Fall and winter exhibitions at Montréal museums

Richard Burnett

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.

Jean Paul Riopelle, Inca treasures and the haute couture of Christian Dior are among the many must-see exhibitions at Montréal museums this fall and winter 2020.

Safety measures at all Montréal museums

Wearing a mask or face covering indoors is mandatory. Numerous measures have been put in place at all museums to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. Safety precautions and directions for each museum are clearly listed in each entry below. 

Post-Impressionism and Jean Paul Riopelle at the MMFA

The blockbuster Montreal Museum of Fine Arts exhibition Paris in the Days of Post-Impressionism: Signac and the Indépendants begins with the first Salon des Indépendants, held in Paris in 1884, and presents more than 500 masterpieces by Paul Signac (some 100 paintings and graphic works) and the avant-gardists: Impressionists (Degas, Monet, Morisot), Fauves (Dufy, Friesz, Marquet), Symbolists (Gauguin, Redon), Nabis (Bonnard, Denis, Lacombe, Sérusier, Ranson, Vallotton), observers of life in Paris (Anquetin, Ibels, Picasso, Steinlen, Toulouse-Lautrec) and, of course, Neo-Impressionists (Cross, Luce, Pissarro, Seurat, Van Rysselberghe). The exhibition runs to November 15.

The new MMFA exhibition Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures opens on November 21 and features more than 175 works plus 200 documents and artifacts exploring Jean Paul Riopelle’s fascination with Canada’s nordicity. The exhibition sheds new light on the artist’s production from the 1950s to 1970s by tracing the travels and influences that nurtured his interest in northern landscapes and northern Indigenous communities. By highlighting the artist’s use of Indigenous themes and motifs, the exhibition raises the question of cultural appropriation and its evolution in our recent history. The exhibition runs to March 21, 2021.

Also of note: Manuel Mathieu: Survivance is multidisciplinary artist Mathieu’s first solo exhibition at a North American museum (runs September 17 – March 28, 2021), the Yehouda Chaki: Mi Makir; A Search for the Missing installation marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi camp in 1945 (runs October 7 – March 7, 2021), and GRAFIK! Five Centuries of German and Austrian Graphics features more than 80 graphics from the MMFA’s collection, as well as from public and private collections in Canada (runs November 28 – March 21, 2021).

The following MMFA services are currently not available: the cloakroom, on-site audio guide rentals, the restaurant and café, workshops, guided tours and educational activities. Also, the museum’s permanent collections are closed until further notice.

Visitors must absolutely book their tickets online and select the date and time of their visit. Tickets are date-time stamped to control the flow of visitors. This rule ensures public safety and allows visitors a more intimate exploration of the exhibition.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the MMFA to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

The Incas and the Italians of Montréal

Pointe-à-Callière blockbuster exhibition The Incas, Treasures of Peru explores the world of the Incas and Andean culture – mainly that of Peru – from prehistory to the contemporary era, and features nearly 300 pieces including eye-popping gold and silver work, ornaments, jewelry, vases, clothing, funerary masks and ritual objects. While their domination lasted less than a century (from 1450 to 1532), the Incas built one of the most spectacular empires the world has known, spreading from Ecuador to Peru, Bolivia and half of present-day Chile. The exhibition runs to October 4.

Also on view is the temporary exhibition Into the Wonder Room about the mysterious and unique world of cabinets of curiosities (until January 10, 2021), as well as most of the museum’s permanent exhibitions.

Visitors are encouraged to purchase their tickets online before they visit the museum. Numerous measures have been put in place at Pointe-à-Callière to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

The Golden Age of haute couture

Beginning on September 25, the McCord Museum presents the blockbuster exhibition Christian Dior, bringing together more than 50 designs from the legendary Dior collection, circa 1947 to 1957. The exhibition explores the brilliance behind Dior’s dramatic creations that revived the entire Parisian haute couture industry after World War II. The exhibition features pieces from the Royal Ontario Museum’s extensive collection of Christian Dior couture, complemented by a dozen garments from the McCord’s Dress, Fashion and Textiles collection and loans from Dior Héritage, Paris. The exhibition runs to January 3, 2021.

The McCord also explores the world of iconic Québec cartoonist Serge Chapleau in the critically-hailed exhibition Chapleau, Profession: Cartoonist, which has been extended to March 7, 2021. Visitors will see more than 150 cartoons, sketches and original illustrations by this multidisciplinary artist.

Meanwhile, the Griffintown – Evolving Montreal exhibition by Montréal photographer Robert Walker has also been extended, until February 14, 2021.  

Children of all ages can relive the winter magic of Ogilvy’s classic holiday window displays at the McCord from November 21 to January 3, 2021.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the McCord to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. It is recommended you purchase your tickets online.

Locals at the MAC

The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (a.k.a. the MAC) unveils its made-in-Québec exhibition La machine qui enseignait des airs aux oiseaux on October 8. Visitors will discover the work of 34 local artists, mostly living and working in and around Montréal, and who have never (or rarely) shown at the MAC. The exhibition took shape after more than 80 visits to local artists’ studios to create an innovative show that reflects the tumultuous times we are currently experiencing. The exhibition runs to April 4, 2021.

