"Creativity can not be taught, it is something that is born within you."
An interview with the artist and art dealer Amel Chamandy
The Montreal Review, February 2010
Amel Chamandy is an artist and international art dealer. She is the owner of Galerie NuEdge, located in Montreal's prestigious art district "Quartier Musée" (1480 Sherbrooke Street West). Amel Chamandy participates in a number of advisory and benevolent venues including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Foundation, The Friends of the Museum Advisory Committee and The McGill Faculty of Arts and Science Advisory Board. She is the current Quebec Government Representative on the Board of Trustees of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
The Montreal Review: You are a businesswoman and an artist, how do you combine both?
Amel Chamandy: One of the fortunate things about the way I was raised was that I was taught the importance to be well rounded. I am an artist first; my decision to go into the art business was because I wanted to have a way to remain creative. My creativity can be injected into every project I undertake and reflected in a way that is appealing, which feeds back into the way I run my business. Essentially, being in the art business allows me a more direct application of my creativity to business decisions and its philosophy. For instance, I may notice a talented artist who is not really progressing in capturing the kind of audience that they should and in promoting that artist we eventually arrive at a "next level of creativity" that returns its "fruits" to both artist and my business. I tend to build relationships with the artists that I represent and I insist that they be expressive in their creations. Most galleries don't encourage their artists to go beyond and explore and experiment. They are afraid that the work will not sell. I believe when you allow the artist to venture and explore, their work evolves and with this "evolution" their work becomes all the more marketable.
TMR: For the last ten years, you have been promoting contemporary art. Your gallery NuEdge is very specific - it combines art with design. Why do you choose contemporary art?
A. I have an appreciation to all art but I have always been drawn to modernism, the creations of now, latest trends in shape and expressionism. Contemporary art and design offers the greatest latitude in terms of flexibility in the creative expression. It is as field of creation that is bound only by the minds imagination and without boundaries. I am drawn by this sense of expansiveness and I am taken by the swirl of unleashed effort that runs free within it.
TMR: In an article for The Luxury Report Magazine you wrote that there must be specific emotional link between the artist and the audience, which is possible only if the artwork is authentic, honest and reflects the real thoughts and feelings of its creator. Would you develop this thought for our readers?
A. I believe there is a difference between pure expressionism that comes from the creative heart of an artist and art. Expressionism only becomes art when a deliberate result is envisioned and then arrived at. In order for the artist to link their creative emotionally to the audience he must be honest with what his creative expression is with his creative during the production or the message gets muddled or not present. The audience views the work and ends up confused or produces an endless meander of conjecture in interpreting its meaning. This is, in my opinion, a disconnect that comes from a lack of honesty and thought on the part of the artist, unless, of course, the artist is trying to convey a sense of confusion and ambiguity.
TMR: In your art, you often transcend colour in order to extract the essence of an object. It is a very unusual approach, because colour is among the most powerful tools in fine art for achieving effect over the viewers.
A: I don't believe that colour alone is a powerful tool in fine art in order achieves effect. Texture, form and line can be as power, if not, more effective to capturing the viewer and linking the visual arts to its audience emotionally. Our eyes can capture colour but the lines and forms, shapes and depth is what brings us to another dimension in viewing art. It is this dimension that cues our memory and makes things familiar. As I do in some of my pieces, the shifting to monochrome or varying scheme departs from our usual surroundings but, at the same time, it allows me to regain the interest and focus of an audience that has become long since disinterested with simple yet, none the less, touching surroundings. It is a way to say to the audience "open your eyes and be captivated by what you see."
TMR: In the summer of 2009 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts there was a very successful exhibition "Imagine - John Lennon and Yoko Ono." You were among the organizers. The exhibition was impressing with its totality. I mean to say - history, music, photos and politics were mixed, the visitors were also involved - we could play on the piano accompanied by Lennon's music, we could write a wish and hang it up on the wish tree. Do you think this is the future of art exhibitions - instead of passive and "one-dimensional" watching of paintings, the public would be an active part of the show and the show will be more than paintings?
A. The exhibit "Imagine - John Lennon and Yoko Ono" was the brainchild and organized by Montreal Museum of Fine Art's director, Nathalie Bondil and her wonderful team. My involvement, with numerous other patrons, was to help sponsor this exhibit. Such sponsorship brought this formidable exhibit to the Montreal public where they could view and participate without having to pay. The success of this exhibit has been praised worldwide as one of the most successful exhibits to have that relied on an interactive aspect. I think that its hosting has brought another dimension to Montreal cultural scene and I am looking forward to future exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts. I feel that introducing an interactive aspect into an exhibit is a fantastic way to engage the viewing audience. It is another example of linking the artwork more emotionally to the audience. I can see that it will become an increasingly popular way to engage an audience by allowing them to "reach out and touch".
TMR: This year we will see a show similar to Imagine at the Museum of Fine Arts, but this time dedicated to Miles Davis, could you tell me something about it?
