David Altmejd: Artist, Fetishist, and Avid Bird Watcher (on Instagram)

The Flux and The Puddle David Altmejd 2014 
Plexiglas, quartz, polystyrene, expandable foam, epoxy clay, epoxy gel, resin, synthetic hair, clothing, leather shoes, thread, mirror, plaster, acrylic paint, latex paint, metal wire, glass eyes, sequin, ceramic, synthetic flowers, synthetic branches, glue, gold, feathers, steel, coconuts, aqua resin, burlap, lighting system including fluorescent lights, Sharpie ink, wood 
129 x 252 x 281 inches (327.7 x 640.1 x 713.7 cm)
ARG# AD2014-001
Photograph by Lance Brewer

An interview with the artist David Altmejd, whose retrospective show “FLUX” opens at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal on Saturday. Plus, David Altmejd’s Montreal City Guide, exclusively for BlackBook.

David Altmejd has been making overwhelming, room-consuming, energetically buzzing sculptures for 15 years. His first retrospective of work has three legs, the first two already settled up in Paris and Luxembourg. Next, the show heads to Montreal, where Altmejd was born and raised. The artist speaks with BlackBook about his fetishes, greatest influences (including parrots and Louise Bourgeois), who to follow on Instagram and the life of his sculptures.

If you live in Montreal or are headed there to see the retrospective, make sure to check out David Altmejd‘s recommendations below for where to eat, relax, and play in his home city — including the place to make like Magic Mike and see Montreal’s best male strippers.


You’re in the midst of your first retrospective.

This is third retrospective — it’s been travelling through different cities. It started in France, then was shown in Luxembourg, and Montreal is the final installment of it. I just feel that the end of the series of retrospectives, which happens to be in my hometown, is really meaningful. All my family and friends from my hometown from before I even decided to become an artist are going to see what I’ve been up to for the last 15 years. In that sense, it’s extremely meaningful. The Montreal location also offers me a perspective to look at myself from a distance in a certain way. I am actually able to see myself when I started — when I decided to become a sculptor, it all started here. So it’s really interesting in that way.

I think that the museum, Musee d’Art Moderne, had shown interest and were actually looking for partners for a travelling show, and I immediately thought of Montreal and contacted the museum and they thought it was a great idea. It was purposeful [to come home].

What is the primary message you’re sending in this collection of works?

With this show, I’m trying to convey the diversity of approaching sculpture that I’ve been exploring inside my work for many years. I’m trying to show the diversity of types of practices and material and color and relationship to space. But throughout the show in every piece, what’s really important for me to really make clear is the fact that I really consider every sculpture I make to be some sort of energy generator. It’s really important for me to showcase the work in a way that people will really see that is a series of dynamic objects that feel alive — also that each sculpture feels that way and that the show as a whole feels that way. Within each object there’s sort of movement, energy and liveliness but that the whole show has the same sort of movement.

The first time I saw your work was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver in 2007. I felt it — the energy you talk about — in the room. I walked in and was completely struck by the mixture of the natural fibers, the objects in decay, and also the modern feeling manmade materials. It felt very representative of our world. I can still recall the energy.

Thank you, that’s so great.

Do you think about the world and how we live? What strikes you or influences you when you’re working and thinking about the energy that you’re harnessing in your sculpture?

I think what I try to do is really focus. When I start to make sculpture, what I realize is really amazing about sculpture, is that it exists in real space. It exists in the same space as the viewer; it breathes the same air. It has this potential that it could exist the same way the body of a person does in the world. I’m aware of that potential and I always try to give that power to the object, to make it feel like it exists in the world, in the same world as you. I try to do everything I can to give that power to the object — the power of existing right now. It seems obvious but I think that’s what really defines my work.

Detail of: The Flux and The Puddle David Altmejd2014
 Plexiglas, quartz, polystyrene, expandable foam, epoxy clay, epoxy gel, resin, synthetic hair, clothing, leather shoes, thread, mirror, plaster, acrylic paint, latex paint, metal wire, glass eyes, sequin, ceramic, synthetic flowers, synthetic branches, glue, gold, feathers, steel, coconuts, aqua resin, burlap, lighting system including fluorescent lights, Sharpie ink, wood
129 x 252 x 281 inches (327.7 x 640.1 x 713.7 cm)
ARG# AD2014-001 
Photograph by James Ewing 

What does the word “flux” mean in relation to the show?

