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Art ‘n’ roll

Gallery owner believes visual arts can be just as accessible as music

by CHRIS BARRY

Name: Chris Hand

Age: 42.5

Occupation: Proprietor of Zeke’s Gallery

Bio: This feisty Plateau heartbreaker had been working in the always exciting and lucrative music biz before taking the plunge and opening Zeke’s Gallery on St-Laurent (www.zekesgallery.blogspot.com) seven years ago. A college dropout, Chris says, “I’ve always been in trouble. Throughout my life, any chance I’ve had to subvert authority, I’ve done it, and I still do.”

Something he would dearly like to achieve before leaving this spiritual plane: “Change the goddamned art world, if it takes me all my life. But I’m taking it one step at a time. Think about it, when was the last time you were in an art gallery? And when was the last time you read a book, saw a film or listened to music? To my mind, visual arts should be on the same level of cultural appreciation [as these other mediums].”

One reason why Chris feels it isn’t: “Because most people think they aren’t worthy to judge art – they don’t have the schooling, the vocabulary, the experience, but that’s utter nonsense. When most [“experts”] explain paintings they use three-syllable words and talk about obscure things nobody is interested in. Imagine if you started talking that way about, say, your band. How many people would want to listen to you if you started talking about the dichotomy between the proletarian nature of rock ‘n’ roll vs. the populist nature and how your music reflects that by your choice of venue? You’d lose everybody. There’s much pretence and pomposity [in the art world].

The amount of formal training he has with respect to art and art history: Zero. “Look, nobody feels like they have to have a Ph.D in order to listen to music. So come on, you certainly don’t need one to enjoy art. Essentially, I take a rock ‘n’ roll attitude towards art.”

Does he regularly find himself as an object of hatred by people who can’t understand why he feels their ultra-hip Jesus sculpture made from human feces is just a dumb, hackneyed idea not suitable to be shown anywhere, let alone at his gallery? “Well, not everybody hates me, you know. But [when deciding what he wants to hang at Zeke’s] I try to take my personal taste out of it and judge by the technical quality of [the work]. I may think something is lame, but that doesn’t mean I won’t hang it on my walls. Really, all I want is for people to come look at art, to engage it.”

Do Montrealers tend to buy art for investment purposes, or more because they feel a fecal Jesus might be just the thing that’s been missing from their den? The latter. “There’s not a lot of [art] speculation here.”

Three local artists Chris has high hopes for: Jean-François Lacombe, Bertrand Lavoie, Maclean.

Childhood ambition: To become a sanitary engineer.

Last book read: Letters from New Orleans by Rob Walker.

Musical preferences: Sakamoto Hiromiti, Slippery Peat.

Words of wisdom: “Question absolutely everything at all times.”