All cities that have suffered from political pressure become creative in a way,’ says Nicolas BellavanceLecompte, the Milan-based curator, gallerist and founder of roving design fair Nomad, whose latest project is ‘Fictions’, a survey of the contemporary design scene of his hometown, Montreal. ‘Montreal has always had a design culture, but there is no outlet for our designers to promote their work. My intention is to show what Canadian designers can do on a global scale,’ he says. Originally planned for Milan Design Week 2020, the exhibition is now due to take place in Montreal and will be accompanied by a digital viewing experience and live stream.
Once Canada’s largest city, staunchly bilingual Montreal boomed throughout most of the 19th and 20th centuries, but tensions between franco- and anglophone populations culminated in a secessionist referendum in 1995. Quebec voted to remain, but the bitter campaigning and its aftermath led to an exodus of business. The towering grain silos of the city’s Old Port, immortalised by Le Corbusier as ‘the magnificent first fruits of the new age’, now stand empty, alongside the once-bustling Lachine Canal.
During its leaner years, artists from across Canada flocked to the city for cheap rents within the newly vacated industrial infrastructure, and Montreal soon became known as the country’s creative epicentre. The city is not totally francophone, but it’s certainly not anglophone, which leaves space for individuality and a certain edge. Canada as a whole may have a reputation for cheery earnestness, but Montreal ‘has a certain darkness, an element of introspection’, says Bellavance-Lecompte.
‘I chose designers who could express a story about themselves and the way they work’
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