Art Without Borders
Discussion on the arts and their international dimension at the CORIM
In October 2018, Nathalie Bondil (Director-General of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Vice-Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts Board of Directors), Pierre Lassonde (businessman, art collector, philanthropist and Chair of the Canada Council Board of Directors) and Simon Brault (Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Canada Council) took part in a discussion led by Rebecca Makonnen at an event in the Culture Series held by the Conseil des relations internationales de Montéral (CORIM). The topic at hand: Why the arts need to transcend borders.
The discussion gave the audience an overview of the complexity and importance of the international dimension of the arts. Among other things, the three panelists touched on the impact of the arts in inclusive and open societies, the concurrent opening of borders and trending isolationism, the fundamental need to establish unconventional networks, and the growing importance of the international dimension of the arts and how it impacts artists early in their careers.
Three perspectives for an impactful conversation
The panelists represented three different perspectives: public arts funding, artistic institutions and philanthropy. While the Canada Council is something all three panelists have in common, each panelist plays a different role in the arts and culture sector. Summarizing the entire conversation is impossible, but some highlights are included below.
Pierre Lassonde started the ball rolling by drawing a parallel between business and the arts. He asserted that the “think local, act global” business adage applied perfectly to the art world, because artists create within their respective communities, which are lively and vibrant ecosystems of society, before exporting their work abroad and opening themselves up to other cultures.
Nathalie Bondil then took the opportunity to revisit the current notion of ecosystems in all its complexity. According to her, understanding ecosystems is a determining factor in evolving within them and requires a keen grasp of their living and changing natures. She stressed her point by mentioning the museum prescriptions project, borne of a collaboration between the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Médecins francophones du Canada [Francophone doctors in Canada].
Simon Brault added that support for the arts requires an approach and a vision that rely on reciprocal international exchanges, shared leadership and a renewal of cultural diplomacy. Simon believes that more and more people are seeing the link between public funding and the democratic values defended in society, which all actors in the arts and culture sector must acknowledge. As if to illustrate his point, Simon replied to a question from the audience by admitting how the Council, by fostering support for Indigenous artists based on self-determination, is constantly learning from Indigenous peoples who never separated art from healing, existence and daily life.
The panelists emphasized what a remarkable international platform Montréal is and invited the audience—mostly made up of businesspeople—to support its outreach.
“The arts are an ecosystem that we have to feed from every angle . . . ; the more you feed it, the more it grows.” ̶ Pierre Lassonde
“When I take in the situation on the international stage, I see such great possibilities and such a vast world . . . I think we have an obligation to find ways to cooperate.” ̶ Simon Brault
“Diversity is not an issue between cultures; rather it is inherent to the very concept of culture.” ̶ Nathalie Bondil