Monastiraki
By Michelle Trottier

Artist and second-hand dealer

Billy Mavreas is a well-known figure in Montreal's independent and underground comic book world.  Since his adolescence in the mid-80s as a multidisciplinary artist, he has produced all kinds of work including concert posters, zines, postal art, collages, drawings and paintings of cartoon rabbits.

In 2000, Billy was asked to take the reins of the family's second-hand shop, acquired two years earlier by his father, who is a handyman, and his uncle, who is a collector. In the congested location on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, young Billy used to wonder what he would do with this place. "It took me eight years to wake up and start my own vision," he explains. That vision involved adding an art gallery to the site, first offering clients works by his artist friends and then inviting them to exhibit there.

It really is more about showing my works and the works of some friends, and the found paper that I collect, that I can't stop collecting: photos, drawings, postcards... - Billy Mavreas, owner of Monastiraki
Billy Mavreas is the owner of Monastiraki, a store that specializes in art and paper.

A shop of curiosities devoted to paper

Today, Billy runs  Monastiraki — named for a district of Athens in Greece —with his wife Emilie O'Brien, who's also an artist. "Since around 2015, my focus has really been on paper," says Billy. "I like trinkets, and I will always have some, with small folk art objects, wooden pieces, etc., but it's really more about showing my works and the works of some friends, and the found paper that I collect, that I can't stop collecting: photos, drawings, postcards..." So in the shop, you'll find printed works, silkscreen prints, performance posters, mixed-media artwork, decorations, and more.

For Billy, his "shop of curiosities" is an organic place and even an artistic installation in constant movement. "The store changes all the time. I arrange the furniture, I make more room for myself. I have a workshop here, my wife has a workshop here, we try to be here and work and to maintain a lively place. Not a dead museum."

Monastiraki is an oddities art gallery that specializes in printed works and paper collections.
Monastiraki is an oddities art gallery that specializes in printed works and paper collections.

For curious and open-minded clients

The hybrid nature of Monastiraki and the merry limbo that characterizes it, however, may throw some people off. Billy can sometimes read the surprise and uncertainty in the eyes of people who come in. "I tell them, it's a store," he laughs. "You can spend money here. You can just start in any corner where you stand." And he insists, you have to make this place your own. "It's made for people who are curious and who can engage with a space. Open drawers, search."

And the curious do come since the store welcomes a very diverse clientèle. From the student who's a bit broke searching for a beautiful poster at a good price to spice up a wall of his first apartment to the "great ladies of Outremont who want... a breath of fresh air," as well as inspiring artists and tourists told by the numerous Montreal guides that the flea market is as a must-see, especially if they can be open-minded. "Curiosity shop, art shop and much more, but 'art' in the spirit of dada or surrealism. Really, it's not Gauguin, here, you know."

Monastiraki is an oddities art gallery that specializes in printed works and paper collections.
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