Canadians are like a Groucho Marx punchline

Yesterday I was speaking to a photographer who, by most accounts, could be arguably described as "world class": he has a great deal of recognition in Europe; is a regular at the major global art shows; has exhibitions in museum-calibre institutions; was written up in Time magazine; and has works owned by people who live in homes described as palaces. Nothwithstanding, an owner of a prominent gallery in Toronto said that he would have trouble selling this photographer's works for the prices they should rightly command.


Because he chooses to live in Toronto.

Canadian pride?
Canadian pride?

To be clear, this isn't a case of non-Canadians disparaging an artist from a city whose mayor smoked crack, lied about it, yet still has a vocal base of support and is still the mayor (albeit nominally.) The gallery owner explained to the photographer that if he, as an artist, resided in New York, his works would have far more cache with the local buyers and would command higher prices. Here's a guy who adopted Toronto as his home, has established himself in the upper echelons of European art society, yet is considered by Torontonian art buyers as inferior because he lives in the same city as them.


Groucho Marx famously quipped "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member." Why do so many Canadians apply this same philosophy to their home-grown talent? While being self-effacing and modest has helped defined "the Canadian" as rather likeable to other nations, its ensuing lack of self confidence translates to Canadian talent being regarded as inferior in the eyes of its own populace.

This isn't limited to the art world. I have heard similar stories from the worlds of academia and business.

Do Canadians even realize they are perpetuating a damaging bias against themselves? How do you go about changing this chauvinism? Or has your experience been completely different?