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A conversation with a collector

November 20th, 2018

Image of man standing in front of three posters

Ron Biderman, art collector. Eugène Grasset, Salon des Cent, 1894. Colour photomechanical metal relief print with stencil, Overall: 60.9 × 41.2 cm. Gift of Maralyn and Ron Biderman, 2017.

With an abundance of curvy lines, one of our galleries is looking very Art Nouveau these days. And that’s thanks to the gorgeous posters in our exhibition, Le Salon des Cent.

Le Salon des Cent, which translates to The Salon of One Hundred, was a commercial art exhibition organized by French literary magazine La Plume. It featured about 100 artists, hence the name. From 1893 to 1900, La Plume held 43 shows, with colourful posters, prints and reproductions of artwork on sale to the public.

Our exhibition showcases the unique artist-designed posters commissioned by the magazine – a selection of which are now on view thanks to a generous donation by collectors Ron and Maralyn Biderman. They diligently tracked down 42 of the 43 posters used to advertise the exhibitions.

We chatted with Ron to learn more about what inspired this collection, his passion for Art Nouveau posters and the one poster that got away.

AGO: Your collection of Le Salon des Cent posters is marvellous. What was so appealing about the Salon for you?
Ron: I’ve been interested in prints for a long time. There is a democracy about them. There can be many editions of a single image, but it’s still an original piece. My wife and I were acquainted with posters and with Art Nouveau. The Salon captured both interests. It’s the combination of industry, technology, La Belle Époque – the posters have it all.

AGO: How did you find your first Salon des Cent poster?
Ron: I purchased one at an auction. When I came across a second poster, I became enthralled with the idea of collecting them all. Like a mania! The word ‘mania’ is fitting because when these were introduced in Paris in the late 1800s, they were so popular that people tore them off the walls and from public spaces.

Print of two women in period clothes from 1896.

Image by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

AGO: We’re grateful for the donation and to share these works with the public. But do you miss having the posters at home?
Ron: I missed them the first time I saw them on display. But it’s really quite different to see them at the AGO. The frames are wonderful and really bring them to life. I don’t miss them anymore. And my walls didn’t stay empty long.

AGO: Your collection included a stunning set of 42 of the 43 posters, some of which are now on view at the AGO. Tell us about the one that got away.
Ron: It’s a work by Félicien Rops. And in 30 years, I have never seen a copy.

AGO: Do you have any advice for collectors?
Ron: My advice is to look, look and look. And then come to your own conclusions and pursue them.

Le Salon des Cent is included in General Admission and is on view on Level 1 in the John & Nancy Mulvihill Gallery.

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