Photo of Sylvette Babin

What role does art play in our lives today? Given the current morass of ecological issues and global conflict, I feel that the need is ever more pressing to reflect on what we—artists, authors, cultural workers—can do to change things. Can we contribute to social change or help to protect the planet? Should we use art as a weapon to counterbalance wars and injustices? And, at the other end of the spectrum, can we also (still) bring beauty, poetry, and comfort to the world?

Esse, which is bravely forging toward its fortieth anniversary (in 2024), has often raised these issues through engaged texts and activist practices. In fact, the long lockdown period from which we are emerging played a part in reactivating discourse on the value of art in daily life. But it has also reminded us of the fragility of our field, including the precariousness of cultural employment. The recent adoption of Act 35 on the status of the artist should, I hope, lay the foundation for reflection on artists’ living conditions. More broadly, concerted action on working conditions in the cultural sector has become essential to coming to recognizing (more than symbolically) the importance of its human resources. Why make this point? Because discussing the role of art inevitably leads to the question of those through whom art exists.

The artists and the works that we are presenting for this 13th edition of Vendu–Sold are actively involved in exploring the world and integrating art into our lives. Again this year, you will discover an impressive group of works; some of them provoke engaged sociopolitical thought, while others claim poetic gesture as an artistic positioning. This diversity of approaches and paths is particularly rich and representative of the art being made today—and that’s in the spirit of our auction’s mandate, which is to offer a panorama of Quebec and Canadian art every year. Even as Vendu–Sold is intended to solicit generous contributions from our allies to support the analysis, promotion, and presentation of art, it is also intended to kindle interest in contemporary art. Will we succeed? The enthusiasm of the people who have been following us since the beginning and those who have gradually joined us over the years leads us to believe that the answer is yes. Above all, this enthusiasm confirms that art has the capacity to reach out, make us think, and move us.

And so, what role does art play in your life?

Sylvette Babin

Photo : © Jean-François Brière