Gift cards. Umbrellas. Notebooks. Scarves. Sensual allure. In a society in which personality is commerce, and revenue-generating endeavours are favoured, how do artists and the objects they create fare? Artists are supposed to be bearers of meaning: tactile harbingers of truth. But where, for example, is the real Picasso — both man and art — amidst the swag that bears images of his work, and the romanticized poster of him puffing on a cigarette in his studio?
In this exhibition, Gatineau-based multimedia artist Michèle Provost presents an ambitious and poignant examination of the place of art and artists within a market-driven society. Highlighting the potential for commodification, she creates a liquidation sale of a line of handmade home décor items, aesthetically based on the legacy — both real and imagined — of an iconic Canadian artist of the twentieth century.
Referencing the current craze for home-design, these tongue-in-cheek goods represent the contents needed to furnish a bedroom and a living room, yet are presented in the dismantled state of a shop’s “final sale” section. In doing so, provost points to an art world in which artists provide (and are themselves) the product, while also pointing to the consumer society in which this concept is embraced in favour of meaning and truth.
Couched within her ongoing focus on our complex relationship with cultural expression and pop culture, Provost’s installation further contrasts her own non-celebrity status with that of the case-study aesthetic she employs. In its liquidated state, this body of work questions the place of star power — along with the impact of commercially inspired initiatives — not only on the artists’ perception of themselves, but also on their art-making.