Photo of Mary-Dailey Desmarais

Mary-Dailey Desmarais

I am deeply honoured and humbled to be the president of the 10th edition of the benefit auction in support of esse, a journal that for more than thirty years has provided a forum for critical dialogue and keen insight into contemporary art. In an era that places a premium on speed and sensationalism over substance, a moment when the world’s barometer for truth is unbearably low, the role of a journal such as esse is more important than ever.

Philosopher Umberto Eco observes, “Art tries to give a possible image of this world, an image that our sensibility has not yet been able to formulate. . . Art suggests a way for us to see the world in which we live, and, by seeing it, to accept it.”1 In other words, it falls to art to show us not just how the world might be, but how it really is. From the earliest cave drawings, to the outstretched agony and anguished screams ringing out from Picasso’s Guernica, to the human heartbeats reincarnated as flickering points of light in Raphael Lozano-Hemmer’s Pulse Room, the examples are infinite: art is the most powerful reminder that creative expression is the singular defining feature of our humanity. Creativity is what binds us, what makes us human. It is our greatest strength and the greatest gift we all have the power to share. Esse helps to remind us of this fact and I am proud to support its very fine work.

Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Ph.D.

1- Umberto Eco, The Open Work (Cambridge: Harvard UP), 1989, p. 90.

Biographical note

Mary-Dailey Desmarais is curator of international modern art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Prior to joining the museum she assisted in the curatorial departments of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the New York Historical Society. Her work has been published in numerous scholarly journals, magazines, and museum catalogues, and she recently co-edited the exhibition catalogue Once Upon a Time ...The Western: A New Frontier in Art and Film (2017), which received the Western Heritage Award for best art book and the Colorado Book Award in the category “Pictorial”. Desmarais previously served on the board of directors of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and as head of its programming committee. She is currently on the Director’s Council of the Clark Art Institute and a member of the editorial board of Inuit Art Quarterly. She is also part of the leadership circle of Centraide of Greater Montreal. She holds a PhD in art history from Yale University, a master’s degree in art history from Williams College, and a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University. She has four children.