As the titan Art Basel Hong Kong just closed its 2018 edition with a 35 million dollars sale, other artistic events disappear. It is the case for the Montreal Biennial which, since it was not able to balance its budget since 2016, had to file for bankruptcy. It closes after 20 years of existence.
An ambitious Biennial
The first edition of the Montreal Art Biennial took place in 1998, created by the Centre international d’Art contemporain de Montréal (CIAC). In fact, its mission was to “foster, support, interpret and disseminate the most current visual arts practice.” Indeed, experimentation has always been part of the biannual event’s DNA. It was also the occasion to offer Artists from Quebec and Canada a significant international event. The idea was to favour artistic dialogue and audacity. In 2013, the Biennial became an independent nonprofit organization. Following up this new status, the organization partnered with the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC). The choice of the museum is far from meaningless since it produced two successful editions of the Quebec Triennial.
Recurring financial difficulties
Even though the announcement of the Montreal Biennial bankruptcy is sad news for the Art world, it did not come as a surprise. Indeed, already in 2013, the edition had to be delayed because of budget squeeze. Also, six months after the 2016 edition, it has been confirmed that some Artists and handlers still did not get paid for their work. Board Chair Cédric Bisson acknowledged in an announcement that the event’s financial situation was “precarious.” In that context, it has been decided to cancel the 2018 edition of the Montreal Biennial, which puts creditors in a delicate situation. On February 9th 2018, it became unbearable and the organization filed for Bankruptcy. The total amount of the debt is about 179 000 dollars.
A sensitive bankruptcy
Documents released a list of 33 creditors including Canadian shipping and storage companies. As a result, PACART, Canadian society dedicated to Artworks transportation and storage, is waiting for its 67 000 dollars payment. In charge with the bankruptcy process, Deloitte Restructuring Inc indicated that the Biennial could have been a collateral victim of an over competitive philanthropic environment. “Since 2016, the Biennial has not been not able to create the balanced budget required to produce its events” said Deloitte. The cultural and artistic events’ financing through philanthropy is more and more delicate facing an ever growing demand. Deloitte’s role is now to examine carefully the account books in order to find out what the bankruptcy reasons are. The process should not take more than a few weeks. It is sad news for a Biennial which, like the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art Board Chair Alexandre Taillefer said was “one of the 20 or 25 biennales that you absolutely have to see worldwide.”
Read our article about the 35 million dollars sale made during Art Basel Hong Kong here.