Françoise Sullivan. The 1970s

Curator: Louise Déry

Artist: Françoise Sullivan

May 14, 2021 - July 16, 2021

Opening: May 13, 2021, 5:00 pm

Reservation required
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Over the past year, Françoise Sullivan has been valiantly working through the pandemic, visiting her studio practically daily, deprived of contact with close friends and colleagues yet fueled by the need for art and painting. She has also been earnestly following Galerie de l’UQAM’s research activities which, after exhibitions Trajectoires resplendissantes in 2017 and Works from Italy in Tuscany in 2019, have this time delved into Sullivan’s artistic experimentations of the 1970s. Curated by Louise Déry, the exhibition reveals never-before-seen works that broaden a decade of works heavily influenced by the conceptual tendencies of the time.

Françoise Sullivan: The 1970s looks back on the artist’s Italian period highlighted by the gallery in 2019, but moreover gives way to newly discovered projects, straight from her personal archives. The public is invited to learn more about this lesser-known period of hers.

The exhibition

While retrospective exhibitions at several museums have revealed the breadth of Sullivan’s rich career, since 1992 Galerie de l’UQAM has examined her work from specific angles. This commitment to the artist is due among other things to the uninterrupted nature of her practice, the ceaselessly renewed relevance of her research and her active presence on the art scene.

The exhibition Françoise Sullivan. The 1970s, which furthers the Galerie’s examination of her work, grew out of the discovery of new information and unknown works from the 1970s. During those years, Sullivan turned her interest to the contemporary art currents she encountered mainly in Italy, where she first travelled in the summer of 1970. Upon contact with conceptual artists and exponents of Arte Povera in particular, she explored new correlations between thought, text, image and gesture. Subsequently, she was often in Rome, Tuscany and Sicily, where she diligently visited contemporary art venues, felt the pulse of a decade destined for general upheaval and spent time around such celebrated figures as Guy Debord, author of The Society of the Spectacle, and his Italian colleague in the Situationist International, Gianfranco Sanguinetti.

Sullivan’s work then was rooted in photography, film, text and performance. From behind the camera, in Montréal or in Rome, she embraced realities that prolonged the impulse of 1948’s Refus global. Her artistic activity was permeated by the student, feminist, union, social and political unrest that unfurled before her eyes. In front of the camera, alone or at times with her sons, she continued to speak the language of the body, supported by her knowledge of the dance and performative exercises – the artist’s true signature, drawn up nearly twenty-five years earlier in Danse dans la neige. An “imaginary line” is drawn, on a horizon that merges every moment of art, life, time and the world.

About the artist

Françoise Sullivan, dancer, choreographer and visual artist, was one of the founding members of the Automatiste group and a signatory of the manifesto Refus global (Total Refusal) in 1948. From the 1960s on, her work grew more diversified as she turned to photography, sculpture, installation and performance art. However, it is painting that has occupied her interest most intensely over the years, and she continues to devote impressive energy to it today. There are many reasons why Françoise Sullivan is a significant figure in the history of art in Québec and Canada, as is apparent from the range of distinctions she has received, which include the Prix Paul-Émile Borduas, the Ordre de Montréal, the Ordre national du Québec, the Order of Canada, a Governor General’s Award, etc. Her work has been presented in solo exhibitions at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (1981-82; 2018-19), the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (1993), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (2003), Galerie de l’UQAM (1998; 2018) and la Macina di San Cresci in Greve in Chianti, Italy (2019), as well as in a great number of group exhibitions in Canada, Europe and the United States. For thirty years, beginning in 1977, Sullivan taught visual arts at Concordia University in Montréal. She was born and still lives in Montréal where she is represented by Galerie Simon Blais.

About the curator

Louise Déry holds a PhD in art history, is the director of Galerie de l’UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal) and an associate professor for the Department of Art History, UQAM. Previously curator at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Québec City and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, as well as director of the Musée régional de Rimouski, she has curated many projects featuring artists such as Giuseppe Penone, Rober Racine, Sarkis, Nancy Spero, Dominique Blain, Françoise Sullivan, Michael Snow, Donatella Landi, Raphaëlle de Groot and Aude Moreau, amongst others. Curator of some thirty exhibitions abroad, including a dozen in Italy where she has collaborated with Sala Uno, La Nube di Oort and RAMradioartemobile, she was curator of the Canada Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007, with a David Altmejd exhibition. At the 2013 and 2015 Venice Biennale she curated performances by Raphaëlle de Groot and Jean-Pierre Aubé. Déry has received the first Hnatyshyn Foundation Award for Curatorial Excellence (2007) and the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts (2014). She is also a member of the Royal Society of Canada and Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France.


Due to the pandemic, Galerie de l’UQAM will be open to the public with reduced hours (Wednesday – Friday, noon – 6 p.m.). However, please visit our website before heading over to make sure no changes have been made and to know more about our Health and Safety Guidelines. For now, visitors can access the gallery by the Berri-UQAM Metro entrance and upon presentation of a permission form that will soon be available on our website.

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Guided tour alongside the curator and the artist

Video tour