Must-see fall and winter exhibitions in Montréal

Richard Burnett

Famed Montréal singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen takes centre stage at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, one of several blockbuster exhibitions at Montréal museums this fall and winter.

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The passing of one of Montréal’s favourite sons, Leonard Cohen, in November 2016, set the stage for various tributes to the Canadian and global icon in 2017. One of the most-anticipated tributes is Leonard Cohen – Une brèche en toute chose / A Crack in Everything which opens at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (known as “the MAC” by locals) on November 11, part of the official programming for Montréal’s 375th anniversary celebrations.

The visual and aural exhibition is inspired by the world of Leonard Cohen and the great themes of his life and work. It will feature some 40 artists from 10 countries, including exclusively-recorded cover versions of Cohen’s songs by local and international artists, including Jean Leloup, Moby, Chilly Gonzales and Jarvis Cocker. Leonard Cohen – Une brèche en toute chose / A Crack in Everything runs to November 4, 2018.


Fashion Icon Jean-Paul Gaultier

The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts hugely popular Love Is Love by Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition showcasing Gaultier-designed wedding gowns has already drawn over 50,000 museum-goers. The exhibition features 30 creations—some being displayed for the first time—and underscores love and diversity by celebrating straight, gay, intercultural and interracial unions. Love Is Love runs to October 22.


You Say You Want a Revolution

Also at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts is the massive blockbuster Revolution exhibition which explores the ideals of the late 1960s as expressed in music, film, fashion and design, and how it all came together during this era of heightened activism. The exhibition title refers to the words of the Beatles’ song Revolution, composed by John Lennon in 1968 in response to violent political protests that year, including the May 68 protests in Paris, and is anchored by a greatest-hits musical soundtrack of the era. The must-see exhibition runs to October 9.


Montréal Open-Air Museum

Organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in cooperation with the McCord Museum, La Balade de la Paix / An Open-Air Museum stretches along a one kilometre-long stretch of Sherbrooke Street, displaying works by Canadian and international artists, from Alexander Calder to Keith Haring. This major public art exhibition celebrates Montréal’s 375th anniversary, the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 and the 150th anniversary of Canada, and runs to October 29. And it’s free!


World Press Photo

World Press Photo returns to Montréal with its 2017 edition, showcasing the winners of one of the world’s most esteemed professional photojournalism competitions. Winners were chosen from some 5,000 photographers from 125 countries who submitted 80,000 photos in 2016.

World Press Photo Montréal offers a visual panorama of the past year’s major news events, as well as a number of complementary exhibitions, including photographs taken by young Syrians aged 13 to 17 who’ve recently moved to Montréal, as well as the fifth edition of Regards d’Oxfam-Québec, dedicated to fighting inequalities women face in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

World Press Photo Montréal runs from August 30 to October 1 at Bonsecours Market in Old Montréal.


Montréal, Capital and Birthplace of Modern Canada

Few people are aware that Montréal was Canada’s capital in 1844. The former St. Anne’s Market building in Place D'Youville in Old Montréal was converted into the Parliament from 1844 to 1849, until Parliament was burned down by Loyalist rioters on the night of April 25, 1849. Its ruins are now being dug up in one of Canada’s most significant archaeological sites, shedding light on a major period in Montréal’s history.

The Montréal parliament lies beneath a former municipal parking lot. The archaeological excavation is being carried out by Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, and archaeologists from the firm Ethnoscop.

History buffs can visit this site in the outdoor Pointe-à-Callière exhibition called Montréal, Capital of Canada – A Parliament Beneath Your Feet and watch archaeologists at work. Museum guides lead free tours every 30 minutes, on Wednesday to Sunday, from 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm, until September 24. Independent visits of the site can also take place outside of these periods until the end of the archaeological dig in October.


The Wild Wild West

William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody was already a legend of the American Old West when he founded the internationally-famed Buffalo Bill’s Wild West travelling show in 1883, which visited Montreal in August 1885. He and Sioux chief Sitting Bull posed for Montreal photographer William Notman for what has arguably become the most famous photo of the myth of the American Wild West – and it was taken in Montreal.

Notman’s iconic photo is one of over 400 paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, artefacts, film stills and excerpts in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ blockbuster Once upon a time... The Western exhibition which offers a new interpretation of the Western film genre by examining its links to the visual arts (painting, sculpture, photography) from the middle of the 19th century to today. The exhibition deals with prejudices against First Nations peoples that it helped to perpetuate by showing how art has the power to both maintain and challenge the most widespread beliefs. Once upon a time... The Western runs from October 14, 2017, to February 4, 2018.


The Art of Magic

Over at the McCord Museum, fans of magic will love the Illusions: The Art of Magic exhibition showcasing posters from the golden age of magic shows. These posters are both art and advertisement, and feature everybody from Houdini to Chung Ling Soo (stage name of American magician William Ellsworth Robinson). The exhibition runs to January 7, 2018.


Ho! Ho! Ho!

The ever-popular annual exhibition Santas Are Taking Over the Stewart Museum has become a Montréal yuletide tradition and returns to the Stewart Museum from November 15 to January 7, 2018. The exhibition features gorgeous Santa figurines handmade by American artists Beth Cameron, Lynn West and Lynn Haney, as well as Quebec artist Carole Landreville. The Stewart Museum has also created many holiday-themed activities for children, and Santa will visit the Museum on November 26 and December 3, from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett, blogger

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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