Born in Montreal, Antoine Ertaskiran grew up in France, until the age of 15, where his family owned the Nikolenko Gallery in Paris. Under the wing of his father, also a gallery owner, Antoine worked by his side from an early age, spending most of his teenage years learning the ropes. After University Antoine came on full time at the family’s second gallery, the Berensen Gallery, this time on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal. Antoine seemed predestined to open his own gallery, however, he wasn’t always certain he would realize this ambition: “Actually I wasn’t sure I wanted a gallery. In addition to being a consultant to several private clients, I worked more and more with galleries in Montreal and I was at a point in my career where I had to decide whether to move outside Montreal, to a city with more of a wholesale art market, or stay here and open a gallery,” says Ertaskiran.
Result? In 2012 the seasoned director opened the Antoine Ertaskiran Gallery in Griffintown, inside an old titanium welding shop, close to Arsenal and the Division Gallery:
“I decided to open a gallery here and I am very happy because there are so many Canadian and Quebec artists that I discovered thanks to our location. It also allows me to have an international presence at contemporary art fairs and present local artists.”
The gallery, which focuses not only on Quebec and Canadian artists (including Mathieu Beauséjour, Aude Moreau, Dominique Pétrin, and The Ramseys, to name a few), also represents several international artists for an impressive total of 19 artists. The selection process remains strict for Ertaskiran who admits, however, having a preference for the committed styles. “At first, I was selecting a lot of breathtakers, but after a while, we no longer want artists in competition with each other so styles are important. We also look for high quality work, which is often the number one criteria: the quality of work, then originality, and finally, the professionalism of the artist.” The gallery is also inspired by artists who are not afraid to get their hands dirty and are comfortable baring their hearts and souls on the canvas, “It’s not as though we only focus on the themes and subjects of works of art; I love artists who work hard, with intensity. I like works that have a second and even a third degree.”
Although the gallery’s primary mission still remains to expose artists internationally, Antoine especially tries to change the minds of potential collectors: “We want to change the way people collect art. Art that is only decorative does not interest me. What we are trying to teach our customers is to have a broader view of contemporary art, of the artist’s message. If the work is good, it helps, but when there is a combination of both, it’s easier. Sometimes, we don’t sell anything during temporary exhibitions; we want to inspire people, to encourage them to see something new in the gallery. The goal is to educate people, to broaden their horizons.”
Opening horizons for both collectors and the large pool of artists here is no easy task, but the gallery is convinced that the Quebec market is doing well: "We're lucky; First, we have two very good universities, there is municipal and government support, and we also have non-profit galleries that are absolutely brilliant, not only in Montreal but across Quebec. This type of culture helps artists tremendously and offers them interesting projects. It allows them to grow and learn how to work in a high-end gallery market, even if it's not for sale. We always say that Montreal is very creative, whether in music, circus, theater, etc., but also with visual arts. It’s not as popular or as well publicized, but it truly is the case these days."
The man behind the gallery will never commit to choosing his favorite artist, probably because it's a bit like asking him to choose his favorite child. The fact remains the gallery is definitely worth a visit, especially considering that collecting art is much more affordable than you think. Instead of paying for that reprinted Ikea poster, why not encourage emerging artists and furnish your home with a unique and original work of art?
Antoine Ertaskiran Gallery
1892, Payette St.