Does Money Influence Art? Find Out In Ottawa Museum

on March 13, 2013

© Musée BYTOWN Museum. Photo: R. Thériault.

An intelligent new exhibit in Ottawa ironically looks at the strange role played by marketing and commerce in the operation of a local museum. Funny enough, the exhibit is actually on display at an Ottawa museum.

Michele Provost’s artist-in-resident showcase at Bytown Museum (1 Canal Lane, Ottawa ON) resembles a faux gift shop that contrasts modern art with historic artifacts from Bytown’s Primary collection. The point she would like visitors to consider is the effect “incessant jostling for public funding and recognition has [on art].” The exhibit’s notes actually pose the question “what happens when culture and commerce are placed in too close a relationship?”

In terms of what a visitor will tangibly see when they visit the exhibit, Rebranding Bytown is a mixed bag of common gift shop tchotchkes and souvenirs. There are t-shirts, ball-caps, mugs and sunglasses on display, all bearing images from the museum’s archives. The interesting thing is that when you look at each item closely, you will notice that they are not like common pieces of memorabilia. The ‘action figures’ are modeled after common Ottawa residents of yesteryear and purposely designed in black and white (after the antique photos they were based on). The clothing items are hand-made. The designs are hand-sewn.

The message is clear. While appreciating the need for commercialization as a means for many museums to survive in this day and age, the artist wants everyone to differentiate the arts from the concept of commodity.

The exhibit runs until March 31. For more info, check out