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Alysia Yip-Hoi curates Beyond Semantics: Stepping Away from the Everyday

It was with childlike glee, a skip in my step and accompanied by an art buddy, that I recently went gallery hoping. We did not miss a beat once the government safety restrictions were loosened, and the galleries and museums opened their doors here in Montreal. Excited to visit the new kid on the block, the Robert Arès Gallery in the museum corridor on Sherbrooke Street, did not disappoint. It was a fresh and exciting exhibition, titled Beyond Semantics: Stepping Away from the Everyday, was a group show curated by Alysia Yip-Hoi. The show presented a colourful assembly of works by Douglas Scholes, Troy Emery, Allan Bailey, Sydney Blum, Derrick Velasquez, Miaz Brothers, Lino Lago, Rita Assouline, Marie-Claude Marquis, François Arès and Ryan Crotty. Yip-Hoi is a multi-disciplinary designer and founder of Maison Alysia, a jewellery design company. I had the pleasure of speaking with Alysia about the show and its coming together during such a challenging time.

What was the driving force for this particular collection of work?

When Francois and Emily (Galerie Robertson Arès) proposed I become their first guest curator, I immediately sought out an overarching theme. Once I had an idea to work with, I took advice from people who have helped carve out the art landscape and will forever know much more than me. Their advice was to tell a strong story through the works but to make sure it was my story.

"Because the importance of diversity is no longer deniable, many galleries and on-line platforms have showcased artists from BIPOC backgrounds. This means that collectors finally get to see a wider selection of art sharing the same stage as their usual offerings. These artists have started to penetrate homes and collections alike."

What are the trends today in Montreal that the collectors are looking for? And why?

There are art collectors that seek very specific pieces that will further flesh out the narrative of their collection and there are people that buy pieces that speak to them. What motivates everyone in between to purchase one work over the other doesn’t seem to be an exact science. I have noticed cultural shifts have started to directly impact the art world.

What challenges did you face curating and presenting the show during this unprecedented time? And how did you navigate through these hurdles?

Luckily, this was the first time I presented an exhibit, so I had nothing to compare it to. I have attended many vernissages but never knew what it involved to prepare one. All of the classic ideas I knew of finger food, wine, and intimate chats wouldn’t be possible. Montreal was in complete lockdown during the entire run of the show, so we shifted all our efforts online. The gallery and I sent out mailers to all our friends and clients to let them know what we were up to. Our social networks were flooded with images trying to show scale while explaining a bit about that particular work. There are also platforms such as Artsy that is a sort of marketplace for collectors and galleries to connect from around the globe. The day that Museums and galleries were allowed to reopen was the same day that my exhibit was slated to close. The owners of Galerie Robertson Arès happily agreed to extend the show for another week. Some people are very comfortable buying art virtually but there are still others that need to be in the room and let the piece pull them in or repel them. Scale can also be tricky when looking at an image floating on your screen. Visitors were so happy to leave their homes and have a discussion or ask questions of one of the owners at the gallery.

As a jewellery artist yourself, has this pandemic been a source of inspiration? If so, in what ways?

Like many other artists, I gain inspiration from everywhere, but I wouldn’t say that the pandemic has inspired me as much as it has made me see things in a different way. People have started to value their internal lives more. And rightfully so! Attentions have shifted to self-care and beautifying living spaces. Clients that can invest in jewelry pieces view it as an investment in themselves as well as their family. My creations are meant to be cherished for many generations so that has become one of the biggest considerations while designing. My latest collection “Modern Artifacts” was a result of this generational study.

Galerie Robertson Arès:, IG: robertsonaresgallery

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