“The Flux and the Puddle” is the title of a piece and it turns out to be the biggest piece of the show. It’s the largest, most ambitious, most elaborate. When I made that piece — I made it in 2014 — my idea was to build a large plexiglass structure and just incorporate everything that I have ever done as a sculptor: use every material I’ve used, use the theme, movement, material contrast. It became a survey piece of my practice as a sculptor. It becomes a continuum inside the museum. It is the most important piece of the show. The word “flux” comes from that piece, but it’s also an idea that is always present in my work, this idea of connection, of liquid travelling, a flow of energy, a cycle. You can see it in each of my sculptures. Also I want the whole show to show acceptance, to become a sort of system of objects. I want people to be able to feel the flow, or the flux, in going through everything in the show.

Were there new pieces made for the show?

Yes, for every venue, I added pieces. It’s really important for me to try out new things and have the feeling that the show is super fresh and contains things that were just finished an hour before the opening, and to give it a sort of sense of emergence. I like that.

I’m making a piece right now for the Montreal show. The opening of the show is going to be in a couple of weeks and I’m actually making a piece here. I don’t know what it’s going to be called but it’s a large platform covered in smashed mirror and a series of evolving elements inside it. I don’t know how it’s going to evolve in the next two weeks but that’s what I’m doing.

This might be kind of off-topic, but because your sculptures have their own energy and take up space and have a world of their own inside them, what do you think of ISIS going into these historically rich sites in Syria and destroying them? I mean this metaphorically but can any of that energy be recovered?

Do you mean, how can we make up for the loss that is happening? I’m ­surprised bythe fact that I’m so touched by what’s happening. When you think about it, they’re just objects. My reaction instinctively is a reaction of disgust. I question myself for feeling that way because they are just objects. Of course they have this rich history but compared to the life of a person, it should not be considered that important. I’m just questioning my own reaction. I’m sorry I’m not really answering the question.

I’m profoundly hopeful and I don’t really look so much at the past. I really fetishize the near future. I really fetishize the present and future and mostly the present. For me, the most precious things are the things that are living right now, things that are being made now. What I focus on is the movement, the transformation. It’s not necessarily periods or objects of a certain time. I’m much more fascinated with artists are making right now and the way they’re making new things and the way culture is transforming. That’s what I’m obsessed with.


Untitled (Dark) David Altmejd 2001 
Plaster, acrylic paint, synthetic hair, resin, glitter 8 x 14 x 8 inches
(20.3 x 35.6 x 20.3 cm)
ARG# AD2001-004
 Photograph by Jessica Eckert 

Who are some of the artists you’re looking at right now for inspiration? Who influences you?

It’s changing a lot because my way of looking at art is completely transforming because I started using Instagram. I’m completely new to all the social media. I didn’t use the Internet that much before. Now my way of looking at art is through Internet. I see so many images, so much art, every day, every hour of the day. Culture feels a little like a mush. Compared to a few years ago where it was very clear what I liked. Galleries and museums now are 95% of the time a big mash-up of things. Before, it was clear that I had a few favorite artists that I was influenced by, but not anymore.

What are your favorite Instagram accounts?

There’s a specific type of humor. I get a lot of memes; I don’t know if they count as memes. What I experience through social media is more of a sensibility than objects with clear artistic statements or propositions. Like humor or a certain type of visual sensibility.

I have to look at these accounts and then I’ll send them to you. I don’t know them by heart. Maybe I can look at my phone right now.

Okay, there is one called @davidhenrynobodyjr. Another, @contemporaryary. You’ll see, it’s a specific type of humor. I don’t know if I’m influenced by that.
Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.00.15 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.05
Images courtesy of @davidhenrynobodyjr and @contemporaryary 

We must be influenced by everything we see on some level and in some way. And with the onslaught of images…

Probably, probably. My work is anyway open enough that I can include a bunch of different things that don’t necessarily make sense together. I really love birds.


Yea, so I follow a few of them — some parrot owners have Instagram accounts for their parrots. Is that interesting?


It’s @bibi_the_galah_parrot. Another bird I follow is @thekeetlife. Do you want more?

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.07 Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.08
Images courtesy of @bibi_the_galah_parrot and @thekeetlife

Yes, give me one more non-bird.

