MONTREAL.- The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
is opening its doors to a selection of artworks from the remarkable art collection of Ontario philanthropist, collector and patron W. Bruce C. Bailey. The exhibition For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you brings together a selection of over 100 paintings, photographs, works on paper, and sculptures spanning vastly different time periods and cultures, drawn from his extraordinary collection. These works encourage visitors to consider how art can reflect a unique sensibility and simultaneously unearth shared commonalities, inviting us to better understand difference.
Nathalie Bondil, MMFAs Director General and Chief Curator, has this to say: So many words could be used to describe Bruce Bailey: gentleman-farmer, magician of the everyday, brilliant intellect, passionate heart, friend to artists, patron of the arts, lavish salonnier and extravagant businessman. An Ontarian who loves Quebec, fiercely proud Canadian and citizen of the world, this man of faith and conviction is unveiling his collection, revealing a deep, complex humanity, with its doubts and its struggles. He is committed to contemporary art that explores the timeliest of topics: gender, indigenous issues, feminism, conflicts. With his generosity and his vision, he encourages the best artists at home and abroad. This steadfast friend of the Museum has loaned works by Peter Doig and Robert Mapplethorpe, and enriched its collections with spectacular pieces by Kent Monkman, Shary Boyle, Geneviève Cadieux, Kim Dorland and Tony Matelli. Moreover, thanks to his exceptional donations and fundraising efforts, the Museum has been able to purchase remarkable works by old masters and contemporary artists. And theres more to come. Thank you, Bruce Almighty!
I find remarkable about Bruce Baileys collection is its incredible scope with artists as diverse as Marina Abramović, Francisco de Goya and Albrecht Dürer that is nevertheless coupled with great consistency in tone and a significant depth of feeling, explains Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Curator of International Modern Art at the MMFA and curator of the exhibition. The collection lets viewers make meaningful connections across time and space.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has given me a superb education and I am grateful to Nathalie Bondil, Director General and Chief Curator of the Museum, for her extraordinary leadership which has made the museum one of the finest in the world. I am humbled and honoured to have a selection of aspects of my art collection exhibited at the Museum. Mary-Dailey Desmarais is one of the worlds top art curators and working with her has been a privilege and an education. Dr. Desmarais has achieved the hallmarks of curatorial greatness: she has made conscious the subconscious artistic choices of the collector and has made connections between artworks that has made the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Having conversations with Dr. Desmarais and learning from her has without doubt been the pinnacle of my work in the art world over the past 40 years, adds Bruce Bailey.
For Every Atom Belonging to Me as Good Belongs to You
This exhibition draws its title from Walt Whitmans celebrated poem Song of Myself (1881). Like this poem, W. Bruce C. Baileys collection is both the expression of a unique sensibility and a reflection of the universality of human experience.
Started in 1975, this collection stands out through its interest in the Other. The collector is strongly attracted to works that deal with the meaning of being human and with good, evil, beauty, sadness, neglect and ugliness in humanity. The dichotomies of life/death, black/white, good/bad and love/hate reflect, in his opinion, all facets of the human condition.
At a time when video art was on trend, Bailey instead collected paintings and photographs from emerging artists who quickly became well-known, such as Peter Doig, Thomas Demand, Eric Fischl and Karen Kilimnik. As his collection took shape, he rounded it out with acquisitions of works by great masters like Francisco José de Goya, Rembrandt and Andrea Mantegna. These historic masterpieces are set in conversation with important works by major Canadian and international artists including Shary Boyle, Beau Dick, Patterson Ewen, Rodney Graham, Kerry James Marshall, Kent Monkman, and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun.
The works are loosely grouped according to broad themes that encourage reflection on identity on who we are, and on what it is that makes us uniquely human. A single wall devoted to Love, touch, and the human body asks viewers to establish their own intuitive connections between disparate images of faces, hands, and bodies sometimes coming together, and at others breaking apart. Works that deal with the theme of Place, whether they depict the Canadian wilderness, a blazing comet in the sky, or domestic interiors, prompt us to consider the links between who we are and where we come from. Lastly, under the theme of Tragedy and Transcendence, works like Goyas searing series The Disasters of War (1810-1820) and Otto Dixs The War (1924) are coupled with prints by Dürer, Rembrandt and Mantegna that together force a coming to terms with the power of humanity to transcend its own brutality. Indeed no other species on the planet has the capacity to love so deeply and to wound so profoundly, adds Mary-Dailey Desmarais.