From its inception, Galerie de l’UQAM has endeavoured to serve the student community and visual/contemporary arts milieus at large, while welcoming the general public to our many activities, which are entirely free. Galerie de l’UQAM’s reputation has been won through a rich presentation history of over 700 exhibitions, including stylistic and thematic surveys, focuses on Québec, Canadian and international artists, and experimental projects by both emerging and established artists, as attested by over one hundred exhibition catalogues and visitors’ guides. Over ¾ of a million people have visited Galerie de l’UQAM over the years, in addition to the 50,000 viewers and users who come into contact with the public artworks installed throughout the campus, or with touring exhibitions we have arranged, not to mention the thousands who interact with our online content and social media. Currently, Galerie de l’UQAM’s attendance rates are between 20,000 and 25,000 visitors per year. Our dual mottos, L’art existe (“Art exists”) and L’art observe (“Art observes”), express our parallel commitments to both displaying artistic practices and creating a forum for examining the discourse, reception, and experience of contemporary art with and by our audiences.
Galerie de l’UQAM began as a collection of artworks inherited from the former École des beaux-arts de Montréal. Originally named the Collection d’oeuvres d’art de l’UQAM, the entity was founded under the aegis of the Famille des arts in 1969. Under its first head curator, Prof. Umberto Bruni, an exhibitions program was put into place that allowed the Collection to be transformed three years later into a university exhibition space. Renamed Galerie de l’UQAM in 1975, the exhibition space moved to its current location in late 1979. This space in the Judith-Jasmin Pavilion, at the corner of Berri and Saint Catherine Street East, greatly boosted our presence beyond the campus community, and furthered outreach to the general public. Luc Monette was director of Galerie de l’UQAM from 1978 to 1995, followed by Chantal Bouthat and Rose-Marie Arbour.
Since 1997, Galerie de l’UQAM’s status as a professional centre for contemporary art was bolstered when its directorship was assumed by current chief curator Louise Déry, who instituted several policy and structural changes, namely the first 3-year strategic plan (1998); updating the Mission and Bylaws (2003); creating an Acquisitions Policy (2003); updating the definitions of the exhibition selection and management committees’ roles and membership (2004); and creating a Research Policy (2006). This gradual management reboot led to decisions regarding a focus on programming excellence, inter-institutional networking, partnerships, and several new initiatives including La petite collection, a cabinet of wonders created for research purposes, and the founding, in 2009, of a biennial artist residency that foregrounds the two-directional activities of exhibiting and exploring, displaying and interpreting.
Galerie de l’UQAM is currently one of the leading university art galleries in Canada, namely due to its international touring exhibition initiatives. Its reputation has been well-earned from major recent accomplishments, including the appointment of Louise Déry as curator of the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007, with artist David Altmejd; performance interventions by Raphaëlle de Groot and Jean-Pierre Aubé at the 2013 and 2017 Venice Biennales; launching the acclaimed Painting Project, which brought together works by 60 Canadian artists and is viewable online; and numerous exhibitions by major international artists – that in turn opened doors for artists from here to be shown abroad.
Galerie de l’UQAM has been increasingly attuned to the need for greater awareness of issues that intersect with diversity and curation, and regularly exhibits work by artists of various heritages and identities, never shying away from self-examination and critique. Periodically, Galerie de l’UQAM presents projects that trade in the interplay with other forms of knowledge, such as philosophy, science, and politics. Galerie de l’UQAM has received numerous recognitions for the high quality of its work, which can also be felt in the strength of its reputation throughout the contemporary art community. Galerie de l’UQAM has been a ceaseless powerhouse of productivity with a field of vision that expands beyond the corners of its frame, and there’s no sign of it letting up any time soon.