Okay, it’s @ anti_cgi. That’s like mostly stills from horror movies.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.10
Image courtesy of @anti_cgi 

Detail of: Man 2 David Altmejd2014
 fiberglass, epoxy clay, wood, feathers, synthetic hair, quartz, taxidermy lovebird, taxidermy par- akeet, pants, jacket, cotton shirt, tie, leather shoes, resin, metal wire, acrylic paint, latex paint, glass eyes, plastic bag, coconuts
77 1/2 x 24 x 26 inches (196.9 x 61 x 66 cm)
 Plinth: 8 x 30 x 30 inches (20.3 x 76.2 x 76.2 cm)
ARG# AD2014-026 
Photograph by Lance Brewer 

Before the Internet got to you, who were some of your greatest influences?

When I started art school, I was really into American artists like Cindy Sherman, Paul McCarthy, Tony Oursler, filmmakers like David Lynch and David Cronenberg. At the beginning, I was trying to define an attitude for myself and I thought that I was really into their attitudes – kind of weird, humorous or dramatic, sort of an uncomfortable space between the humorous and the dramatic. I was fascinated with that. After then when I started making sculpture, I was really into Louise Bourgeois. She’s the only one who made me understand the fundamental effects.

How do you think about your own work differently now, with the Internet and Instagram playing a bigger role?

It goes back to what I was talking about how in the past few years, my experience of art has completely changed because 95% of art can be seen through images online. It’s changing and I’m not against it. It just feels like it’s much more about a sensibility or energy. You know artists like Ryan Trecartin, what I think defines his work for me the most is a new speed. It’s such a right now kind of speed.­ I find it completely fascinating and exciting.

How do you relate that to your own work which seems really involved and not speedy, that’s something that’s best experienced in person?

I’m planning to start exploring these spaces more and more. I’d love to have a YouTube channel and start experimenting. Because these platforms are spaces. While virtual, the experience people have on them is real. I’m definitely going to explore that. We’ll see what happens. I’m sure I can find a comfortable place on these spaces. I’m sort of like a fetishist. I think it’s kind of exciting to explore new things as well.

You have to let us know when you create a YouTube channel.

[Laughs] Okay. I don’t know what it’s going to be but…

See FLUX, on view at Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal from June 20 through September 13, 2015.


David Altmejd’s Montreal Gity Guide

Canada’s largest church, St. Joseph Oratory, 3800 Chemin Queen Mary, Montréal, QC H3V 1H6

Chinese food from La Maison KamFung, 1111 Rue Saint-Urbain M05, Montréal, QC H2Z 1Y6

Restaurant Le Filet, 219, ave. Mont-Royal Ouest, Montreal, QC, H2X 2T2

Hand-rolled bagels from St-Viateur Bagel, 263 Rue Saint Viateur O, Montréal, QC H2V 1Y1

The best place to walk around in Montreal: Summit Park area in Westmount

Campus Bar (for male strippers), 1111 Rue Sainte-Catherine E, Montréal, QC H2L 2G2

Cafe Olimpico for Italian, 124 St-Viateur Ouest, Montreal, Quebec, QC H2T 2L1

Wall to Wall in Montreal

It makes sense that Montreal would have a vibrantly quirky street art scene, seeing as it’s the home of comic and graphic novel publisher Drawn & Quarterly. And while we’re not normally fans of the genre—too many Shephard Fairey nightmares, the lamely commercialized façade of the Houston/Bowery mural wall in New York, etceteras—we have to admit that this Quebec city does it right.

Here are a selection of favorite pieces we spotted recently—a few of them clustered around a parking lot on Saint Laurent, and part of an initiative that invited international talent to aesthetically vandalize the walls. (And we couldn’t resist including a passionate piece of anti-hippy graffiti we found on a side street, which features what’s either a linguistic pun or a truly marvelous typo.)









Who Wants to Buy a Hummus Factory?

Well, friends, the interactive portion of South By Southwest has drawn to a close, which means Austinites are (generally) free to roam as they please without having to hear someone’s ill-conceived startup pitch. But if SxSW didn’t quite quench your thirst for new entrepreneurial ventures, there is somewhere else you can go. That magical place is Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where some lucky business adventurer with a lot of money can now own their very own hummus factory, according to a Craigslist ad (h/t Mark Slutsky) and this ad on BusinessesForSale.com, which puts the bidding at less than $100,000. How can you lose?

