After an eight-year stint at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec (MNBAQ), Annie Gauthier returns to the Joliette Art Museum (MAJ), which she directed around ten years ago, La Press. She succeeds Jean-François Bélisle, appointed to the Ottawa Museum of Fine Arts last July… and who succeeded him in 2016!
“I feel extremely feverish, for me, it’s a return to my old loves,” confided Annie Gauthier in an interview with La Presse. I am a manager at heart, so it makes me very happy to be reunited with the museum team,” tells us the new general director and chief curator of the Joliette Art Museum (MAJ), who directed this museum from 2012 to 2016.
It was the president of the board of directors of the Joliette Art Museum, Emmanuel Préville-Ratelle, who contacted Annie Gauthier in the fall.
“I wasn’t looking for a job,” says Annie Gauthier, “and I didn’t expect to be asked at that time, but Emmanuel found the words to persuade me. He particularly insisted on the importance of continuing to build on what has been done by previous managements. The fact that I knew the museum well was an ideal scenario for them. »
If she finally accepted, it was first of all “out of love for the museum and its collection”, which notably includes pieces by Borduas, Riopelle, Ferron, Sullivan, Louise Robert and Ozias Leduc, and also the French sculptor Rodin and the Canadian painter Emily Carr, but also because she “wanted to put her hands on the wheel”. She takes office this Friday.
Annie Gauthier makes no secret of it, she returns with baggage that she did not have when she first directed the museum, a little over 10 years ago. “I was 39 years old, I was just starting my career,” explains this trained artist, who was notably a manager at the Regroupement des centers d’artistes autogérés du Québec.
It must be said that during her time at the Joliette Art Museum, Annie Gauthier devoted most of her energies to piloting the museum’s renovation project – costing more than $13 million -, “an incredible adventure”, we she said, which required the permanent collection to be moved and forced the institution to rent commercial space for a little over a year.
“Today I will definitely be able to take advantage of the museum’s new facilities,” she says with a laugh. I will also be able to reconnect with the work of current artists, that’s the advantage of a smaller museum. We have a more intimate relationship with the environment, it’s much less hierarchical than in a large museum like the MNBAQ. So, I can’t wait to rediscover the pleasure of contact with the community. »
At the MNBAQ, she was in turn director of collections, exhibitions and international partnerships. What is she most proud of when thinking about these last years spent in Quebec? Annie Gauthier discusses the important work carried out for the exhibition dedicated to Picasso, Opening Dialogue.
“It was an exhibition that allowed us to evolve and meet our audiences in a different way. We presented works from the Picasso museum in Paris, but we were able to add nuances, talk about fatphobia, atypical bodies and even Picasso’s misogyny, without putting him on trial. For me, this is proof that we can talk about anything. I believe that the museum should be a place for discussion. »
Annie Gauthier also discusses her work with artists Stanley Février, Cozic and Manasie Akpaliapik, the first Inuit artist to exhibit solo at the MNBAQ.
We also ask Annie Gauthier if she intends to continue the work started by her predecessor at the MAJ, Jean-François Bélisle, who moved closer to indigenous communities following the tragic death of Joyce Echaquan at Saint-Hospital. Charles Borromeo. “My action will be part of continuity,” she assures.
Regarding the debate on diversity and decolonization, Annie Gauthier is cautious. She emphasizes the importance of “building lasting connections” with her community. “For me, the museum is a meeting between art and community, so my goal is to improve our relationship of living together. It’s a question of identity that needs to be worked on in the long term. »
The position of director of the Joliette Art Museum Foundation, which Jean-François Bélisle held in addition to his functions as general director and chief curator, will ultimately be separated from the other titles. MAJ management intends to make an appointment soon.
Julie Armstrong-Boileau, who has been acting general management with Hélène Lacharité since the departure of Jean-François Bélisle last July, will return to her position as director of development and communications.