“Comedian”  (the banana heard around the Art world)

“Comedian” (the banana heard around the Art world)

In December, 2019, a banana made news headlines.

The banana in question, a work by contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan was presented by international Art gallery owner, Emmanuel Perrotin, at the 2019 Art Basel Miami Beach exposition.

A conceptual piece; “Comedian” made an impact as sudden and irresistible as seeing someone slip on a banana peel and topple in spectacular fashion to the ground (my apologies…I just could not resist). Crowds of people lined up for an opportunity to take selfies with the piece, and within days, parody images were being posted on the internet by people far and wide.

Part of the energy behind the reaction to this piece is, no doubt, the reported price paid for 3 editions: $120,000.00 (US) for the first two sold, and $150,000.00 for the third.

The buyers claim to understand that the perishable objects themselves hold little value, but that the concept and the accompanying certificate of authenticity are where the true value resides (not to mention the ensuing fame for everyone involved).

This story strikes me as all too familiar: “artist” produces something baffling, “buyer” pays astronomical price, gasps of disbelief and media headlines follow. (Who among us doesn’t enjoy feeling a little outrage now and then…like yelling at the game referee who appears not to see the transgressions of the visiting team?)

However, in the current media environment of seemingly continual disinformation warfare (i.e.: “Fake News”, propaganda, lies, etc.), I find myself casting a critical eye towards that which I would previously have accepted without question. In this particular case I have trouble believing the high prices reportedly paid for this work.

Having people believe you paid $120,000.00 for something would imply that you are so wealthy that such an amount might be considered “disposable”. Having people believe a gallery received $120,000.00 for the sale of a work would imply that the gallery is “special”…perhaps only for the rich and famous. Having people believe that anything a particular artist produces is worth $120,000.00 (US) or more to somebody somewhere implies that the artist’s other “work” might also be worth huge amounts of cash.

But what if none of that were true? What if the “story” that everyone seems so willing to believe turned out to be a carefully constructed and concealed lie? Those involved in the transaction; the artist, the dealer and the buyers benefit directly in one way or another from the mere idea of such vast sums changing hands (whether the sums reported are correct or not).

Over a third of a million dollars US for 3 bananas and less than one roll of duct tape?….call me cynical…call me jaded….just don’t call me late for dinner.

– Dorian Melton CVPAG Newsletter Editor, PR Chair

Dorian and Jock’s excellent adventure

Dorian and Jock’s excellent adventure

On a sunny day in October, Jock and I hopped aboard the Crofton ferry to Salt Spring Island as I was scheduled to give a noon-hour talk as part of the SSNAP (Salt Spring National Art Prize) exhibition. On that day, a group of people touring in 6 vintage British automobiles also boarded our ferry and it was my pleasure to take some photos of the vehicles as we crossed.

On the way home, we stopped in the Seaside Restaurant by the ferry terminal in Vesuvius Bay and spent some quality time in the sunshine on their balcony overlooking the water, from where one can see the ferry coming from quite a distance.

As is well known; being an artist involves pain, suffering and possibly an entire lifetime of debilitating existential angst…this day turned out to be a welcome exception.

– Dorian Melton CVPAG Newsletter Editor, PR Chair

City of Duncan’s Perpetual Arts Trophy

City of Duncan’s Perpetual Arts Trophy

Photo: Addie Brown poses with Duncan’s Perpetual Arts Trophy soapstone carving “The Passion”. Addie’s great, great grandfather, C.A. (Bob) Howard, was a Freeman of the City.
– photo by Peter W. Rusland

by Peter W. Rusland

Surprised and humbled is how many local artists, patrons and teachers react when realizing they’ve won the City of Duncan’s Perpetual Arts Trophy.
“I’m flattered to think all my efforts did not go unnoticed,” Cowichan choral master and singer Peter Yelland said after earning the 2017 trophy. “But I didn’t do (teaching and leading choirs) for those (awards) reasons.”

Photo: Cowichan choir master Peter Yelland is presented the City of Duncan’s 2017 Perpetual Arts Trophy by then-councillor Michelle Staples. – photo by Peter W. Rusland

The city’s 22nd-annual Perpetual Arts Trophy will be presented at City Hall on Dec. 2.
Concerti Singers’ choir leader and teacher Sheila Johnson, and her late husband Jim, won the 2018 award.
Sheila, and many others involved in the arts, is proud of the trophy saluting those who expose locals and tourists to valley arts and culture of all genres.
“We’re all under the umbrella of the arts,” Johnson said.
Cowichan boasts one of Canada’s highest per-capita arts ratios that includes visual art, music, dance, drama and writing.
Like Yelland, Sheila was delightfully surprised to win Duncan’s prized arts award after being lured by friends to the City Hall ceremony where the recipient is announced.
“Jim was not one for publicity,” she said of her modest husband and noted singer, “but he would have liked winning this award.”
“I was really honoured to receive it last year. You just carry on day to day doing what you do and suddenly I was being recognized.
“My life is directing my choirs, and it was wonderful realizing people in my community appreciate that.”
The arts award is now endorsed by the Cowichan Valley Arts Council. The award was created in 1997 by the now-defunct, arts-friendly Cowichan News Leader Pictorial newspaper.
The winner receives a piece of original local art.
The honour is presented annually in chambers during Duncan’s December inaugural ceremony.
The winner is privately picked by Duncan councillors from among public nominations. That person or group is presented the arts trophy, alongside winners of the city’s sports trophy, Scroll of Honour, and Freeman of the City honours.
Names of arts trophy winners are mounted on a plaque in council chambers’ lobby, and on the base of an imposing soapstone trophy piece titled “The Passion”.
That work was carved by local artist Eric Knoll in 1997.
The trophy’s first recipient was Leslie Sjoberg of the renowned Cowichan Music Festival and Friends of the Cowichan Theatre.
Her honour heralded many other winners including Medford Singers founder Bev Medford (1999), painter Pat Fischer (2000), late Cowichan Theatre manager and culture-vulture Roger Sparkes (2002), Cowichan Secondary School art teacher and artist Lynda Faulks (2003), Duncan master painter E. J. Hughes (2004), music impresario Longevity John Falkner (2005), First Nations artist Stuart Pagaduan (2009), multi-media artist Glenn Spicer (2010), Cowichan Folk Guild founders Deb Make and Mike Ballantyne (2011), and filmmaker Nick Versteeg (2014).
Nomination papers are available at city hall and online until nominations close each year in late September.