As the ad reads, in English and in French (spelling errors left intact):

“Local successfull Hummus factory for sale.

Existing production line and distribution.

Only serius buyers.”

There are obviously a lot of questions here, such as why is this real estate going so cheaply if it is, indeed, and if it’s so “successfull,” why is it being sold on Craigslist, but, you know, maybe I’m just being a naysayer. Maybe this is the opportunity of a lifetime. If you’re up for it, go forth and make your dreams come true, and celebrate your good fortune by rolling in a pile of chickpeas. 

Smooth Monday Jams: Warm Up Edition

Brooklyn-based DJ and producer Obey City has curated a “Smooth Jams” series of his favorite tracks. Today’s installment warms us up with some Canadian finds. Plug in your headphones and crank up that volume, because it’s time to get smooth. 

This weekend I was up in Montreal for a gig. The weather there was not smooth at all…more like bone chilling. Is poutine a smooth snack? I’m not really sure. However, I did manage to get some record shopping in and picked up a couple smooth gems for ya’ll.

Be sure to check out Sea Level on its new nights. Begining in April, Sea Level will move to the second Wednesday of the month at the Tender Trap in Brooklyn. However the next one lands on Wednesday March 6th. Free smoothness for all begins at 9 PM. I promise you’ll hear songs like this and many more to start your work week off on a smoother note. Hope to see all you smoothies there.


Crackin’- "Dont You Wish You Could Be There" (1977)

Saw this cover with a rose bursting from an egg and I had to buy it. Classic AOR west coast smooth vibes all over this one.



Boule Noire – "Aimer D’Amour" (1978)

Apparently this record is easily found all over Quebec but I had never heard of Mr. Noire before. Sorta sounds like a french version of this



Shakatak – "Easier Said Than Done" (1981)

First of all look at this band’s name real quick – Shakatak. It’s definitely pronounced the same way as Shaq Attack, the nickname of former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal. Now listen to this jam – sort of Bob James-esque light jazz/funk/fusion. Shaq would love this.



Janet Jackson – "Someone To Call My Lover (Velvet Mix)" (2001)

Always been a fan of this song but this remix – my god. Takes it to new levels. Jermaine Dupri does a pretty solid Devante Swing/Timbaland drum programming impersonation and mixes it with some gorgeous chord changes behind the already lush vocals from Ms. Jackson herself. Velvet indeed!



Craig David – "What’s Your Flava (Markus Enochson Broken Soul Mix)" (2009)

Ok, so I technically picked up the original 12" of this song by Craig David – but this version is far less known and much smoother. Shout outs to DJ Steve for putting me onto this a couple years back.

Follow Obey City on Twitter

Young Galaxy Premieres ‘Pretty Boy’

Wearing your winter coat even inside the office? Let Montreal synth-poppers Young Galaxy warm you up with something ever so slightly tropical: the beautifully manic and brand-new single “Pretty Boy.”

The single proper arrives on February 5—with a remix from Peaking Lights—and will anchor forthcoming LP Ultramarine, which should become the de facto soundtrack for our melancholy solo underwear dance parties come April 23. Seriously, it doesn’t get more Swedish than this. (Yes it does: Young Galaxy are Canadian, despite recording in Gothenburg.)

While you wait for the rest of the record, why not take a look at their fiercely enjoyably back catalog? Shapeshifting in particular is a slept-on gem, with as more attention to detail than most bands spare in their whole careers. See, told you the cold wouldn’t last forever.

Montreal Preview: Ritz-Carlton

Having hosted Queen Elizabeth, Sophia Loren and The Stones, as well as acting as the backdrop to the first wedding of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, the Ritz- Carlton Montrèal is certainly not wanting for history. But a $150 million renovation is bringing it dazzlingly into the 21st Century, just in time for its 100th birthday.

But not content with just a dolling up of its lobby and rooms, the Ritz is now sporting an architecturally impressive glass and steel addition. And while the Palm Court has a dazzling new elegan-tay look, it’s the anticipation of Daniel Boulud’s Maison Boulud that really has Quebec epicures all atwitter. The many-Michelin-starred chef arrives for the first time in Canada’s Francphone capital, and the competition for tables in the ethereal courtyard is sure to be fierce. Another glamorous century awaits.

