Saturday, October 3, 2009

Nuit Blanche Point to Ponder: Is Bigger Really Better?

Nuit Blanche is Toronto's most popular contemporary art event/exhibition, clocking almost a million visitors in just 12 hours—-more in sum total than dropped in over past 10 months at both the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.

In today's National Post, I talk to a couple of people about Nuit Blanche's incredible popularity vis a vis the typical art-audience numbers we see in Toronto, as well as the challenges that might still be faced by the fest--like attracting not just huge numbers of people, but attracting more diverse ones, or trying to maintain quality programming (which some critics might argue is already in the dumps) while dealing with safety, spectacle and crowd control issues.

If you're interested in a more indepth overview of the challenges and opportunities presented by Nuit Blanche in a contemporary-art context, I urge you to read Joseph Banh's essay in the current fall issue of C Magazine. Banh, who spoke to me for this National Post article, wrote his graduate thesis on Nuit Blanche, was an assistant curator for its 2008 event and is also helping to organize a York University Robarts Centre conference on urban festivals.

One of the recommendations that stands out in Banh's article for me is the request for media/journals to do more reviews of the event after the fact, rather than just previews. I'll give it a try here if I can, because I think his point's a good one.

Image of 2008 Nuit Blanche from / courtesy City of Toronto


Anonymous said...

Bigger is not always better, but having a Nuit Blanche to start with is a great thing. Oh well, When are we going to have a Nuit Blanche in Montreal! I wish we had more opportunity in Quebec to attract such light on contemporary art. the famous Nuit Blanche in Paris, the Palais de Tokyo all up and dancing, the Marais open all night, i really salute Toronto for following up the lead. Now in Montreal we have the nocturnes, the late openings, and the satisfaction of being able in such a small city to almost always approach the artist. It is always the case at the Galerie Monaro one of my favorites in the city. I guess this is the nice side of intimate openings, you get to meet the artist, have an informative chat, say with Pauline Gagnon, versus a million art visitors on the street!

Leah Sandals said...

Hi anonymous,

Thanks for your observation.

After getting some post-Nuit Blanche sleep I'd have to say that it is a pretty great thing that Toronto has followed up on all this.

However, they need to get better at dealing with crowds -- there were very few works which could successfully handle them without huge lineups this year. So that was a little frustrating.

There were a couple of works I really liked, but overall my experience was a tiring one this year. Hopefully I'll have a full post soon.

If you are interested in how Nuit Blanche went, I encourage you to check out Torontoist's pictures and comments, posted here live during the event:

Anonymous said...

How low has the AGO gone to be considered in the same league as the MOCCA?

Leah Sandals said...

Hey anonymous...

Well, I can tell from your comment that the MoCCA is pretty low in your estimation. Want to elaborate why?

It's obvious they're not equivalent in terms of space, resources or collection... but their mandates and their prominence in the Toronto community for art (remember the ROM is meant to be more historical/natural historical in mandate) then it is a fair reference point.

I also tried to get Power Plant's attendance figures because I think those are a particular indication of a contemporary art audience, but they were not received by press time.