A. It is fantastic that a city with its rich involvement in Jazz festival that our iconic Museum of Fine Arts will pay tribute to Miles Davis. He was an Artist whose involvements and impact in the World of Jazz spanned through some very turbulent and transitional times in the United States. He was there right through the eras of the big band, Rock n' Roll, Love and Peace all the way to Funk before he finally departed (1991). If I were to sum up his musical effort I would call it "Jazz from Cool to Fusion". This was an artist who lived in a country when it was not popular to play with mixed race, but he did it. And over the years he brought together a combination of players and instruments that opened new doors to the direction of Jazz as well as bringing the talents of African Americans into the mainstream acceptance.
TMR: Montreal is one of the most "creative" cities in America. Our city is first in North America in number of university students per capita, it is first in music industry in Canada and third in North America, it also has a strong culture and hi-tech sector. What makes Montreal so vibrant?
A. If you travel from one side of Canada to the other you'll find Montreal is one of the best-kept secrets of Canada. I grew up here and have always found the diverse blend of multiculturalism to be very much like the mainland Europe. Our summer festivals draw tourists to our city each year from all over the world to our outdoor cafes restaurants and the old port. It doesn't matter what aspect you are considering from fashion, to food, to language, to art Montreal is always a cultural diverse and vibrant city.
TMR: Who were your teachers in art and business?
A. I remember as a 15 year old dabbling in art and creativity rather than watching TV. At an early age my mother was my teacher and biggest supporter. I say this because she allowed me to express my creativity and blossom on my own. Although my mother had no formal education in art, she knew that creativity could not be taught. It was something that is born within you and expressed from by its creator. Later on, I proceeded with a formal education in art history and fine arts, and did some apprenticing in Italy at the age of 18. Shortly thereafter I began working in the field as an artist. As far as business goes, I am self-taught. I did read a couple of books on how a business operates but almost immediately made my way to and through business by "trial and error". Certainly there were "ups and downs" and mistakes along the way, but through it all my passion for being involved in the art business kept me going. I started by launching one of the first concepts in North America that included an art gallery and wine bar and ran it successfully for 5 years. Ultimately though, it is my intuition and wisdom tempered with experience that guides me through my decisions. I have recently opened another division, "NuEdge Design", which will offer a service of Art and Interior design. The combination of these services will mold the flexible aspects of a project into a desired result and theme. My design allows the user to feel unconfined and able to breathe in the surrounding space. Within the practical comfort and contemporary line are select pieces of art sometimes used to change the project's dimensions of period and space. Some refer to the overall feel of my design as minimalistic; I prefer to characterize it as my signature "minimalism with warmth".
TMR: There is a shift to online business. Do you expect one day to sell most of your inventory through Internet?
A. Fraud in art is one of the biggest concerns with most art dealers and artists. The technology is such that, these days, even the Museums at times are duped. How can you tell if you are buying an authentic piece without seeing it or having it properly assessed? The bottom line is that you cannot. If you are interested in purchasing low price prints or copies, Internet sales are great. For original works of art, it is a must to go through a reputable art dealer and view the artwork. It is best to do your homework and learn about the artist and really bond with what you see before you purchase it. Most importantly, the terms of your purchase must involve a certificate of authenticity, invoice and any information on the artist, to protect you against the element of fraud, to accredit the work in the eyes of insurers, and to substantiate the work's resale value.
TMR: Is it true that in time of economic recession the investment in art is like the investment in gold or even better? How successful was your business during the last recession?
A. Gold is a metal and relatively speaking there is a lot of it. Formidable pieces of Art, however, have nowhere near the same quantity or availability. Undoubtedly, the scope of sales of Art, just like anything else suffers in an economic recession or depression. If overall there is less "extra" budget, people will responsibly focus their spending on items that they consider more essential. They may even have to sell off part of their collections or postpone collecting until better financial times return. If, however, you are in the business of purchasing art for investment and have the means to continue collecting during leaner economic times, these days you may find that there are not only more impressive pieces on the market but that those pieces are bound by a lower than normal price point. In effect, this coupled with less competition by those who would otherwise drive the price up, in the making of a real deal for those that are buying. Now if you hold onto your investments with the certainty of economic recovery, it may be possible to find yourself in the possession of pieces that are sought after in a newly revived art market. In theory, the fervor of this "revived interest" coupled with relatively few remaining pieces to be had (because the majority of the formidable pieces have been plucked by collectors at a time when it was to their advantage) could send prices for art pieces, in general, skyrocketing well above their weight in gold.
Regarding the second half of your question, I can say that my business has done well since its inception and continues to do so.
TMR: Your gallery is located in 1480 Sherbrooke Street West. Who are the artists you present there?
Galerie NuEdge is currently featuring an exhibition titled: "FURTHER THAN", A Post-Modernist Classical Collection. It is a group exhibition from the local and international market in the form of multi-media, sculpture, painting, photography and art installations. The roster of artists includes international artists Paul Hunter, Richard Roblin, Christina Stahr, Danielle Barbeau and local artists Amel, Hanna Alpha, Hélène Fleury, Honey Solarz Greenbaum, Laura Santini and Benoit Colsenet.
Galerie NuEdge Fine Arts International L.P., S.E.C., 1480, rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1L3
webpage: www. galerienuedge .com