Industry Insiders: Yanick Tremblay, Snow Hotel Honcho

What most makes Montreal charming? Is it the beautiful French language? Is it Old Montreal with its lovely Auberge du Vieux-Port hotel. the rave Igloo Fest, and historic Notre-Dame Basilica where Celine Dion got married? Or the Westmount area with its magnificent mansions and the more than 280 steps of St. Joseph’s Oratory? How about smoked meats at Schwartz’s deli in Mile End? Or Moshe Safdie’s cubed housing complex Habitat 67 on the way to the Montreal Casino?

All of these captivated us, but the most unusual of all is Snow Village (Village des Neiges), which opened January 18 in Parc Jean-Drapeau. It has 15 standard rooms, 10 prestigious suites, five igloos, and one glass, heated igloo. Other places in the Snow Village chain are Finland and Norway.
We caught up with co-founder, Yanick Tremblay, at Snow Village in Montreal.
How did you get together with your partners?
Carl Fugere, Guy Belanger, and I are friends from school, and we wanted to do a project together. We each had our own businesses: Carl’s in technology, Guy’s in robotic distribution, and I own a purchasing agency for hotels, including the Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, and Marriott.
We did some research and met with two brothers, Rami and Tomi Kurtakko, a marketer and mechanical engineer, who have owned a snow village in Finland for 11 years. Let me introduce you to them now.
What do the terms "snow hotel" and "ice hotel" mean? Is the snow artificial?
Nothing is artificial. Yes, the snow is made artificially, but it’s real snow.  And if you would have a hotel entirely made of ice, it would not last.
None of the hotels in the world are made out of ice; they’re all made out of snow, but because the snow is so dense and it’s artificial snow, then it’s like ice blocks. The walls are 10 feet deep, so that’s why we sometimes call it an ice hotel. I would say that it’s a snow hotel, instead of ice hotel, since ice hotel is a registered trademark. All the structures are made from snow, but the decoration inside is made from ice.
What was your vision for Snow Village?
Montreal is a Nordic city. In the summer, we have all kinds of festivals, but there’s not that much to do in the winter besides skiing. Montrealers deserve a project that they can be proud of that also attracts tourists because everyone who visits the province of Quebec travels through Montreal. There’s been an ice hotel in Quebec City for the last 10 years, but not a lot of Montrealers have had a chance to visit it. Our snow village is accessible by Metro. There are 4.2 million people living in the Montreal metropolitan area.
How else is this one different from the one in Quebec City?
The one in Quebec City has wood and steel inside the snow to support the structure. Ours is only snow. There are only straight corridors in Quebec, but in ours you can also experience round igloos, as you can in Finland. We have domes created over round balloons.  We also have an ice restaurant and a bar.
Tell us about the restaurant.
We brought Eric Gonzalez on board, who’s one of the five best chefs in Montreal. And he prepared a menu, especially for us based on the Finnish, Nordic side of our project. The idea was to keep people warm before they spend the night here in the hotel.
We had tasty, warm venison on the bone in the ice-cold restaurant! What else takes place here?
We have an ice chapel for weddings. And, we have a indoor ballroom in the aquatic center that’s 2,200-square-feet for receptions.  
How do the sleepovers work?
All of my guests arrive in the evening. They have a meet-and-greet with the guides. They are given overnight instructions, including how to use the warm, arctic sleeping bags, which we provide with fleece, cotton-lined bags, for hygienic reasons. And when the average temperature inside the snow hotel stays between -2 and -5 degrees, we can guarantee that the overnight stay is warm and pleasant. You can go to the jacuzzi and enjoy a nice view of Montreal. And then you go to the restaurant. You go to bed not before 9:30 or 10:00, and we wake you up at 7:30 a.m. with hot chocolate and music. We then invite you for breakfast.
How much money did the project cost?
$ 2.2 million.

Our favorite room has the Montreal Canadien motif with a lifesize ice carving of a hockey player with a wooden stick. What’s your favorite?
The gastronomic room, which has a dining-room table with four chairs and a nice, ice chandelier. And since I have two kids, there are two beds in the room, so the four of us can sleep in the room.

Where are some of your go-to places in Montreal?
Europea is my favorite restaurant. For going out in the summer, there’s a nice place in Old Montreal called Cafè des Eclusiers. And in the winter, there’s a a little club-restaurant called Grange vin+bouffe.
Photo Courtesy of Richard C. Murray/RCM IMAGES, INC