Chicoutimi is truly magnificent! Its heritage buildings, its picturesque homes and the majestic Saguenay River, make of it a most enjoyable place to stay. It’s in this corner of Québec, which has witnessed the blossoming of Arthur Villeneuve, that we meet a gallery owner whose business has been well-established in the city for 35 years.
Chantale Hudon made her start in this highly specialized trade at a very early age, her mother, Pâquerette Hudon, having opened shop at this location in 1976, following painter Albert Rousseau’s recommendation. From then on, her daughter showed marked interest in the art milieu and, overtime, acquired a level of experience and knowledge of the art market that is today inestimable. Chantale Hudon officially took over the management of La Corniche gallery in 1998.
“As gallery owners, we are required to accomplish a great number of tasks and shoulder important costs: insurance, occupation of premises, management of artworks and of the website, reception of visitors, presentation of artists; this is all part of the trade and I have always loved my work. We must also build-up a network of contacts, sit on cultural committees, participate in money-raising drives; in short implicate ourselves fully in our community. All this takes time, but is essential if we wish to ensure some kind of regional success,” states Mrs Hudon. Our host is also a member of the Québec Association of Professional Gallery Owners, a group of art dealers who share a passion, which allows her to communicate with her peers and discuss art market trends in large cities as well as in the regions.
Chantale Hudon reserves a section of her gallery for local and regional creators, those sensitive, creative and talented artists, such as Gilles Jobin, Michel Fedak and others, who spice-up the walls with local flavour. There are also paintings from Léo-Paul Tremblé, a well-renowned Saguenay born artist. The main floor holds a varied collection: paintings from different artists such as Mario Bouchard, Gérard Dansereau, Ann Saint-Gelais, bronzes from Claude Hazanavicius, sculptures from Fedak as well as Inuit art. On the second floor are featured great masters’ paintings: Cosgrove, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Albert Rousseau, Henri Masson, Marcelle Ferron, Léon Bellefleur, among others. We find ourselves in a veritable museum!
“A majority of people associate visual arts with Charlevoix. But we have in our mists an excellent collection of great Québecois artists. Chicoutimi has in the past been very active in the art world. The city was home to quite a large number of galleries, which in turn attracted some of the most renowned painters and allowed collectors to acquire works of art of the highest quality. But our customer base has changed over the years and even more since the arrival of the Internet which lets you change your mind with the click of a mouse. But, the Web is also beneficial to us, helping us increase our visibility and sales, by facilitating and exponentially widening the access to our bank of artists,” explains Mrs. Hudon. “Long gone is the charming era when women visited the galleries on Main Street on Sundays, dressed in their best garbs, often taking the opportunity to purchase a painting destined to be offered as a wedding gift or other special occasion. Today’s young customer is more impulsive, mostly making spur of the moment’s purchases.”
This enjoyable visit and discussion ends as painter Jobin enters the premises, as well as a young student needing help with a school project. Their turn to be warmly received by the affable gallery owner!
Text by Robert Lafontaine