1700 La Poste is neither a museum nor a gallery. Rather, it is a free exhibition space, open to the public and dedicated to Quebec painters, sculptors and engravers. Isabelle de Mévius is the visionary behind this project. Spotlight on Montreal’s new art hub.
"I learned about the Quebec market"
1700 La Poste, a private space devoted to visual arts and their discursive processes, has already accomplished its goal: to be a catalyst for Quebec’s contemporary art’s growth.
Inaugurated in 2013, after almost 4 years of work, this old post office transformed into an art showcase is Isabelle de Mévius' latest project. Mevius is not only art royalty – a fierce defender of the arts and psychoanalysis. She’s quite literally a descendant of Walloon nobility – a member of one of the three most fortunate families in Belgium.
But what drives a rich heiress to open a gallery in the Quartier de l'innovation de Montréal? Mme de Mévius says she came to Quebec "sporadically since 1992 to attend psychoanalytic seminars". In 2002, she decided to take the leap and settle in Montreal by purchasing a pied-à-terre in the city. "When I settled in, I was confronted with an intellectual community of psychoanalysts, philosophers and artists” she explains. From this circle, she met the first Quebec artist whose career she would eventually help launch: Michel Casavant. She loved his work, but noticed he was hardly represented. "To launch his career, I thought of making a book and invite writers and psychoanalysts to talk about his work. It was my first book. I had never published one before. That is how I began to be involved with artists in Quebec."
The book was such a success that Mr. Casavant's friends quickly started soliciting Isabelle de Mévius’ help to propel their own work into the public’s eye. "Finally, I thought I had to get them exposure. I searched all over Montreal to find the place for this project.” Madame de Mévius knows this chosen space well - it belonged to an antique dealer from whom she bought furniture and objects for her house. "I knew the neighbourhood well” she remembers.
A new approach
1700 La Poste hosts two big exhibitions per year, each running for 3 months. They are thought and assembled as accurately as possible. Each time, six people work together to reflect on and build the exhibition. Among them, there are two architects, a graphic designer and the artist.
"The originality of my story is perhaps our way of proceeding: we coach the artist and we explore in depth his or her point of view; we decorticate it, we try to understand it from an intellectual and philosophical, artistic and historical point of view.” According to Mme de Mévius, there are several avenues to understand a work of art. And 1700 La Poste tackles them all!
Thus, when an exhibit is built, all available platforms are used:
- The physical location including an exhibition hall on 3 floors.
- The publication of a book containing at least three different points of view to speak and explain the work of the artist.
- The web with a series of capsules.
- Cinema with the production of a film - which is presented each time to FIFA.
"I have to fall in love or it doesn’t work"
1700 La Poste’s success is undeniable; the exhibitions are already planned for the next two years. They attract more than 3000 visitors coming from every walks of life and each web capsule produces more than 9000 views.
Their strong point: combining the best of the museum and the art gallery. "I tap into both a museum style where I showcase artists to the community, but also a gallery style. This is quite innovative, simply because museums often do not care for sales. “
Indeed, here the artist exposes freely. 1700 La Poste does not take a percentage on sales, but promotes artists because it believes that they cannot be exposing their work without being able to sell it.
"What interests me the most, personally, is the discourse on the work of the artist. That is to understand what he or she is doing", admits Madame de Mévius.
Integrating art into Quebec buildings
In a few months, 1700 La Poste will become a Foundation, but for Madame de Mévius "what is really interesting here is the meeting with the artist. Art is a mystery. It is not given to everybody. It's a destiny. "
For Madame de Mévius partnership opportunities with the QI are huge! "We could present the art works to people in the business world who would like to buy sculptures or paintings for their offices. Because it is still a magnificent thing that a nation can recognize its artists and integrate them to its buildings."