MMFA hires new curator, months after Black curator resigned

Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre will take over as curator of Quebec and Canadian Contemporary Art (1945 to today), beginning June 12.

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The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has named a new curator of Quebec and Canadian contemporary art, four months after the woman who previously held the position stepped down saying she was hired as an “image of change” but not supported.

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Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre will take over as the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Curator of Quebec and Canadian Contemporary Art (1945 to today), beginning June 12. She replaces eunice bélidor (who does not use capital letters in her name), who resigned in January after less than two years on the job, saying she was hired to represent diversity but was never given the tools to thrive at the institution.

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Hired in April, 2021, bélidor became the first Black curator in the museum’s history.

“I think everyone wants to work in collegiality, learning and sharing knowledge and experiences,” she told the Gazette by email in March. “It was not my experience.”

In an interview with Brooklyn-based online arts magazine Hyperallergic, bélidor said: “Institutions don’t care about Black employees’ well-being.

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eunice bélidor looks at the camera
eunice bélidor was hired as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ curator of Quebec and Canadian contemporary art in 2021. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette files

Describing herself as “the Black Lives Matter hire,” she continued: “Institutions don’t want to make changes. They just want it to look like they’re making changes.”

In a March interview with the Gazette, MMFA director Stéphane Aquin denied the museum hired bélidor because she is Black, saying she was hired because she was the best candidate.

“We hired her because we believed she was the right person for this job,” he said. “We wanted her to bring a broad perspective on art history, to bring a new voice and perspective.”

Aquin acknowledged bélidor “was not supported enough,” saying, “We will see what we can do to improve.”

St-Jean Aubre, who is white, holds a Master of Arts from Université du Québec à Montréal and a Bachelor of Fine Arts and French Literature from the University of Ottawa. She has worked as an art critic, independent curator and museum curator for over 12 years.

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Mary-Dailey Desmarais, chief curator of the MMFA, was not available for an interview about St-Jean Aubre’s hiring.

“The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is thrilled to welcome Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre to its team,” Desmarais said in a statement. “She has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the advancement of Quebec and Canadian artists on both a national and international level. Her extensive knowledge of contemporary practices, her close ties with the artistic community and her sensitivity to issues affecting our society make her an invaluable asset to our institution, which aspires to present new perspectives on art and give voice to artists of our time.”

Stephen A. Jarislowsky was equally enthusiastic.

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“Canadian museums are the place to show Canadians and the world the beautiful work of our artists,” he said in a statement. “The MMFA was able to attract a new curator for the collection whose knowledge of Canadian art is recognized as unsurpassed by experts across Canada.”

Before the MMFA, St-Jean Aubre was curator of contemporary art at the Musée d’art de Joliette, where she highlighted women artists and artists from diverse cultural backgrounds.

She has served as a curator at the SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art, and curator and artistic co-director at the Darling Foundry, both in Montreal. She has also overseen solo and group exhibitions at the Clark and Diagonale art centres, and the Musée d’art contemporain des Laurentides in St-Jérôme. Her writings have been published in the journals Ciel variable and Esse Arts + Opinions.


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