Sudburian Marc Mayer has been named a member of the Order of Canada for his contributions to fine art as an administrator and curator, both in Canada and worldwide.
The Order of Canada is presented by the Governor General and recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.
A Franco-Ontarian, Mayer moved away from Sudbury to pursue his career, but many may remember his family. His mother, Madelaine, was a legal secretary while his uncle, Réo, operated a small gallery in the basement of his shop, Harvey’s Surplus (which later becoming City Surplus), where he showed artists such as Norval Morrisseau.
But it is his father, Gilbert ‘Gil’ Mayer, a local actor and TV personality, who Northerners of a certain age will remember best as he was better known as CKSO-TV personality Marcel Mucker.
If you’re curious about Mucker’s schtick or just want to stroll down memory lane, check out some of his work here. Be advised, there are some ‘cheeky’ jokes involved.
Mayer was born in raised in Sudbury, but found himself hitchhiking to Toronto in 1974, he told a magazine recently.
“I failed all the maths and sciences,” because, he says, “the textbooks were in English and the teachers spoke a type of French the Northern Ontario kids didn’t understand too well.”
He had a dream to be a photographer so headed south to Toronto to find his career. He got a job at the camera shop at the Hudson’s Bay store, for the discount, and began taking photographs of opera singers and other performers, but his heart wasn’t in art just yet.
“I have to admit in the 1970s, art was not my thing. Going to the disco, hanging out with the cool kids and living for Friday night, was my thing,” he told the magazine.
But that changed when he needed a job, and found his options limited by his lack of high school. He went back to school at Carleton University in 1979, then transferring and graduating from McGill University with a degree in Art History.
From there, his career took off.
From 1986 to 1990, he was assistant to the director, and ultimately assistant director of the 49th Parallel Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art in New York. From 1990 to 1993, Mayer was head of visual arts with cultural servicers at the Canadian Embassy in Paris and was a correspondent for the New York periodical Rizzoli’s The Journal of Art.
He served as director of the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (2004–2008) and the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto (1998–2001), as well as deputy director at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City (2001–2004)and curator of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo (1994–1998).
From 2008-2019, Mayer was the director of the National Gallery of Canada.
In 2015, Mayer was the driving force behind the establishment of the Canadian Photography Institute at the National Gallery and later created Art in Canada, a 275-page book to commemorate Canadian Indigenous artists. The hardcover discusses the current thinking on artwork in this country and expands the definition of “what is art” beyond Western European painting and sculpture.
Now retired, Mayer lives in New York state and devotes his time to his love of contemporary art.