The saga surrounding the closure of the Montreal gallery Le HangArt – and all its Canadian franchises – brought back very bad memories for authors who had had trouble with the gallery owner Hervé Garcia, who had launched into the world of edition in 2006 in the Quebec region.
The Press recounted last week the standoff between the gallery owner on Saint-Paul Street, in Old Montreal, and the owner of his building, as well as his tense relationship with certain artists who demanded their share of the sale of their works or the deposit required to consign their works to the gallery. Following the publication of this article, several authors came forward.
Among them, Marcel Levasseur, who published the first volume of his comic series Laflèche, Fort Necessity published by Arion, in 2006.
“(Hervé Garcia) asked authors to contribute to the printing costs of their books. In addition, he did not give us the copyright to which we were entitled, Marcel Levasseur told us. And then, one day, he disappeared without a trace, taking with him hundreds of copies of our works and pocketing a good part of our money. » Mr. Levasseur estimates his losses at around $2,000.
According to the Quebec Business Registry, Hervé Garcia took over the publishing house Arion in 2006. He only remained at the helm of Arion for about a year, even though the company was officially dissolved in 2021. At least six authors who have done business with him, and with whom The Press spoke, believe they have been cheated by the entrepreneur of French origin.
Met at the Le HangArt gallery, where he was busy handing over the paintings to the artists who had consigned their works to him, Hervé Garcia rejected any parallel between his brief past as a publisher and the current situation.
Why are we talking about this? To show that the process is happening again? I bought a publishing house that published 140 books per year, so when I arrived, I only received returns of (unsold) books from bookstores. In this context, it is certain that I could not pay the authors. I published about ten books with my money and, in the end, I never made a damn penny from that thing.
The gallery owner, who especially wanted to explain the closure of HangArt, admits that he was not able to pay the artists for the sale of their paintings, nor even to be able to reimburse those who made deposits or still bought shares in the gallery in order to receive part of the profits, “given the extremely difficult economic situation”.
Despite this, in both cases, the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy did not receive any declaration of bankruptcy from these companies.
“I was talking with three groups who were interested in taking over the gallery, because I needed to stop,” he said. My goal was for the gallery to survive me. They all saw our financial statements, our assets which were for sale. I wrote to the owner saying I needed time before finalizing the transaction, but he changed the locks without any further notice. He sawed off the branch I was sitting on. »
“We would have been delighted to have a buyer,” replies the owner of the building, who refuses to be identified so as not to be associated with the gallery owner. “But no one was interested. I spoke to at least one person who had initially shown an interest and who changed his mind. Because Hervé Garcia owed everyone money! It’s difficult to take over a business that has liabilities…”
” It has nothing to do “
Regarding Arion, Hervé Garcia tells us that he took over the publishing house (from Pascal Fleury) in 2006 “to settle in Quebec”, but he refuses to see it as a modus operandi in his business setbacks.
” It has nothing to do. I’m the one who got fooled. I didn’t know the publishing industry, I didn’t know how the book chain worked. I told myself, a book costs $10 to print and distribute, it sells for $30 in bookstores, so there’s a little money to be made, but it doesn’t work like that. We must not forget that these books were self-published. »
Director Maxime Desruisseaux, who at that time co-directed Arion’s science fiction collection, Arion Anticipation, disagrees with this statement.
We did not approach authors as if we were a self-publishing house. But it’s certain that by forcing authors to buy their own books, it could give that impression. It was a clause in the contracts, they had to buy 200 books.
Maxime Desruisseaux, former collection director at Arion
The co-director of Arion Anticipation was barely 19 years old when he started working with Hervé Garcia.
“Arion had just published the comic The arrow, I thought it was cool, he told us. We asked Hervé to launch this science fiction collection and he accepted. My co-director and I still had a lot of freedom. We paid the representation costs of the authors, illustrators, etc. out of our own pocket, but that also included our pay as artistic directors, and Hervé said he was going to reimburse us, but he never paid us. He owed us a total of $6,500. At the time, it was a lot for us. »
In 2007, Hervé Garcia finally announced to his team that he was looking for a buyer, that the publishing house was “in financial difficulty”.
“He wanted the publishing house to specialize in comics,” Maxime Desruisseaux told us. He asked us to stay with him and he paid us 75% of our expenses, about $5,000 of the $6,500 he owed us. But we refused to continue the adventure with him. We were the ones talking to the authors, and we knew that they were not receiving the royalties to which they were entitled for the sales of their books. »
Royalties of 8 to 10% of bookstore sales, according to most formal contracts offered by publishing houses.
Gautier Langevin, author and screenwriter of comics, published his first collection of science fiction short stories in 2006 with Éditions Arion. One way. Contacted a few days ago in Angoulême, where he participated in the International Comics Festival, he remembers very well his brief stay at Éditions Arion.
“I was young, I was 24, I published my first collection of short stories. Arion had just launched their science fiction collection, so I was really happy when they agreed to publish me. But I received no advance and, for my launch, Hervé Garcia told me that I had to buy the copies of my book myself, with no right of return. There was no question of him taking back the books that I couldn’t sell. After publication, I never received any royalties…”
Gautier Langevin continued his career as an author and screenwriter, notably with his series Far Outand co-founded the publishing house Frontfroid, which he represents in Angoulême.
“It was my baptism as an author, and I must say that it did not go well,” he says. I was naive, like many other authors who experienced the same thing, but that is perhaps also what led me to become an administrator at ANEL (National Association of Book Publishers)! » A few years later, he republished his collection of short stories One way published by Éditions de ta Mère.
Same story with Guillaume Fournier, author of the novel Double visions in 2006, which branched off into cinema.
“I was young and naive, I was 19 years old. In fact, we were all young authors who were just starting out,” he illustrates.
We didn’t know how it worked, we were just happy to be published. But it’s certain that the publishing house didn’t pay me anything. And once the book was published, I never received any sales records or royalties. However, I had to sell a few…
Guillaume Fournier, author of the novel Double visions in 2006
In 2010, Hervé Garcia founded Loulee Arts, a commercial painting rental company. In a portrait published in The Press in the summer of 2011, the entrepreneur explained his business model.
In short, to decorate the walls of businesses, Loulee rented paintings for $1.50 per canvas, per day. If someone wanted to purchase it, the artist took 50% of the sale price, Hervé Garcia, 40%, and the business, 10%.
The artists, most of them emerging artists, had to pay $500 to $600 to participate in the openings, according to Hervé Garcia. On the other hand, they did not have to pay anything to exhibit their paintings on the Loulee Arts website or to be exhibited in a company.
In this article, Hervé Garcia said he was aiming for a turnover of $300,000. But the project died the following year, in 2012.
The story so far
On January 2, the approximately 140 artists at the Le HangArt gallery were informed by email by their gallery owner Hervé Garcia that he no longer had access to his premises. More than 1000 works are there.
The owner of the building explains that he changed the locks because Hervé Garcia refuses to pay his rent.
More than 80 artists called on lawyer Marc Vaillancourt to recover their paintings. The owner of the building allows Hervé Garcia to access the gallery to return the works to the artists.
The duty revealed shortly after that its Vancouver, Toronto, Quebec and Victoriaville franchises were all closed at the same time as that of Montreal.