Born during Québec’s Quiet Revolution, Atelier Graff has the distinction of being one of Canada’s first artist-run centres. In 1966, artist Pierre Ayot (1943–1995) founded the Ateliers libres 848 to give printmakers like himself access to resources. The enterprise got off to a roaring start, thanks to the energy and commitment of the artists who rallied around Ayot. In 1972 it was renamed Graff, centre de conception graphique inc., a designation it kept until 2011, when it became known under the name it bears today.
Those familiar with Graff will no doubt remember the heady days of Éditions Graffofones and the legendary auctions that began in 1974. Other highlights over the years include the Mardi-GRAFF (1977), a lavish masquerade ball to which artists came wearing imaginative costumes of their own creation; Graff 1966-1986, a retrospective at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and the publication of Le monde selon Graff 1966-1986 (1986); the 1993 archiving of its collection of more than 6,000 prints that go back to 1966; and Griff Graff Groff (2004), an event staged at the Maison de la culture du Plateau Mont-Royal that garnered the organization the Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de Montréal.
In 2006, Graff celebrated its 40th anniversary with great aplomb, launching a series of commemorative activities that included the exhibitions 40 ans et pas de poussière at the Grande Bibliothèque and Hyperliens at Galerie Graff. The latter, a group show, was presented widely in Montréal and beyond between 2007 and 2012, as was Travailler sous pression (2009), which travelled as far as the SNAP Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta.
Manifested through individual and collective creations, group projects on a given theme, interdisciplinary initiatives, reciprocal exchanges, international guest artists and productive partnerships, the spirit of enterprise, ingenuity and resourcefulness that has driven Atelier Graff’s development through the decades continues to propel it into the future.