Two other highlights this season: the MAC presents world-renowned British artist John Akomfrah’s three-channel video installation Vertigo Sea (runs from October 31 to January 31, 2021), followed by Vancouver-born, Berlin-based artist Jeremy Shaw’s new seven-screen, immersive installation Phase Shifting Index that explores neuroscience, as well as transcendental and meditative experimentation (opens on November 12). The MAC is the only Canadian venue of the Phase Shifting Index tour, which launched in Paris last July at the Centre Pompidou.

The MAC has implemented special measures to ensure the safety of its visitors and employees, as well as hygiene measures recognized and recommended by the Québec government.

The following services are currently not offered: coat check, workshops, guided tours, group tours and children’s parties. The restaurant and boutique are also closed.

History at the Stewart

Located in Parc Jean-Drapeau on St. Helen’s Island, the Stewart Museum – housed in a British military fort built between 1820 and 1824 – presents its temporary exhibition Nights (runs to March 7, 2021) takes visitors into four night worlds via original stories by four well-known Québec writers: Heather O’Neill, Simon Boulerice, Dominique Demers and Éric Dupont. The authors’ stories are brought to life in theatrical sets alongside artefacts from the Stewart and McCord museum collections.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the Stewart to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Heavenly architecture

The temporary exhibition Victor Bourgeau. A bishop and his architect continues at the Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal. Visitors will discover the work of Victor Bourgeau, principal architect of the Montréal Catholic diocese under the episcopate of Bishop Bourget. Bourgeau built more than 200 buildings in Québec, including Montréal’s renowned Grey Nuns’ convent, as well as the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal itself, in 1861. The exhibition focuses on the profession of architecture in the 19th century and explores the ecclesiastical heights of Bourgeau’s career.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the Musée des Hospitalières to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Avant-garde art at PHI

The Fondation PHI pour l'art contemporain presents the Relations: Diaspora and Painting collective exhibition, which explores the complex and multiple meanings of diaspora, its condition, and its experiences as expressed through painting. The exhibition runs to November 29.

The premises are designed and arranged to accommodate the public in a safe and comfortable environment, while numerous measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Château Ramezay – Historic Site and Museum of Montréal

Originally built in 1705 by Montréal’s then-governor Claude de Ramezay as his personal residence, the Château Ramezay is the oldest private historical museum in Québec. Permanent and seasonal exhibitions attest to the far-reaching history of Montréal, but none so much as the Château Ramezay itself, which served as the Canadian headquarters of the American Revolutionary Army in 1775-1776, and where Benjamin Franklin stayed when he tried to persuade Montréal to join the revolution.

The Governor’s Garden (open daily from 9 am to 4 pm until October 31) is located behind the building and evokes the gardens of New France.

The temporary exhibition Montréal Landscapes ­– Power Corporation of Canada Artworks Collection features 30 paintings of Montréal by 15 artists, from one of the most important art collections in Canada. The exhibition runs until October 4.  

The museum has been set up to offer visitors a safe and enjoyable visit in accordance with established health guidelines. The museum’s cultural activities, guided tours and lecture program are on hold until further notice.

Our Lady of the Harbour

Visitors are transported back through time at the Marguerite Bourgeoys Historic Site, which houses the Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours in the heart of Old Montréal.

Built in 1771 over the ruins of an earlier chapel, the Marguerite Bourgeoys Historic Site houses a museum dedicated to Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, the Frenchwoman who founded the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montréal and was the colony’s first teacher back in 1653 (Bourgeoys was canonized by the Vatican in 1982). Bourgeoys is buried in the chapel.

Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours chapel is also known as the “Sailor’s Church” not just because it overlooks the harbour, but because it was famed in the 19th century for being a pilgrimage site for sailors who arrived in the Old Port. 

Visitors can climb the chapel’s belvedere to join the “angels of Ville-Marie” and enjoy spectacular views of the Old Port and Old Montréal, as well as visit the permanent Meet Marguerite! exhibition exploring Bourgeoys’ personal saga and legacy.

All Québec government-prescribed health precautions are in place to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. Tickets can be bought online or at the door. Free admission to the chapel.

Journey to Space

Children will enjoy learning about the dangers and difficulties astronauts face while living in space in the five-part Journey to Space exhibition that runs at the Montréal Science Centre in the Old Port until January 10, 2021.

The Journey to Space exhibition and the IMAX®TELUS theatre are both open, but the centre’s permanent exhibition halls are temporarily closed, as are the indoor dining areas. Coat check service and lockers are currently not available. Numerous measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of visitors and employees, including the mandatory online purchase of admission tickets.

Richard Burnett

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.

Enjoy the best of Montréal

The Tourisme Montréal newsletter gives you the inside scoop on everything happening in the city.

Moments nearby
[COVID-19] To keep informed about the current situation
Learn more