What is an Art Gallery?

What is an Art Gallery?

photo credit: Kirsty Kelly


by Rebecca Hazell

Do you own a pair of jeans? Eat from dishes? Live in a dwelling? Then you have contact with art. Someone designed those jeans, dishes, homes, and though they may call themselves clothing designers, artisans or architects, what these people do is make practical art that allows you to enjoy and appreciate your life.

Art galleries do the same thing: they too beckon you to enjoy and appreciate your life.

But you might think, “Oh, art. That’s just stuff on walls. It has nothing to do with me. Besides, I can’t even draw a straight line.” In school, you might have doodled on margins but felt that math and science were the real things. In an art gallery, you learn otherwise, and your world gets bigger and more interesting.

Here’s what art galleries do and how they do it. They do have stuff on walls, and often in the middle of the floor (sculpture), and sometimes even on the ceilings (installations). Some art nowadays includes writing or music or video. Some invites you to get inside it or interact with it. Every piece of art is like a window on a new world that says, “You could see in this new way! Come in and laugh or cry or be annoyed or puzzled, and ask questions!”

Galleries serve everyone, too. Children ‘get’ art right away unless they’ve been misled to believe that drawing a straight line defines an artist. (The secret all artists know is to use a ruler—there’s lots of math and science in art.) They know that art is both play and work in happy balance. Nowadays, galleries offer many ways for children to participate in both making and understanding art as a way of leading fuller, more creative lives—art is a form of problem solving that engages both brain hemispheres.

Galleries serve every age group, of course. Young parents bring babies to be surrounded by colour and to enjoy the calm of a place dedicated to appreciating instead of rushing; so do savvy grandparents who want to broaden their grandchildren’s world. And walking through a gallery instead of a mall is more entertaining and likely less expensive!

Galleries also offer programs that show us how to see and experience more fully both inside them and when we go back home: they are a celebration of what makes us human. Such programs, and the art they illuminate, open vistas into seeing every moment of our lives as new and amazing.

So, a gallery does many things: it hosts, it helps, it informs, it inspires, it challenges us to grow bigger and to appreciate life.

There are different kinds of art galleries. A commercial gallery represents a handful of artists and promotes and sells their work. It’s basically a private business, so entry is free. Another kind of gallery is member-run by artists. It’s partly commercial, and it may offer excellent programs to the public. These galleries showcase members’ art, which is a great way to expose local and emerging artists to the public eye, but members pay to participate in shows and then hope for sales. Often these shows are free, too.

A third kind is a public gallery. It is funded by a broad general membership, not an association of artists. It is also partly funded by government in countries like Canada where art is recognized as a true form of wealth and as part of their heritage. A public art gallery hosts traveling exhibits of international status and also creates a collection that represents the best of local and international art. So you don’t go there to buy but to enjoy. Public galleries pay artists; they honour what artists contribute to society (and we wish all artists could be honoured in this way). They also run educational programs, host special events, store archival materials, and sometimes offer cafes and gift/book shops. Yes, you often pay to get in, especially for traveling shows, but you pay more for a movie with treats. And members receive free admission or steep discounts on exhibits and programs.

Some galleries, usually the National Gallery of (name of country), or the (name of city) Art Gallery, are government owned and operated, with supplemental memberships. They exhibit the best of their country’s or city’s art and run on the same lines as public art galleries. You generally pay to get in there, too, but the cost helps support all those galleries and their programming and shows.

There is one last kind of gallery: an art museum. Often found in major cities, they generally focus on a particular kind of art like Asian or modern or First Nations or medieval European. They are similar to public galleries and offer the same services. Sometimes they are privately owned but are open to the paying public. Wealthy art lovers have often founded that kind and filled them with their private collections of really famous art, often from previous centuries.

But it doesn’t much matter what kind of gallery you go to: just go! Discover your inner artist, who is begging for attention. Your life will be enriched beyond measure.

. . .

Canada Day at Maple Bay, 2019.

Canada Day at Maple Bay, 2019.

CVPAG had a booth at the 2019 Maple Bay Canada Day Parade and festivities. We laughed, we cried (ok, not really), we made new friends, signed up some new members and added to the number of signatures on our petition to support building a Public Art Gallery in the Cowichan Valley.