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Having moved to Paris at the age of 21 to study at l’École internationale de théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Phoebe Greenberg spent the next twenty years of her life in the world of theater as a writer and producer. Interested by such notions as absurdity, distortion, the grotesqueness and over-consumption, she, soon enough, successfully entered the contemporary art scene. Her interest in dialogue has followed her ever since and continues to surface in her curatorial productions.

By Yan Leblond
Photography Sylvain Blais

Meeting Phoebe Greenberg is a unique and empowering experience. In developing differing visions for such initiatives as the DHC/ART – Fondation pour l’art contemporain, in 2007, and more recently the Phi Center, in 2012, she has been experimenting, sharing her vision and helping integrate international artists’ differing narratives into their many audiences’ daily conversations. With exhibitions such as Marc Quinn, Sophie Calle, Berlinde De Bruyckere, John Currin, Ryoji Ikeda and the Chapman brothers this summer, she has become a formidable curator and producer in the Montreal contemporary scene.

Unafraid to show controversial artists and to stand up to criticism, she comes to the interview looking like a visionary warrior. She is dressed all in black, wearing Rad Hourani, and accessorized with very elegant golden bracelets and an equally elegant golden necklace, as if she is wearing an essence of her armor. I am not surprised that during her time in Paris, contemporary artists surrounded her. Meanwhile, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain opened. She recognized something very inspiring in this foundation. With a desire to open her own gallery, she looked to Montreal and saw the necessary creative spirit.

Behind her clear green eyes, stood a curious woman passionate about the chaos that is part of our society and us, individually. Every exhibition that she curates presents the complex reality of a modern world and of course her aesthetic vision.  Inclined to being quite minimalistic by nature, her personal aestheticism fits with pure form, but notions of existential apocalypse appear frequently in her mind and she can’t seem to resolve them.

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By following the biennales and getting out of the contemporary art circuit, Phoebe chose to focus on the dialogue between the artist, his/her work and the public. Always concerned with how people consume culture and how they are thinking by using modern means of expression, she is inspired by artists who are flexible and she moves with their ideas through a multitude of disciplines. Laurie Anderson, as she mentions. Is an exemple of one such inspiration for Phoebe.

Always taking risks and open to the minds around her, Phoebe doesn’t believe in censure. It is her belief that in this world we have access to information and by censuring art, we only create more attention around it. Questioning the context seems more appropriate in terms of evaluating the impact. Obsessions? «Shoes», she answered, «because they’re an architectural element.  Curiosity as well can become an obsession.» She spends a lot of time reading exhibition catalogues with the intention of always embracing some of the good ideas that emerge.

Even if certain aspects confuse her, like trendsetting and the commercial dimensions of selling products, she believes it is important to deeply consider issues of context, such as collaboration, research and history, when thinking of fashion as a part of contemporary art. The work of Issey Miyake and his retrospective – Mémoires Vives – presented at Fondation Cartier in 1998 are good examples, she said.

Usually getting dressed from “toes to head”, Phoebe’s styling exercise starts with her obsession: shoes! Considering her style a uniform, she has been wearing black since the age of 12. Accessorizing is a way for Phoebe to express her uniqueness. She has a fetish for Pierre Hardy shoes and Alexis Bittar jewelry.

Phoebe shared some upcoming projects with us: first, the DHC presents two solo exhibitions, one from the artist Richard Mosse – The Enclave –, presented at the Pavillion of Ireland at the 55th edition of the Venice Biennial, and the second: French artist Valérie Belin  «Surface Tension». Also, a new carnet about the Chapman brothers will be available on the DHC Ibook, Carnets d’expositions.

And it is all for free.