At the MBAM, Eunice Bélidor breaks glass ceilings in her own way

Jérôme Delgado writes about the new curator of the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal (MBAM), Eunice Bélidor, who is. The Canadian curator, born in Montreal to Haitian parents, says that in every job she has held in Quebec, she has always been the first black woman to hold the position. Here are translated excerpts from Le Devoir.

“In all my jobs in Quebec, I have always been the first black woman to hold the position I held,” says Eunice Bélidor, the MBAM’s [Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal] new curator of contemporary Quebec and Canadian art (from 1945 to today). “I have a feeling that it is something that will happen a lot.”

The Montrealer, born and raised in the Saint-Michel district, begins her new life on Monday, April 12. The case should not be unusual, but one fact remains: apart from Gaëtane Verna, director of the Musée d’art de Joliette from 2006 to 2012, no other person of color has held a position of authority in a Quebec museum. Eunice Bélidor believes that her arrival at the MBAM is important enough to change the minds of those who think “that this is not possible.”

She herself believed for a long time that it was not possible for her. While studying art history, she certainly aspired to such a career. “When I visited a museum, the black people I saw were the security guards. Clearly, it was impossible.”

She had some models… south of the border. She mentions Thelma Golden, originator of the word post-blackness and director of the Studio Museum Harlem since 2005. Her previous work at the Whitney Museum of American Art—where Golden has was notably responsible for Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art (1994)—gave hope to Eunice Bélidor. “In my mind, I needed to go to the United States. It couldn’t happen to me here. “

And Gaëtane Verna then? “At school, we didn’t really talk about Joliette, we didn’t think of regional museums. So, I hadn’t noticed her,” says the Concordia University and York University (Toronto) graduate with an embarrassed laugh. In Ontario, she ended up meeting Verna, who became director of the Power Plant in Toronto in 2012, and received her support.

The question of representation

For the past seven years, Eunice Bélidor has worked in the contemporary art world in Quebec, first at the Articule artist center as programming coordinator, then as director of the FOFA gallery at Concordia University. She also made a name for herself as a curator for work, including Over My Black Body (Galerie de l’UQAM, 2019), which she designed with Anaïs Castro.

The 2018 winner of the Hnatyshyn Foundation’s Emerging Curator in Contemporary Canadian Art Award arrives at the MMFA with field experience that makes her employer eager with anticipation. “We look forward to seeing what programming she will put together,” chief curator Mary-Dailey Desmarais said in a press release.

Three days before taking office, the new curator admitted to feeling both this pressure and the incredible opportunity to animate through her vision an institution that is more than a century old. Was given a mandate for exhibitions on diversity?

“I hope I wasn’t hired for this,” she replies, before clarifying. Since I will be in charge of art from Canada and Quebec, and as I represent part of the population, I would like this population to recognize itself at the museum. It is important to represent what the population is experiencing through the artists I invite. Of course, there will be artists of color, queer artists. That’s for sure.” [. . .]

Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full article (in French), see https://www.ledevoir.com/culture/arts-visuels/598614/arts-visuels-b-riser-les-plafonds-de-verre-a-la-facon-d-eunice-belidor

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