From the Collection of Mary Portis, The Ben Portis Estate
Ben Portis (1960 –2017) was a Canadian artist, curator, and critic working in the fields of contemporary art including sound art, performance, music, and dance. He wrote extensively on art for publications including Parachute, Canadian Art, and Momus. From 2002 to 2009 Portis was assistant curator of contemporary art at the Art Gallery of Ontario. From 2010-2013 he was curator of the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie, Ontario. Portis co-founded the annual No Music Festival with Mario Circelli at the artist-run Forest City Gallery in London, Ontario. The No Music Festival featured the work of the Nihilist Spasm Band and released CD box sets of recordings. Portis received his MA from Bard College Center for Curatorial Studies (2001) having undertaken his summer internship with the Bronx Museum of Art. He had an MFA from the University of Chicago (1989), and a BFA from Queen’s University, Canada (1984).
The London community was deeply affected when curator and critic Ben Portis was killed in a road accident in July 2017. Portis began his career as an artist, and perhaps that is why, even after he became a curator he made himself unusually available to artists and community members. Portis was present. He seemed to be at every opening and talk, eager to discuss art with enthusiasm and curiosity. It was a passion made apparent in his criticism, which appeared in a number of publications—including Canadian Art – from July 25 online publication of Canadian Art, remembering Ben Portis.