 to 2013, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal won several awards for its influential exhibitions and quality publications. For the Québec Triennial 2011, the Musée d’art contemporain was nominated for the 27th Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de Montréal, and it won the awards for best publication from the Société des musées québécois and for Best Exhibition from the Contemporary Art Galleries Association (AGAC).

About the National Gallery of Canada 

The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada’s premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. To do so, it maintains an extensive touring art exhibition programme. For more information:

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Josée-Britanie Mallet
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National Gallery of Canada