Partage Montreal uses element of surprise to entice art collectors

There's a new way to buy art in Montreal — and it's more like opening up a fine arts surprise bag than walking into a gallery.

Subscription service charges $360 for six artworks by Montreal-based artists

Concordia graduate Marigold Santos is one artists selling her work through Partage Montreal. This is a detail of her work "secret signals 1." (Guy l’Heureux)

There's a new way to buy art in Montreal — and it's more like opening up a fine arts surprise bag than walking into a gallery.

Partage Montreal is a subscription service that charges customers $360 for six works of art by local artists, to be picked up at artist meet-and-greets throughout the year. Organizers Karen Lampcov and Andrew Elvish hope the project will inspire a new wave of Montrealers to become art collectors by offering reasonably-priced artwork that remains a secret until it's pick-up time.

Element of surprise

Each round of Partage Montreal collections will feature six local artists, who will produce 30 limited-edition runs of their work. The pieces can range from screenprints to small-scale sculptures, and may include individual touches, like hand-stenciled details. Collectors know ahead of time who five of the artists are, but the identity of the sixth is left as a surprise by curator Rhonda Meier.

"I picked artists who I felt should be more visible [in the art scene] and were not, and who would also give something to subscribers that might not necessarily please everybody, but that I felt would be enjoyed by the greatest number of people," said Meier, who included Sobey Art Award-winner Nadia Myre and Concordia graduate Marigold Santos in the project's first collection. 

Growing a collecting culture

Partage Montreal's mandate is to help artists forge relationships with buyers in a city where collecting art isn't necessarily part of the local culture.

"I think it's almost universally agreed upon that it's a very tough market here in Montreal. People don't have the culture, or the history of collecting," said Meier. "In France, families have collected art for generations, it's just what you do. Art is what you give as a wedding gift to a young couple. Here, it's a little less so, and I think the chances of someone going into a gallery and spending their money are very, very low."

Caroline Monnet is an artist who hopes to meet new collectors through Partage Montreal. This is a detail from her 2015 work entitled "Unlikely Process." (Caroline Monnet)

Connecting to collectors

Caroline Monnet is an artist who is participating in Partage Montreal in the hopes of getting new collectors interested in her work. Monnet has exhibited her work in Paris, Berlin, and Toronto, but doesn't have a gallery in Montreal yet, which makes pricing her work a challenge for individual sales. 

"I'll ask advice from other artists, or curators, or gallery owners. You try to figure out how much work you put into the work. You have to make a living, and you have to pay your materials, so that's a factor in the price of the work," said Monnet.

Art world reaction

Longtime Montreal art dealer René Blouin thinks Partage Montreal is an innovative idea that will bolster artists' and collectors' confidence in the local scene. 

"That's a fantastic idea. It's like blind faith, and you take a risk. But for that amount of money, you can't lose. I'm sure it gives the young artists who participate, and the more established artists who participate, so much confidence to know that somebody pays attention to their work," said Blouin.

But for Montreal artists to really expand their client base to a global market, Blouin says they should turn their research to the Internet, and try to establish relationships with other artists and galleries worldwide.

"Honestly, I don't think that you can live off of one city. No city can absorb everything that it produces. Exportation is a magic word in the economic world now," he said.

For more information on how to subscribe to Partage Montreal, visit their website. The first round of pickups is scheduled for this September. Hear more about the project on CBC Montreal's Daybreak at 7:40 a.m. on Friday.