Canadian Artist; OC RCA (1929- 2023)
Michael Snow was born in Toronto in 1929. Snow studied at Upper Canada College and the Ontario College of Art. He had his first solo exhibition in 1957. In early 1960s Snow moved to New York with his first wife, artist Joyce Wieland, where they remained for nearly a decade. For Snow this move resulted in a proliferation of creative ideas and connections and his work increasingly gained recognition. He returned to Canada in the early 1970s “an established figure, multiply defined as a visual artist, a filmmaker, and a musician.” His work has appeared at exhibitions across Europe, North America and South America. Snows’ works were included in the shows marking the reopening of both the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2000 and the MoMA in New York in 2005. In March 2006, his works were included in the Whitney Biennial.
Snow is considered one of the most influential experimental filmmakers and is the subject of retrospectives in many countries. In his 2002 Village Voice review of *Corpus Callosum, J. Hoberman writes, “Rigorously predicated on irreducible cinematic facts, Snow’s structuralist epics—Wavelength and La Région Centrale—announced the imminent passing of the film era. Rich with new possibilities, *Corpus Callosum heralds the advent of the next. Whatever it is, it cannot be too highly praised.” Corpus Calossum was screened at the Toronto, Berlin, Rotterdam, and the Los Angeles film festivals amongst others. In January 2003, Snow won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Five of his films have premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). In 2000, TIFF commissioned Snow with Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg to make short films, Preludes, for the 25th Anniversary of the festival.
Originally a professional jazz musician, Snow has a long-standing interest in improvised music. As a pianist, he has performed solo and with other musicians in North America, Europe and Japan. Snow performs regularly in Canada and internationally, often with the improvisational music ensemble CCMC and has released more than a half dozen albums since the mid-1970s. In 1987, Snow issued The Last LP (Art Metropole), which purported to be a documentary recording of the dying gasps of ethnic musical cultures from around the globe including Tibet, Syria, India, China, Brazil, Finland and elsewhere, with more than thousands of words of pseudo-scholarly supplementary notes, but was, in fact, a series of multi-tracked recordings of Snow himself, who gave the joke away only in a single column of text in the disc’s gatefold jacket, printed backwards and readable in a mirror. One track, purported to be a document of a coming-of-age ritual from Niger, is a pastiche of Whitney Houston’s song “how will I know”. Snow was one of the four performers of the rarely performed Steve Reich piece Pendulum Music on May 27, 1969 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The other three were: Richard Serra, James Tenney and Bruce Nauman.
Before Snow moved to New York in 1961, he began a long-term project that for six years would be his trademark: the Walking Woman. Martha Langford in Michael Snow: Life & Work describes this work as employing a single form that offered an infinite number of creative possibilities, the figure itself perceived variably as “a positive (a presence to be looked at) and a negative (an absence to be looked through), Snow’s works have been in the Canadian pavilion at world fairs since his famous Walking Women sculpture was exhibited at Expo 67 in Montréal.
In 1981, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He received the first Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2000) for cinema. In 1993, The Michael Snow Project, lasting several months, was a multi-venue retrospective of Snow’s works in Toronto exhibited at several public venues and at the Art Gallery of Ontario and The Power Plant. Concurrently his works were the subjects of four books published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada. In 2004, the Université de Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne awarded him an honorary doctorate. The last artist so awarded was Pablo Picasso. Snow passed away January 5, 2023.
SELECTED COLLECTIONS: Snow is represented in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Ludwig Museum, Austria and Germany; the Musée National d’Art Modern, Centre Pompidou, France; the Musée des Beaux Arts, Montreal; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, Ontario; the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta; the London Regional Art Gallery, London, Ontario; Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario.
The record price for this artist at auction is $175,000.00 for Sideway, sold at Heffel in 2011.